The Virden Oil Capitals’ strong start to the season has been halted not by an opponent but rather the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Nov. 12, the Manitoba Junior Hockey League announced it was pausing the season with the province moving into Critical level (red) on the Pandemic Response System to try to halt the spread of COVID-19. Jan. 1 was announced as the tentative date to start hockey activities again.
“We are sad to see the season get postponed, but we fully support the MJHL’s decision,” read a statement to fans and season ticket holders that the Oil Capitals posted on their website. “We thank you for your patience through this challenging time and hope to see you guys back in the building in the new year.”
With a talented, veteran squad buoyed by skilled newcomers, the Oil Capitals had sprinted out of the gate to a league best 8-0-1-0 record. They are undefeated in regulation and have only lost in overtime. What has head coach and general manager Tyson Ramsey been most pleased most with regarding the team’s play so far this season?
“I think our resiliency within each game,” he said. “We have had some games where we have liked our game from start to finish but there have been some that have had moments where we have not played very well in certain situations. Our group has a real strong ability to stay with our structure, to not panic and see things through to the end without straying from the way we want to play. That mindset has been successful for us to this point.”
It has been a true team effort for the Oil Caps this season. The team has scored 39 goals with 15 different players lighting the lamp at least once. Twenty-one players have recorded at least a point.
Fourth-year forward Hunter Cloutier tops the MJHL with 17 points and 11 assists. He has a team-high six goals. Linemate Jack Einarson is 10th in the scoring race with 11 points. In defenceman Daemon Hunt’s three games with Virden, the 2020 draft pick of the National Hockey League’s Minnesota Wild has five points to rank second on the Oil Caps in points per game (1.67) behind Cloutier (1.89).
Fellow blue liner Logan Rands tops the league defencemen scoring race with eight points in as many games. Forward Roux Bazin and defenceman Trevor Hunt are the team’s top rookie scorers with five points each. Veteran forward Owen Blocker leads the team and is third in the league with 40 penalty minutes. Goalie Kyle Kozma paces the MJHL with six wins. He has a .919 save percentage and a 2.42 goals against average.
The Oil Caps have the league’s best powerplay - converting on 33.3 per cent of its chances. Josh Belcher leads the team with three powerplay goals. Cloutier is tied for the MJHL lead with six powerplay assists. The team’s penalty kill is fifth in the league at 83.7 per cent. At home, the Oil Caps have the second-best PK at 86.4 per cent. Einarson is tied for tops in the MJHL with two shorthanded goals – which both came in the same game.