Oil Capitals head coach and GM Troy Leslie couldn’t help but smile after being asked about his team’s performance on Friday night.
“For a coach, it feels really good when you see your whole team play like that,” Leslie said after his club’s 5-0 win over the Neepawa Natives at Tundra Oil and Gas Place. “We did good things with the puck tonight. We backchecked really hard tonight, we battled hard, our penalty kill was good. What I liked was the ‘buy in’.”
That ‘buy in’ began in the first period when Oil Caps forward Tyler Kirkup netted his first of two goals on the night at the 6:54 mark, giving Virden a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes of play. Blueliner Darren Gisti would add to the lead less than four minutes into the second before Kirkup scored his 11th of the season shorthanded approximately four minutes later.
Jeran Knorr and Graeme Hore would round out the scoring in the third period for the Oil Capitals, who outshot Neepawa 34-23 on the night.
“I think we’re staying aggressive in the defensive zone but we’re also patient as well,” Leslie said. “Aggressive patience is a hard thing to teach and it comes with experience.”
Leslie praised the work of 20-year-old blueliner Devon Becker, who was acquired in a trade from the Weyburn Red Wings mid-October.
“I think Becker was tremendous tonight and has been for a long time at just slowing things down and keeping things calm.”
Leslie says the effort on the defensive side of the puck from the forwards is also noteworthy.
“We love seeing that because we’ve been pretty good offensively all year so to have guys kind of hunker down defensively was good.”
Riley McVeigh, who was named the first star on the night for Virden, picked up the shutout, stopping all 23 pucks directed his way.
“A few games back he wasn’t on top of his game but over the past little while, he’s stepped up and has been good,” Leslie said.
Up next for the Oil Caps: A game on Sunday night in Winnipeg against the Blues. Puck drop is 6:30 p.m.