After losing a double overtime, heartbreaking game one, the Virden Oil Kings are looking to rebound and prevail in their North Central Hockey League South Division semifinals series this week.
On Feb. 7, the host Langenburg Warriors led 3-1 and 6-4 at the intermissions. The Oil Kings senior hockey squad continued to fight back. In the third period, Tanner Lewis cut the deficit to one before Keifer Johnston tied the contest with 38 seconds remaining. In the second overtime session, on the only powerplay of overtime, Langenburg’s Bobby Jansen scored to give his team a 7-6 victory and a 1-0 series lead.
“Friday’s night game was a well played playoff game by both teams,” Virden coach Brett Braybrook said. “The intensity was high right from the drop of the puck. I felt our guys really came to play and played well. We talked at the start of the game about our compete level. Playoffs can be a different animal and our guys responded really well.”
Virden goalie Caden Wilson stopped 35 of the 42 shots he faced, while his Langenburg counterpart, Carter Olson, made 43 saves on 49 shots. Cam Whyte had two goals for Virden. Whyte, Nolan Twerdochlib and Drake Bodie led the Oil Kings with three points each.
The Oil Kings were hoping to even up the best-of-three series on Tuesday when they hosted the Warriors after the Empire-Advance deadline. If Virden tied up the series, game three was set for Thursday in Langenburg. Whoever won the series will meet the winner of the Miniota-Elkhorn and Moosomin division semifinal.
Langenburg finished second to Miniota-Elkhorn in the South Division with a 10-9-1 record. Virden was one spot behind at 9-11-0. Oil Kings manage Ryan Mathieson said with the teams being evenly matched “managing emotions and keeping an even keel could be the determining factor in the series.” Mathieson and Braybrook said that specials teams are also important.
“Beside managing emotion and executing on special teams if we keep our pace of play high, moving the puck well to create space, we will create opportunities,” Mathieson said. “We also need to limit Langenburg’s time and space as they have the skill to capitalize when we give them room.”
The Miniota-Elkhorn C-Hawks finished on top of the South Division with a league-leading and spotless 20-0-0 record. In the semifinals, the C-Hawks face fourth-seeded Moosomin (8-11-1). Miniota-Elkhorn is not taking the Rangers lightly.
“Some of the keys for us versus Moosomin will be puck management and matching Moosomin’s work ethic,” C-Hawks coach Garth Mitchell said. “They are a hard-working team with excellent goaltending and some very skilled and dangerous offensive players. We will need to play a solid game and keep the pace of the games up to where we are hard to play against in all zones.”
The series was slated to start in Miniota on Wednesday. Game two is in Moosomin on Friday. If required, the third contest would be in Elkhorn Sunday night.