The Virden Oil Capitals and the Selkirk Steelers are tangling in the first round of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League playoffs.
Game one of their best-of-seven quarterfinals series is set for Friday night in Selkirk. Game two will be on Sunday in Virden. The third game is back in Selkirk on March 12 with Virden hosting on March 14.
When asked what he is looking forward to most about the playoffs, Virden’s leading scorer Kolten Kanaski said coming together as a team.
“At this time of year, it really shows who wants to win and who is willing to put their bodies on the line for the greater good,” he said.
Selkirk finished in fourth place in the MJHL with a 34-20-3-3 record and 74 points. The fifth-seeded Oil Caps went 31-21-4-4 during the regular season as they accumulated 70 points. Virden and Selkirk split their six games against each other during the regular season.
“Our power play has been really good against them,” Virden head coach Troy Leslie said. “Our penalty kill has been good. I think we have a lot of positives to draw upon from that season series.”
Regarding the Steelers, Leslie said they have had a strong power play in the second part of the season and have a good forward group with depth. Nathan Halvorson paced Selkirk with 34 goals and 63 points on 58 games. He was fourth in the MJHL in scoring and was named a Second Team All-Star at forward.
However, the Oil Caps are also focusing on themselves. Leslie said the team needs to be patient and stick with the plan.
“We know what works for us and what doesn’t,” he said.
Homegrown defenceman Tristen Cross was a Second Team All-Star for Virden. He had 45 points in 60 games. Kanaski led the team in goals with 32 and in points with 62 in 56 games. Captain Ben Dalke had a team-high 33 assists in 60 games.
“We have guys who have won championships in midget. … We have a lot of guys who have been to a finals before,” said Leslie, who piloted the Oil Caps to the MJHL championship series in 2018. “I think we need to draw upon that experience.”
Cross was named the Telus-MJHL Defenceman of the Month for February. It was the second straight month he earned the award. Cross had 13 points in 13 games.
Kanaski was a runner-up for the MJHL’s RBC Player of the Month for February.
Josh Belcher was named the Recycle Everywhere MJHL Player of the Week. He had three goals and four assists over two games last week. In a win over Dauphin, he had four points.
Former Virden Oil Cap Wyatt Kalynuk was named the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team MVP at its annual banquet on the weekend. The defenceman earned the Spike Carlson/Chris Chelios Most Valuable Player award by tying for the team lead in scoring with 23 points and placing second on the squad with nine goals. The son of Randy and Leanne Kalynukof Virden was also fourth on the Badgers in blocked shots. He is in his second school year in Madison.
Regular Season Completed
The Oil Capitals split their last two games of the regular season. They beat Dauphin, 6-4, at home on Saturday and fell by the same score on the road in Waywayseecappo on Sunday.
In front of a reported attendance of 898 on Saturday, the Oil Capitals led 3-2 and 4-2 at the intermissions. Hunter Cloutier racked up five points, including two goals, while his linemates Belcher and Jack Einarson had four and three respectively. Einarson had two goals. Belcher found the back of the net once. Tristan Thompson also scored for Virden. Oil Caps goalie Dalton Dosch made 30 saves. Leslie said the Oil Caps were solid that night and played the way they want to.
On the road on Sunday, Virden led 2-0 early on but the Wolverines came back. The Oil Capitals trailed 4-3 after the first period and 5-4 at the end of the second. Leslie said he felt the team relaxed a bit after its early lead, and once Waywayseecappo netminder Isaac Labele made some saves, it was hard to get the puck past him.
Belcher scored twice for Virden and had three points. Cross had a goal and two points. Parker Brakebill had the Oil Caps’ other goal. Dosch made nine saves on 13 shots. He was relieved by Oak Lake product Riley Wallace, who stopped 13 of the 15 shots he faced.