After the COVID-19 pandemic forced a premature end to last season, the Virden Oil Capitals are looking forward to getting back on the ice.
The Manitoba Junior Hockey League team holds its fall camp Sept. 18-20 at the Tundra Oil & Gas Place. Thirty-four players are expected in camp. Bray Rookies, a second-year defenceman from Manson, said:
“I’m most excited to see my teammates again and get back playing with them.”
The Oil Caps are slated to host Waywayseecappo in an exhibition game on Sept. 23. Virden’s regular season home opener is on Oct. 9 against the Portage Terriers.
This MJHL season will look different in various ways. An expansion team - the Winnipeg Freeze, owned by the same company as league foe the Winnipeg Blues – brings the MJHL to 12 teams. The regular season is cut back to 40 games and all teams will make the playoffs. Physical distancing in arenas and other safety protocols will be in effect.
“The league has done a great job in creating a schedule that takes into account the safety of all of the teams’ players and staff,” said head coach Tyson Ramsey in a team media release. “Our season ticket holders and businesses have shown tremendous support to our hockey club, and we are looking forward to providing them with an exciting team to watch this season.”
The Oil Caps expect to ice a veteran crew this season with 17 players returning. One of those is Hunter Cloutier, who tied with departed captain Kolten Kanaski for the team lead with 29 goals and 65 points in 2019-2020.
“I’m really excited to come back for my last season with the Caps,” he said. “We have lots of guys coming back and I think that’s really going to help us be a tight-knit group this year. I believe this team has the capability of bringing Virden its first championship this year and I can’t wait to get the season started.”
A crop of young players will be fighting to make the Oil Caps roster.
“We are very pleased with our prospect list and recent draft class,” Ramsey said. “Our scouting staff continues to do a great job of finding prospects that turn into great players in our league. We are excited to see some of these prospects battle for spots at camp.”