In close games last week the Manitoba Junior Hockey League team beat Niverville, 2-1, and the Winnipeg Blues, 4-3 in overtime. As of Monday, the squad had earned points in all of its last five games. Two of those went to a shootout and one was extended to overtime, with the Oil Caps emerging with two wins. Three of their last four wins came by one goal. As of Monday, the team was tied with the Dauphin Kings on top of the MJHL’s MGEU West Division with 26 points.
“The offensive part of our game has really improved in terms of puck possession and spending time in the opponent's end of the rink,” Oil Capitals head coach Tyson Ramsey said. “I think we have tightened up defensively and that has allowed us to exit our zone more efficiently and that allows us to go on offence more frequently.”
The Oil Capitals were to host the Waywayseecappo Wolverines on Thursday after the Empire-Advance deadline. On Saturday, the Oil Caps hit the road to play Swan Valley.
Oil Caps 4, Blues 3 OT
Josh Lehto lit the lamp just more than three minutes into overtime to lift the Oil Caps to victory on First Responders Appreciation and Remembrance Day game night.
As of Sunday, Lehto led the MJHL in points with 25 in 18 games. Lehto, teammate Nolan Chastko and Steinbach’s Grady Hofman were tied for the league lead in goals with 12.
On Nov. 12, the Blues struck first with Dawson Zeller scoring on a powerplay. Lehto tied the game at 1-1 and Chastko put Virden ahead, 2-1, before the end of the first period.
In the second session, Luke Robson extended the Oil Caps’ lead to 3-1. With the man advantage, Brody Green pulled the Blues within one, 3-2, before the second intermission. On another powerplay, Tyler Dodgson knotted the contest at 3-3 in the third. That set the stage for Lehto’s overtime heroics.
“I think five-on-five and in OT we were pretty relentless offensively and stuck to our structure, which eventually led to us wearing them down, and were able to capitalize on a great opportunity in OT,” Ramsey said.
Owen LaRocque made 17 saves to help the Oil Caps to victory. River Leslie-Toogood stopped 41 of the 45 shots that came his way. Jeff Dreger saw limited time in the first period for the Blues and made four saves on as many shots.
Oil Caps 2, Nighthawks 1
Virden product Grady Lane’s first of the season helped his hometown team to victory in Niverville on Nov. 11. Lehto staked Virden to a 1-0 first period lead. Lane made it 2-0 Oil Caps on a powerplay with less than 30 seconds remaining in the frame. The Nighthawks scored their lone goal in the second with Ty Kennett doing the honours.
Eric Reid stopped 18 of the 19 shots he faced. Lehto had two points on the night. Niverville goalie Keegan Gordon made 29 saves.
Catching Up With
Riley Kuryk (2012-2013) is a year away from his Red Seal sheet metal ticket. He works in Winnipeg at Norwest Metal Fabricators. Kuryk resides in Tyndall with his wife, Kaitlyn, and son, Tucker, who is less than a year old. He also helps coach the U18 AAA Eastman Selects. Kuryk has a lot of great memories from his time in Virden.
“It’s hard to pick just one thing about my time in Virden. One of the ‘hockey parts’ that I remember most was the home opener in the first year. I had never really had anything like that before… the intros, how loud it was. Very memorable for me. I made a couple very good friends there including Santa Claus himself. (Curtis Houlden, the breakout star of the team’s viral Christmas video) who was in my wedding party a few years ago.
“Aside from hockey, the people who helped us, more or less, figure out how to/get comfortable with living away from home were fantastic. The Heritages and the Whittles were the first people I was introduced to and they made that move for me easy.
“But the one thing that made Virden one of the best experiences for me was the family who brought me into their home and made me a part of their family - Jody and Neil McConnachie along with my billet brother and sister Neil and Avery. I learned a lot in the short time I was a part of their household and they are without a doubt the biggest reason why my time in Virden is as memorable as it is.”
Kuryk went on to play three seasons with the River East Royal Knights of the Manitoba Major Junior Hockey League. He was twice a first team all-star on defence.