Trade Helps Surging Oil Caps

As read at www.brandonsun.com

The Virden Oil Capitals sit fourth in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League standings with a 23-12-0 record in the season’s first half, but head coach and general manager Troy Leslie is aiming for improvement.

“Leading into the Christmas break I thought we struggled with consistency a little bit,” he said. “What I’m looking for in January and into February is just some really solid 60-minute efforts.”

After a 6-2-0 start to the season, the Oil Capitals endured a rough stretch. On Nov. 18, Leslie sent forward Jake Dudar and future considerations to the Dauphin Kings for a pair of 20-year-olds: Defenceman Kyle Bird and forward Drake Bodie.

Virden is 11-4-0 since acquiring the overagers, and Leslie said the impact they have had has been huge.

“With Drake up front that gave us some scoring punch,” he said. “Kyle just gave us another 20-year-old on the backend to settle things down. He makes good plays moving pucks out of our zone.

“Those guys have allowed us to have some more depth.”

Bodie, who has 35 points (10 goals and 25 assists), has complimented the team’s leading scorer, Mack Hardy, who sits tied 10th in MJHL scoring with 38 points (21 goals and 17 assists), and 17-year-old forward Bennett Dalke, who is second in rookie scoring with 30 points (13 goals and 17 assists) very well.

However, starting goaltender Sean Kuehn has also been a big contributor for Virden.

The Flower Mound, Texas product is second in the league in minutes played (1,612), goals-against average (1.97), wins (19) and shutouts (three), and third with a .928 save percentage.

“Sean had a good year last year and he just continued on into this year. Our guys have played pretty well in front of him, and he bails out our guys lots,” Leslie said. “What he does is gives us a chance to win almost every night, which you need from your goaltender.”

But Leslie admits the success of the Oil Capitals’ power play has been key when the team is struggling to score five-on-five. They have the third-best power play (25.6 per cent) and penalty kill (84.56 per cent) in the league.

Virden hopes to ride continued special teams success to a higher position in the standings as the second half unfolds.