With a pair of one-goal victories, the Virden Oil Capitals took a 2-0 series lead over Waywayseecappo on the opening weekend of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League playoffs.
On March 25, the Oil Caps prevailed 3-2 in overtime on the road. Captain Logan Rands delivered the OT winner. Two nights later the squad earned a 4-3 win at home to go up 2-0 in the best-of-seven quarterfinal series.
“I think our group did a real good job of sticking to our game plan. Not getting frustrated when things weren't working and they competed extremely hard,” Virden head coach Tyson Ramsey said. “The Wolverines are a very good team, and we need to be at our best to have success. I felt we had contributions from up and down the lineup and we will need that to continue moving forward.”
Game three between the West Division’s third-seeded Oil Caps (30-20-4-0) and No. 2 Wolverines (33-18-2-1) was played Thursday in Waywayseecappo after the Empire-Advance deadline. Game four is Saturday in Virden. If needed, the other game dates would be April 5 in Waywayseecappo, April 8 in Virden, and April 10 in Waywayseecappo.
“We need to continue to focus on the little details that make us successful as a group,” Ramsey said. “We know that the toughest games are yet to come, and we will need focus on one period at a time and not get ahead of ourselves. We will build on the things we have done well and continue to try and improve in areas that have been a weakness.”
In game one of the series, Virden held leads of 1-0 in the first period and 2-1 in the second. However, Waywayseecappo tied the contest at 2-2 in the third frame. In the extra session, Rands picked up the puck in Virden’s zone and skated it up the ice.
“It was a two-on-three so I was just trying to get the puck to the net,” he said. “My first shot got blocked by the D-man and then the puck squeaked past him. I jumped by him and put my second shot five-hole. I wasn’t sure that it went in at first but once I got around the net and I saw the puck in the net. The emotions just kinda took over, it an amazing feeling.”
Virden goalie Bailey Monteith turned away 32 of the 34 shots he faced. Brett Mirwald had 21 saves for Waywayseecappo. Evan Groening recorded two assists for Virden.
After a 2-2 first period on March 27, Virden went ahead 3-2 in the second on a Tyler Thoendel powerplay marker. Groening made it 4-2 in the third. The Wolverines drew to within one, but Virden held on for the victory in front of 925 fans.
“The atmosphere was great on Sunday,” Groening said. “Skating out with the lights off and all the fans cheering was definitely motivating. I didn’t notice how loud it was until after the final buzzer when we won. It was a really fun experience, and I can’t wait to see what the Virden fans do to cheer us on in future games.”
Braden Fischer and Nathan Driver, with the man advantage, scored for Virden in the first period. Fischer had two points on the night. Virden was two-for-six on the powerplay, while the Wolverines were three-for-six. Monteith made 37 saves. Mirwald stopped 28 shots.