MJHL championship final preview
Defeating the nationally-ranked Steinbach Pistons in the Turnbull Cup final will be a tall order, but the Oil Caps are ready for the challenge.
After a five-game series win over the Selkirk Steelers in Round 1 followed by a sweep of the Winkler Flyers in Round 2, the Oil Caps will now face their strongest test in a Pistons team that finished at No. 3 overall in the CJHL top 20 rankings.
The Pistons boast a deep forward unit led by team captain Braden Purtill, who had seven points in Steinbach’s second round series against the Winnipeg Blues, along with a stingy defence that leads the MJHL in goals against in the postseason and a sensational rookie netminder in Matthew Thiessen, whose 1.38 GAA, .950 save percentage and three shutouts in the playoffs lead the MJHL.
“I think it’s going to be about playing good team defence and making the most of our opportunities offensively,” said Oil Caps forward Kirklan Lycar, who was named an MJHL player of the week runner-up for his efforts in helping Virden advance to the championship final. “They obviously have a good goalie so getting to him will be important.”
Lycar is part of an Oil Caps team that has showcased its offensive prowess throughout the postseason as eight Oil Caps players have more than one goal and 11 players have at least five points. It’s a recipe that has the players confident they can go toe-to-toe with the Pistons.
“We know if we play the way we can we will have success,” said a confident Ben Dalke, who is currently leading the Oil Caps in playoff scoring with seven goals and four assists for 11 points in nine games. “We have a great mindset going into the final.”
An area of emphasis for the Oil Caps heading into the series is special teams. Virden has been dialed in on the power play during the postseason – currently running at a 29.4 per cent clip – and will need to continue to perform well if they’re to take down the Pistons. Meanwhile, on the penalty kill, the club hasn’t missed a beat, sitting at 83.8 per cent after the first two rounds.
“Doing the little things right is going to be the difference maker between us winning and losing,” said Brayden Pawluk, a blueliner who has also seen time up front during the postseason, playing on a line with Jack Einarson and Josh Belcher. The trio was praised for their efforts by head coach and GM Troy Leslie in the club’s Game 4 comeback win over the Flyers. “Simple things like finishing checks, sticks on pucks in the D-zone and making them come 200 feet on the ice and getting traffic in front of their goaltender,” he added.
This is the first time the Oil Caps will battle the Pistons in a playoff series – and it’s for all the marbles. The winner of the best-of-seven series will move on to play the SJHL champion in the ANAVET Cup.
For the full series schedule, click here.
A look inside the numbers for both teams during playoffs:
Goals for: 38
Goals against: 18
Power play: 20.5%
Penalty kill: 85.4%
Goals for: 39
Goals against: 21
Power Play: 29.4%
Penalty kill: 83.8%
Who to keep an eye on:
Drew Worrad – Currently leads team in scoring with three goals and nine assists for 12 points in 10 games.
Riley McVeigh – The Oil Caps netminder has been very solid thus far in the postseason and he’ll need to continue his stellar play against Steinbach. His eight playoff wins lead the MJHL, while his 2.32 GAA has him sitting in second in the MJHL.
Ben Dalke – 11 PTS
Rylee Zimmer – 9 PTS
Kirklan Lycar – 9 PTS
Kyle Salaway – 8 PTS
Dylan Thiessen – 8 PTS
Drew Worrad – 12 PTS
Bradley Schoonbaert – 11 PTS
Braden Purtill – 10 PTS
Mark Taraschuk – 9 PTS
Brady Tatro – 8 PTS