VIRDEN, MB– It was the first time meaningful hockey was played at Tundra Oil & Gas Place since late March, a playoff game vs the Winkler Flyers, that feels like it was forever ago. It was the beginning of a new season for the Virden Oil Caps as they played host to the Portage Terriers in their annual Valleyview Co-op Home Opener. Hunter Cloutier scored the game-winning goal late in the second period, and goaltender Kyle Kozma stopped 30/32 for the 4-2 victory.
The pace was evident right from puck drop, end to end, with little whistles in the first period. The opening frame was also very physical; after all, this was the third game in a row against each other (two previous pre-season games). Roux Bazin had the best chance to get the Oil Caps on the board, but he hit iron! Then, Terriers defenceman Layne Toder took a high-sticking penalty that put the home side on the man advantage. Just as the powerplay was set to expire, Hunter Cloutier gave Hunter Andrew a cross-ice pass, and Andrew ripped it into the top corner over the glove hand of the Terriers goaltender Cole Johnston. Shortly after the goal, Colin Cook had a glorious chance to extend the lead to two but missed a wide-open cage. The Terriers quickly struck back with a powerplay marker of their own. With Conor Geekie in the box for spearing, Portage forward Kian Calder ripped one past Kozma to tie the game at one. After 20, the shots were 11 apiece.
In the second period, the Oil Caps dominated, as the ice began to tilt. Tyler Thoendel found the back of the net seven minutes into the second frame, Tyler Teasdale and Colin Cook picked up assists. Things then got chippy, as the rivalry was renewed with scrums after almost every single whistle. Then the Oil Caps found themselves in penalty trouble. First, Geekie got the gate for interference, then Blocker went off for slashing and was also assessed a 10-minute misconduct (served by Cook). Fortunately for the Oil Caps, the PK did their job, and the Oil Caps still had a one-goal lead in tact. After the kill, Hunter Cloutier found himself on a breakaway but was denied, but as they say, persistence pays off, and Cloutier scored on that same shift extending the lead to 3-1. The Oil Caps outshot the Terriers 15-6 in the middle frame.
In the third final frame, the Oil Caps gave up a few grade-A scoring chances, but Kozma was equal to the task. Out of the Media timeout, the Terriers cut the lead in half when Tyson McLean slipped one by Kozma, Ryan Hofer, and Brady Grasdal picked up the assists. The Oil Caps were the recipient of another powerplay after a Terrier stuck Hunter Cloutier in the midsection. The Oil Caps needed all but 19 seconds to get the two-goal lead back. Geekie, Dylan Halliday, and Josh Belcher connected on a pretty rush that ended with Belcher roofing the puck upstairs over the outstretched glove to make it 4-2. That’s all the offence the Oil Caps would need as they skated to a 4-2 victory.
The difference in the hockey game, no question, was special teams. The Oil Caps went 2/3 on the man advantage, while the Terriers went 1/6. With the win, the Oil Caps move to 1-0 on the season and will be back in action at Tundra Oil & Gas Place against the same Portage Terriers tomorrow night. Puck Drop is set for 7:00 PM. Doors open at 6:15, remember fans Season Ticket Holders are only allowed in the building!