A resilient Virden Oil Capitals team swept its way into the second round of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League playoffs.
Last Saturday the Oil Caps, the No. 3 seed in the MJHL West, wrapped up its best-of-seven series with the No. 2 Waywayseecappo Wolverines with a 4-3 home victory. That came two days after Braden Fischer scored in overtime to deliver the Virden squad a 5-4 road win. Three of the series’ four games were decided by one goal.
“I really like our ability to respond to any momentum loss during the entire series,” Virden head coach Tyson Ramsey said. “I thought any time they wrestled the momentum from us we were able to battle back. Whether it was a goal right after they scored or a big penalty kill, we were able to respond to adversity throughout the series. I also liked that we got contributions from all our guys. We were able to play 20 guys pretty consistently and that was key for us.”
As Virden was the first MJHL squad to wrap up its series, the team was waiting, as of Monday, to hear who their semifinal opponent will be. In the second round, the four squads are seeded based on their regular season record – regardless of division. Ramsey said sometimes a little time off can help.
“At this time of year, your guys have some minor things that some days off can remedy, but we are feeling pretty good, and we will be ready for round two whenever it gets underway,” he said.
On March 31, the Oil Caps jumped out to a 2-0 first period lead thanks to goals by Dylan Halliday and Carson Buydens. After a scoreless second frame, Waywayseecappo scored twice to knot the contest at 2-2 in the third. Colin Cook scored twice in the period but each time he lit the lamp for Virden, the Wolverines answered. That meant a 4-4 tie at the end of regulation. Fischer ended the contest just 39 seconds into overtime.
“It was the first shift of overtime, and we knew that if we got a good jump on them to begin the period we would be able to take the game,” Fischer said the day after the game. “The puck was dumped into our corner, and I grabbed it and skated it up through the neutral zone. Kicked it out to (Nathan) Driver, who gave it back to me under the defensive player’s stick. I got it and saw a spot on the far side, shot it and we won the game.
“Crazy game but so awesome to come out on top. So important to win that game to go up 3-0 and to have a commanding lead. We are all super excited for Saturday night … we’re on a mission.”
His words proved prophetic. After the Wolverines opened the scoring on Saturday, Driver and Nathan McInnis put the hosts on top, 2-1, at the first intermission. Early in the second, Buydens increased Virden’s lead to 3-1. Waywayseecappo cut it to 3-2, but Oil Caps forward Colten Miller put his team up by two goals, 4-2, before the second intermission. The Wolverines once again pulled to within one in the third. However, Virden prevailed, 4-3, in front of 1,156 fans at home.
“It was awesome,” Miller said. “They’ve been there right from day one of the season, so it was good to be able to end the series four straight in front of them.”