The Virden Oil Capitals open their 11th Manitoba Junior Hockey League season on Friday at home.
The Oil Caps will host the Waywayseecappo Wolverines, the squad they swept out of the first round of the playoffs last spring. The two teams will tangle in Waywayseecappo on Saturday night. Virden currently returns nine members of the 2021-2022 squad that posted a 30-20-4-0 regular season record, beat the Wolverines, and fell in the league semifinals to Steinbach.
“The strength of this group is certainly their work ethic,” Oil Capitals head coach Tyson Ramsey said. “I think they have worked extremely hard to this point, and we will need to continue that into the regular season to be successful.” The MJHL has expanded to 13 team with the Niverville Nighthawks joining. The Oil Caps will play the new squad for the first time on Oct. 14 on the road before hosting it on Oct. 16.
The Oil Capitals went 2-2 in exhibition play. They defeated MJHL foe Portage in both meetings – 5-3 and 4-1. Against the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s Estevan Bruins, Virden fell 4-2 and 3-1.
The Oil Caps group of nine returning players includes forwards such as captain Brody Wilson of Birtle, third year forward Colten Miller, Joey Bielik, and Layton Veitch. On the back end, Manson’s Bray Rookes is back for his fourth season with the club. Davie Bielik, Trevor Hunt and Nolan Wallace also return. Hometown product Eric Reid is the Virden team’s lone returning netminder.
The Oil Caps roster includes several new faces with last season’s 20-year-olds such as captain Logan Rands and Dylan Halliday – who each played four seasons in Virden – and Elkhorn’s Parker Johnson moving on. MJHL MVP Braden Fischer and league Rookie of the Year Carson Buydens are exploring opportunities in the United States Hockey League. Talented Oil Capitals prospects London Hoilett and Virden’s own Ty Plaisier have signed in the Western Hockey League with the Calgary Hitmen and Regina Pats, respectively. Evan Groening is currently with the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings, who he played some games with last season.
To fill their spots the Oil Capitals organization has brought in a mix of talented rookies and skilled junior hockey veterans. Ramsey praised 17-year-old goalie Owen LaRoque for being “very solid” in the preseason. The Wawanesa product was a Manitoba U18 AAA Hockey League First Team All-Star and a Telus Cup Western Regional All-Star, when that event was held in Virden last season.
The Oil Caps added 20-year-old forwards Davis Chorney and Andew Blocker from the SJHL’s Weyburn Red Wings and Kindersley Klippers, respectively. Chorney had 11 goals, 18 points, and 162 penalty minutes in 50 games last season. Blocker accumulated eight points in 21 games for the Klippers last season after posting three in 21 contests for La Ronge, where he started the campaign.
“They are veteran junior A players who will add some much-needed leadership and intensity,” Ramsey said.
On the backend, the head coach said that “Ethan Guthrie has been impressive to this point.” The Brandon product played two games for Virden last season. He had seven goals and 33 points in 40 games for the U18 AAA Wheat Kings.