The Virden Oil Capitals are looking to ground the Winkler Flyers in the first round of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League playoffs.
The Oil Caps enter the postseason as the league’s No. 6 seed with a 32-23-3-2 record. At 38-17-2-3, the Flyers, who include 16-year-old Virden product Grady Lane, finished third in the MJHL regular season. The Oil Caps were 4-2 against the Flyers with two of those victories coming in a shootout.
“I think we match up really well against Winkler,” head coach Tyson Ramsey said. “They have been playing some great hockey leading up to the playoffs and we will certainly need to be prepared to play fast and structured. I think if you look at our team, we play our best when we play with speed, when we are physical, and we manage the puck in all three zones. I think those things will be keys for us.”
The best-of-seven series starts Friday in Winkler. The Oil Capitals play host to game two on Sunday. The third game is Tuesday in Winkler. The teams return to Virden for the fourth game on March 12.
The Oil Capitals are an offensively explosive team. They scored the second most goals in the MJHL this season – 233. Hunter Cloutier and Kolten Kanaski each lit the lamp 29 times and posted 65 points. Virden’s own Tanner Andrew was third on the team in goals (25) and points (55). Ten Oil Caps scored at least 10 goals.
Jayden Wojciechowski paced the blue line scoring with 47 points. Goalie Kyle Kozma had a team-high 13 wins and a 2.96 goals against average. Ethan Peterson earned 11 wins and had an Oil Caps best .900 save percentage.
Winkler goalie Dorrin Luding was second in the MJHL with 27 wins. He had a 2.97 goals against average. Jayde McCarthy led Winkler with 64 points. Sulivan Shortreed scored a team-high 29 goals. Nathan Poolman contributed 43 points from the blue line.
Andrew and Wojciechowski were named MJHL Second Team All-Stars. Andrew has committed to play NCAA Division I hockey next season for the Rochester Institute of Technology. Wojciechowski anchored a young defence.
The Oil Capitals are 3-1 in their last four games entering the playoffs. They finished the regular season with a 5-2 win over Dauphin in Virden on March 1. The victory guaranteed the Oil Caps’ sixth place.
“If you look at that game, I think that is the type of game we want to play heading into the playoffs,” Ramsey said. “We need to play with some energy and excitement and feed off each other. We need to compete consistently hard and generate offence with our speed and defend with a pride and purpose. Our guys are ready.”
Against the Kings, Jack Einarson and Drayson Collyer both scored twice. Peterson made 38 saves.
The Oil Caps started the week with a 6-5 shootout victory over Swan Valley at home on Feb. 27. Cloutier, Kanaski and Einarson all scored in the shootout while Peterson allowed only one of the Stampeders’ two shooters to score. He had 18 saves. Einarson scored twice. The Oil Caps sent 53 shots at the Swan Valley goalies with Mikael Foucher stopping 15 of 17 and Parker Rey making 32 saves on 35 shots.
On Saturday, the Virden team lost 5-0 on the road in Waywayseecappo. Kozma made 26 saves. Wolverine goalie Colin Ahern made 24 saves for the shutout.