\As a Virden Oil Capitals rookie last season, Jayden Wojciechowski watched and learned.
This year, the 19-year-old has taken on a bigger role. As of Sunday, Wojciechowskiled all Oil Capitals defencemen with seven points, all assists, in 12 games. In addition, Wojciechowski is one of the team’s alternate captains.
“I’m enjoying mostly that I have taken on a bigger role and playing more minutes this year,” he said. “I’m also enjoying meeting new guys as we lost a lot last year.”
Last season, ona veteran-laden team that made a run all the way to the Manitoba Junior Hockey League finals, Wojciechowski battled for ice time. There were some nights when he was wearing a suit rather his Oil Caps jersey.
Head coach Troy Leslie recalls telling people Wojciechowski was the best, healthy scratch they had had. “If it was another team, he would have been playing.”
Now Wojciechowski is a crucial contributor and this has required him to adapt.
“The biggest adjustments after last season are playing more and having more responsibilities all over the ice and in all situations,” Wojciechowski said.
The 5-foot-11, 181-pounder has played big minutes on the Virden blue line this season.
“He is just solid,” Leslie said. “He is a smart player. He is very intelligent.”
Wojciechowski has an offensive upside. With seven points this season, he is almost halfway to the total of 15 points he posted in 49 games as a rookie.
“He sees the ice well and handles the puck well,” Leslie said. “He skates well. He can skate himself out of trouble.”
Wojciechowski is a leader for the Oil Caps. Leslie said the quiet leader “is just a really good person who leads by example.”
The Thunder Bay product is certainly familiar with winning – and not just on the ice. Wojciechowski started playing football when he was six and said he won four or five city championships. He also helped his high school football team go undefeated. Wojciechowski suited up for an all-star team that played in the United States and won a couple of tournaments.
The Oil Capitals, 2-5-1-4 as of Sunday, were slated to host Swan Valley on Tuesday. This Saturday the Virden team travels to Gimli to take on the Selkirk Steelers. The Oil Caps have a rematch with the Steelers, this time in Selkirk, on Oct. 30 before capping their October schedule by hosting Neepawa on Oct. 31.
Although they lost, the Virden Oil Capitals earned a standings point in each of their games last week. In 12 contests this season, Virden has fallen in a shootout four times and in overtime once.
“We are doing a lot of good things. … I’d like to see us be a little more aggressive in the third period,” Leslie said.
Oak Lake’s Riley Wallace started both games for Virden last week.
“He has been pretty solid,” Leslie said. “He stays calm back there and pretty square to the puck.”
Last Thursday, the Oil Capitals fell 2-1 in overtime on the road to the Winnipeg Blues. After a scoreless first period, Winnipeg’s Kelton Sutherland put his team on the board just 42 seconds into the second session.
Virden captain Ben Dalke tied up the game on a power play in the final minute of the period. Neither team was able to light the lamp in the third period and overtime was needed. Leslie said he was disappointed the team was unable to score on an overtime power play. Griffin Chwaliboga had the winner for Winnipeg 3:42 in the extra session.
Wallace stopped 28 of the 30 shots he faced for Virden. Blues goalie Jeremy Link made 32 saves. With the Oil Capitals missing some key players, Leslie said he was pleased with the effort the team gave.
On Saturday, Portage’s Logan Calder was the only player among 12 shooters to score in the shootout as the Terriers slipped away from Tundra Oil & Gas Place with a 6-5 victory. Leslie said he was pleased with the team’s five-on-five play and the opportunities the Oil Capitals created.
The teams were tied 2-2 at the first intermission. Virden led 4-3 after the second period, and the Terriers tied the game up twice in the third to force overtime.
Hunter Cloutier scored twice for Virden. Brayden Pawluk, Tristan Thompson and Kolten Kanaski had Virden’s other goals. Wallace made 32 saves. Portage’s Nathan Moore stopped 21 of the 26 shots he faced.
The Manitoba Junior Hockey League has announced it is taking part in the Canadian Junior Hockey League Concussion Program supported by The Co-operators.
The national program includes the use of the HeadCheck innovative concussion management software. The software was used by the Oil Capitals last season and now will be implemented league wide.
“Team trainers can use HeadCheck’s mobile app to document suspected concussions, perform concussion assessments and transfer the information collected to medical professionals and partner clinics. The national program allows a player’s concussion history to transfer with them from team-to-team or league-to-league for more informed care,” a media release from the MJHL states.