While working three new players into their lineup last weekend, the Virden Oil Capitals kept right on rolling.
The Manitoba Junior Hockey League squad racked up two weekend wins against Winkler. As of Wednesday, the Oil Capitals had yet to lose a game in regulation this season. With a 7-0-1-0 record, Virden sat on top of the standings for both the league and the MJHL’s Interior Division.
After trailing in the first period of both of its games versus the Flyers, Virden rebounded to win 5-3 on the road on Friday and 3-2 at the Tundra Oil & Gas Place on Saturday.
“I think our guys understand how we need to play to be successful and, even though there are times when things don't go as planned, our group has enough experienced guys that we can stay structured and get ourselves back in any game,” Virden head coach Tyson Ramsey said. “Our group doesn't panic and I'm proud of the progress in that area so far.”
The Oil Caps bench boss was also pleased with his team’s work ethic, compete level, and the play of goaltender Kyle Kozma in both contests.
“He was solid when he needed to be, and our guys play with a certain confidence when he is in goal,” Ramsey said.
Road Games at Home
The Oil Caps were hoping to keep their successful streak going this week against the OCN Blizzard in Virden on Thursday and Friday. The Blizzard currently have a 1-4-1-0 record. Aiden Litke paces OCN with eight points in five games. Danick Rodrique, OCN’s most used goaltender, had a 4.96 goals against average and a .872 save percentage.
OCN captain Ben Hilhorst is from Killarney. He played in the Southwest Cougars system. The defenceman has three points through six games.
The next games were to be played in OCN, but due to COVID-19 concerns in the northern parts of the province, the teams agreed to play in Virden. However, the Oil Caps’ scheduled games against the OCN Blizzard have just now been postponed due to a public health concern.
The Virden team will now host the Swan Valley Stampeders on Friday night. This game was slated to take place on March 5. Attendance for the contest will be restricted to 25 per cent of capacity. Season ticket holders wishing to attend must register with the team's office before noon on game day.
Oil Caps Leaders
Cloutier leads Virden with 12 points in eight games. He has a team-high eight assists. Cloutier is sixth in the MJHL in scoring. Cloutier and Josh Belcher are tied for the team lead with four goals each.
Defenceman Logan Rands is second on the squad with eight points. He leads all MJHL defencemen in scoring. Trevor Hunt and Roux Bazin lead the Oil Caps rookies with five points each.
Kozma leads the MJHL in wins with six. He has a 2.42 GAA and .919 save percentage – both place him in the top seven in the league.
Last week’s victories came with the Oil Caps adding in a trio of players on loan from Western Hockey League squads: Virden’s Grady Lane (Spokane Chiefs), McAuley’s Jake Poole (Kelowna Rockets), and Brandon’s Daemon Hunt (Moose Jaw Warriors).
“These three are obviously very good players but more importantly they are very, very good people,” Ramsey said. “They have fit right in with our guys and understand what it means to be a great teammate. They don't carry any ego whatsoever. They just come in and work hard. We are very happy to have them here.”
All three made their presence known in their first weekend with the team. Hunt scored two goals in one game. He had three goals and four points in his first two games as an Oil Cap. Poole had an assist in his one game playing for Virden. Lane saw action in both games last weekend.
Last week the Oil Capitals moved the Junior A rights to WHL forward Calder Anderson of the Warriors to Neepawa for future considerations. His rights were obtained earlier this fall in the deal that brought Lane to Virden and sent Tanner Andrew to Winkler.
Hunt Picked for World Junior Selection Camp
Last week Hunt, a 2020 Minnesota Wild NHL Draft pick, was invited to attend the Team Canada selection camp later this month for the IIHF World Junior Championship. Forty-six players have selected to compete for spots at an event that runs Nov. 16 - Dec. 13 in Red Deer. The players will be in a cohort bubble in that community before those who make the team move to a bubble in Edmonton. The World Juniors are slated for Dec. 25 - Jan. 5.
Oil Caps 5, Flyers 3
Virden’s own Hunter Andrew returned from injury in a big way on Oct. 30 against the Flyers and his older brother Tanner. His two third period goals, including an empty net marker, helped the Oil Caps outscore the host Flyers, 3-1 in the final frame and secure a 5-3 victory.
“I was really excited to be able to get back into the lineup and make an impact,” Hunter Andrew said. “We have really been clicking as a team lately and I’m excited to see where we can go.
“Playing against Tanner was a really different experience as I’ve always either been watching him or playing with him but to be able to compete against him and get a win was pretty exciting.”
In the first period, Hunt scored first, but then Winkler got powerplay goals by Ian Tookenay and Kolton Shindle to take a 2-1 lead. Oil Cap Owen Blocker knotted the game at 2-2 in the second session. He scored with a man advantage.
In the third, Hunter Andrew’s first of the night put Virden on top 3-2. However, Shindle evened the score. Cloutier put Virden on top for good and Hunter Andrew scored his second of the night into an empty net. Cloutier collected three points on the night. Hunt, in his Oil Caps debut, and Hunter Andrew each had two.
Kozma made 20 saves. Dylan Meilun had 28 for Winkler.
In Winkler, Shindle was named the first star of the game, while Andrew was second and Tookenay was third. Tanner Andrew recorded an assist for the Flyers. Attendance was reported at 296.
Virden was 1-for-3 on the powerplay. Winkler was 2-for-6.
Oil Caps 3, Flyers 2
On Halloween night, in front of 567 at TOGP, Hunt haunted the Flyers as he scored twice in a 3-2 victory. Winkler grabbed a 2-0 first period with goals by Shindle, on a powerplay, and Mike Svenson. In the second, Hunt got Virden on the board on the powerplay and rookie Branden Huminuk from Winnipeg tied the game with his first MJHL goal. Hunt scored the game winner in the third.
Kozma stopped 23 shots. Winkler netminder Reid Dyck made 26 saves.
Virden was 1-for-5 with the man advantage, while Winkler was 1-for-3.
The Twin Valley Co-op Three Stars of the Game were: first – Hunt (two goals), second – Huminuk (two points), and third – Svenson (goal). The Gardewine Hardest Working Player award was Huminuk.