Veterans mixed with new faces at the Virden Oil Capitals’ Comfort Inn & Suites Fall Training Camp last weekend.
Of the 34 players at the event, held Sept. 18-20 at the Tundra Oil & Gas Place, 17 competed with the Manitoba Junior Hockey League squad last season. Head coach and general manager Tyson Ramsey said the organization was pleased with the camp.
“I think what impressed us most was the speed and skill that our young guys have. We felt like our team speed was good last year and I think we are even faster this season.”
As of Monday, the team had cut down to about 30 players. Ramsey said a mix of veterans and young guys would play on Wednesday.
The Oil Capitals hosted their lone home contest of the preseason on Wednesday against the Waywayseecappo Wolverines. They came out strong and carried the game, but had to fight for their final goal in OT for a 3-2 win.
The squad will continue to gear up for the MJHL campaign by playing the Portage Terriers on the road on Sept. 27 and Oct. 2. The annual Valleyview Co-Op Home Opener will kick off the regular season on Oct. 9.
“We are excited to get playing some games,” Ramsey said. “It’s been a long time!
The Oil Capitals return 10 of their top 13 leading scorers from last season. That group is led by Hunter Cloutier, who tied for the team lead in goals (29) and points (65) with departed captain Kolten Kanaski. The team will have most of its defence back as well as goalie Kyle Kozma.
To that core, the Oil Caps are adding what they feel is a group of talented young players. For example, the team has Roux Bazin, its 2018 first round MJHL Draft pick. The 17-year-old Treherne product had 28 goals and 55 points in 47 games for the AAA U18 Pembina Valley Hawks.
“I thought Roux Bazin had a real good camp,” Ramsey said. “He was consistent all weekend no matter who he played with. I am excited to see him in exhibition. I also thought a few 16-year-olds had a good camp. Carson Buydens (forward from Gladstone), Dexter Whittle (defenceman from Virden) and Conor Geekie (forward from Strathclair) had great camps.”
Geekie and Virden’s Braeden Lewis are among the players that major junior teams in the Western Hockey League have interest in. They will be with the Oil Caps until the WHL – whose regular season is tentatively slated for Dec. 1 – gets going.
Geekie had 19 goals and 38 points in 30 games for the AAA U18 Yellowhead Chiefs last season. He saw action as an affiliated player in seven game for the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice. The Oil Caps picked up his rights in September from the Winnipeg Blues in exchange for 17-year-old forward prospect Charlie Kosman of Winnipeg.
Lewis captained the AAA U18 Southwest Cougars last season. He had 20 goals and 64 points in 46 games. Lewis played one game with the WHL’s Swift Current Broncos.
Lewis and Whittle are just two of the local players who were in camp with the Oil Capitals. Goalie Eric Reid of Virden was among the other area young players in camp with the team. They were joined by area veterans such as forward Hunter Wallace of Virden and defenceman Bray Rookes of Manson.
The Oil Caps concluded camp with the annual Garry Cup intrasquad game. Team Red prevailed, 10-3. Kozma said the contest was more intense than the weekend’s other games and “was a good way to end training camp.” The game is named for Garry Remple, the team’s dressing room attendant.
“Everybody was pretty excited for the Garry Cup game,” Kozma said. “Garry helps us out a lot and is a huge supporter of the team so to play for something in his honor felt pretty special for everyone.”