Rather than sugar plums, at the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s Christmas break, visions of a successful 2022 portion of their season danced in the Virden Oil Capitals’ heads.
A young team with many newcomers posted a 14-14-2-0 record at the break. The squad sat third in the MJHL West. Last weekend the Oil Caps lost two contests to the Steinbach Pistons, who lead the MJHL East with a 23-6-1-0 record. Steinbach prevailed 3-0 in Virden Friday and 4-0 as the hosts on Saturday. The Friday loss to the Pistons ended the Oil Caps’ five-game winning streak.
The Oil Capitals will open 2022 with a two-game series with the Portage Terriers. Virden plays host on Jan. 7 while the teams play on Jan. 8 in Portage.
On Friday night in Virden, the Oil Caps outshot the visitors from Steinbach 35-34. However, Pistons goalie Will Hambley stopped them all. Steinbach’s Bryce Kilbourn scored around the halfway mark in the first period. The Pistons added goals by Jack Rogers and David Griffin, on the powerplay, in the third.
“On Friday night, I thought we played a very fast and competitive game,” Virden head coach Tyson Ramsey said. “We controlled the play for good parts of the game and created numerous good chances to score and just couldn't find the net.”
Virden’s Eric Reid made 31 saves on 34 shots. Oil Caps forward Carson Buydens was named the Gardewine Hardest Working Player.
In Steinbach on Saturday, the Oil Caps were once again unable to score. Virden goalie Ethan Kadatz made 30 saves on 34 shots. Hambley stopped 26 shots for his second straight shutout.
“On Saturday, I thought our group looked slow and not as engaged as the night before,” Ramsey said. “We lost Braden Fischer early in the game and that seemed to change our level of intensity and we really couldn't get it back from that point. A disappointing way to go into the break but I think this time off will be good for our guys.”
The Pistons led 1-0 after the first period. They held a 3-0 lead by the second intermission. Steinbach added a goal in the third. Scoring for the Pistons were Travis Hensrud, Cooper Rice, Ty Paisley, and Rogers.