It was an evening of phantom penalties and missed opportunities for the Neepawa Natives on Wednesday, Nov. 4, as the team was upended by the Winnipeg Blues 5-2 in Manitoba Junior Hockey League action.
Neepawa started the game well, matching Winnipeg chance for chance, but a borderline interference penalty just four minutes into the contest against the home side gave the Blues an early advantage.
With just over 30 seconds remaining in the penalty, Neepawa found itself two men down, as Nolan Martens was called for slashing. Unexpectedly, it was the Natives who would take advantage of the extra space on the ice, as Kyle McDonald broke clear of the Winnipeg defence and scored Neepawa’s first goal shorthanded just a few seconds later. The Blues replied quickly however, scoring the tying goal just before the end of the second penalty. The rest of the first would see both teams miss out on several scoring chances, including a near miss for Neepawa to regain the one goal advantage. Patrick Carlin would provide another goal for the home side before the end of the opening frame though, to provide a 2-1 lead for Neepawa after 20 minutes.
The first ten minutes of the second period would be a fierce back and forth between the two sides. Multiple opportunities presented themselves, but neither was able to light the lamp. With 9:11 remaining in the second, Winnipeg would tie the game once again, as Ryan Pruden was able to slip one past goaltender Jeremy Link. The Blues would take the lead for the first time at the 17:39 mark, with a goal from Kevin Jakisch. Heading into the third period, Neepawa found itself at a 3-2 disadvantage.
For the third, Winnipeg came out strong and dominated the offensive opportunities. That pressure would lead to another borderline penalty against the Natives. This time, it was Kyle McDonald who was called for holding the stick. Neepawa’s improved penalty kill was able to keep the Blues from taking advantage.
Unfortunately, a miscue in the Neepawa defensive zone during an even strength play, allowed Blues forward Kamerin Nault to get the puck and score his 15th goal of the season, to provide a two goal cushion for Winnipeg. An empty netter with just under a minute remaining in the game made the final score 5-2 for the Winnipeg Blues.
With the win, Winnipeg improved its season record to 9-6-3, while Neepawa fell to 5-12. The Natives will look to rebound on Saturday, Nov. 7, against the Dauphin Kings. That game will begin at 7:30 pm at the Yellowhead Centre and will be the free admission game for the community. Everyone is invited to attend and cheer on the home team.