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Oil Caps face Titans in first round

Virden Oil Capitals tangle with the Neepawa Titans in the first round of the MJHL playoffs.
At Virden Oil Capitals final game in the regular season, March 15, in TOGP arena Nixon Gray performs the ceremonial puck drop with by his family present: Mother and Father Andrea and Jesse Gray, sister Callie Gray; representing the game sponsor Faye Gerring, manager of Virden Valleyview Co-op C-Store Bar, Valleyview Co-op Board President Nicole Smith and taking the faceoff for Niverville Nighthawks Brett Tataryn and Virden Oil Capitals David Bielik.

After a record-setting regular season, the Virden Oil Capitals will tangle with the Neepawa Titans in the first round of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League playoffs.

With a 40-12-3-3 record, the Oil Caps matched the team’s record for wins achieved in 2017-2018 but did it in two fewer games. They earned 86 points in the standings compared to 83 in 2017-2018. This season’s Oil Caps finished on top of the MJHL MGEU West Division. The Titans were fourth in the division with a 28-29-1-0 record.

About facing the Titans, Virden head coach Tyson Ramsey said:

“I think for us we need to think about our game and in particular what makes us successful as a group. It needs to start with a compete level that is very high and very consistent. That allows us to be fast in all three zones of the rink and the speed of our game can overwhelm teams when we can execute. Being disciplined with our structure and our emotions will also be important for our group.”

The best-of-seven series starts on March 22 in Virden followed by a March 24 contest in Neepawa. Game three is March 26 back at the Tundra Oil and Gas Place followed a fourth game hosted by the Titans on March 28. If required, game five would be in Virden on March 31; game six in Neepawa on April 2; and the seventh contest hosted by the Oil Caps on April 3.

Last season the Oil Capitals made it to the league finals. Co-captain David Bielik is excited to see how far the team can go this time around.

“I can’t wait for the playoffs,” he said. “It really is the most exciting time of the year and I truly believe we have the group that can make a deep playoff run and another race at an MJHL championship.”

In a preview of the Virden versus Neepawa playoff series, it was stated on the MJHL website that the Oil Capitals are, “Deep and heavy. All four lines are fast, can hit and can score. The Oil Caps put constant pressure on the opposition and it’s hard to stick with them for a full game … Not many clubs can withstand the Oil Caps way of hockey.”

The article pegged hometown goalie Eric Reid as the team’s key player in the series. He backstopped Virden to 27 wins. Josh Lehto paced the team with 33 assists and 60 points in 57 games. Nolan Chastko had a team high 30 goals. Defenceman Trevor Hunt led the team in blue line points with 40, including 15 goals.

The MJHL preview selected Hayden Stocks as the Titans’ key player. He led the team with 47 points, 25 assists and 22 goals in 43 games. Goalie Mason Lobreau had 16 wins, while KC Couckuyt recorded 12.

Oil Caps 10, Wolverines 2

Moosomin product Marshall Light lit up the Wolverines for a hattrick in a romp to end the regular season on March 17. Lehto scored twice. Other Oil Caps regulars who scored included Bryce Bryant, Joey Bielik, and Roux Bazin. Liam Bechthold made 30 saves to earn his 11th win with the Oil Caps in 12 games.

The team received important contributions from affiliated players who were called up. Maxx Hamelin of the U18 AAA Winnipeg Bruins recorded a goal and two assists. Oak Lake Beach’s Tyson Draper had a goal and an assist. The son of Erin and David Draper played this winter for the U18 AAA Southwest Cougars. Virden’s Hudson Davidson of the Cougars and Maddox Shindle of the U18 AAA Parkland Rangers each recorded an assist.

Scoring for Neepawa were Lucas Perry and Jack Clarke. Jase Wareham started in net and made 19 saves on 25 shots. Kaiden Kirkwood stopped 15 of the 19 shots he faced in relief.

Nighthawks 2, Oil Caps 0

Niverville netminder Raiden Legall made 46 saves to shut out the Oil Caps in Virden on March 15. Reid stopped 30 shots. Scoring for the Nighthawks were Brett Tataryn and Brendan Bottem.

Davidson made his Oil Capitals debut. He is the son of Craig and Karla Davidson. Draper also was in the lineup as an affiliated player.

Oil Caps 4, Flyers 2

In Winkler on March 13, the Oil Capitals clinched the MGEU West Division championship. Hunt scored on a first period powerplay to knot the score at 2-2. The Oil Caps added two more goals in the second.

Reid made 28 saves. In addition to Hunt, Grady Lane, Joey Bielik and Bazin scored for Virden.

Brady Craik and Zach Nicolas had Winkler’s goals. Flyers’ goalie Malachi Klassen turned away 33 of the 37 shots sent his way.


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