A total team effort helped propel the Oil Caps to a 7-3 win over the Neepawa Natives at Tundra Oil and Gas Place on Halloween night.
“It’s a long time coming for us and I’m really happy for these guys,” said Oil Caps assistant coach Tyson Ramsey. “We stuck to our structure for most of the night – we got away from it a little bit in the second period there, got running around a little bit – but I thought our third period was really solid.”
Hunter Cloutier opened the scoring at the 8:18 mark of the first period (assisted by Jack Einarson) to make it 1-0 for the Oil Caps after 20 minutes of play.
The Natives responded early in the second as Brady Whitely’s tally at 1:51 followed by Mackenzie Belinski’s power play marker at 3:05 made it 2-1 for the visiting squad. Despite the setback, the Oil Caps persevered and continued to put their foot on the gas pedal. It would pay off as the club re-took the lead later in the period as Dylan Halliday’s second of the year with the man advantage at 13:06 (assisted by McCullough Park and Tristen Cross) tied the game and then, approximately a minute and a half later, Ben Dalke’s fifth of the season (assisted by Kolten Kanaski and Blake Sidoni) made it 3-2 for the home team.
The Natives would tie the game at three apiece late in the stanza on Benoit Mowbray’s first goal of the season, however that momentum shift was short-lived. The Oil Caps made the crowd jump out of their seats once again just 36 seconds later as Dalke picked up his second tally of the night at 19:16 (assisted by Sidoni and Jayden Wojciechowski) making it 4-3 for Virden after 40 minutes.
The third period was all Oil Caps when it came to the scoreboard. Tanner Andrew picked up his third of the year (from Josh Belcher and Austin Johnston) at 5:11, followed by Einarson’s fifth of the campaign at 15:45 on the power play (from Dalke and Wojciechowski). Andrew would later score his second of the night at 18:30 (from Belcher) to round out the scoring on this night.
“The game went really well for us,” said Dalke, who was named the first star on the night. “We finally got some bounces that we’ve been waiting for.”
Riley Wallace made 27 stops between the pipes for Virden to pick up his first win of the season, while Nik Anderson took the loss in net for Neepawa, turning aside 35 of 42 shots directed his way.
The Oil Caps, who outshot the Natives 42-30 overall, ended up going 2-for-4 with the man advantage on this night, as Virden’s power play continues to chug along quite nicely at 23.3 per cent on the season (third overall in MJHL).
Next up for Virden: Saturday night at home against the Winkler Flyers. Game time: 7:30 p.m.