As Willie Nelson sang, the Virden Oil Capitals are “on the road again”.
The Manitoba Junior Hockey League squad went 2-1 last week while playing three away games in as many nights. The Oil Capitals collected four of a possible six standings points, outscoring OCN 15-4 in a two-game sweep.
When asked about his team’s wins, head coach Troy Leslie said, “More than anything, we got a lot of guys going offensively. A lot of guys were able to get on the scoresheet.”
He also said the team had solid goaltending and praised its penalty kill. As of Monday, the Oil Caps had the MJHL’s third-best penalty kill at 85.2 per cent – just behind Steinbach (86.8) and Winnipeg (85.3).
“Our guys are working hard,” Leslie said.
With the Viterra men’s curling provincials bringing big crowds to Tundra Oil & Gas Place this week, the hockey team stays on the road for three more games. The Oil Caps are in Steinbach on Friday and Winnipeg on Saturday.
It is the squad’s first ever Fathers Road Trip with the players’ dads accompanying them and participating in various team activities. The Oil Capitals wrap up their six-game road stint on Feb. 13 in Neepawa before returning to play in Virden on Valentine’s Day, when they plan to show no love to the Portage Terriers.
Hometown product Tristen Cross was named the Telus MJHL Defenceman of the Month for January. The 20-year-old had nine points, including four goals, in 10 games. Oil Caps captain Ben Dalke was tabbed as one of the runners-up for the RBC Player of the Month.
Virden forward Kolten Kanaski was a runner-up for the Recycle Everywhere MJHL Player of the Week. He collected five points in three games last week.
Oil Caps 10, Blizzard 3
Virden overwhelmed OCN with its depth on Feb. 3 as it earned a 10-3 victory for its second win in a row. Nine different players scored and 15 earned at least a point.
Josh Belcher led the Oil Caps with two goals. Also scoring for Virden were Tanner Andrew, Hunter Cloutier, Parker Brakebill, Brett Paddock, Dalke, Jayden Wojciechowski, Jesse Mistelbacher, and Kanaski. Cross had a team-high three assists. Goalie Riley Wallace, an Oak Lake product, stopped 31 of the 34 shots he faced. Virden had 53 shots on net and forced the Blizzard to use both goalies.
Oil Caps 5, Blizzard 1
On Feb. 2, the Oil Capitals took a 2-1 first-period lead and continued to build upon it for a 5-1 win in OCN. Kanaski lit the lamp twice for the Oil Caps. Wojciechowski, Blake Sidoni, and Tristan Thompson had Virden’s other goals. Goaltender Dalton Dosch made 20 saves for the visitors, who outshot OCN 50-21.
Stampeders 5, Oil Caps 3
The Oil Capitals twice fought back on Feb. 1 to tie the contest but fell to Swan Valley, 5-3. The Stampeders led 1-0 after the first period and took a 2-0 lead in the second. Cloutier made the score 2-1 before Belcher tied things up on a shorthanded goal. Swan Valley took the lead back with a goal late in the second period.
Andrew made things all even again, at 3-3, with less than five minutes played in the third period. Swan Valley scored with 12:49 played to take the lead and added an empty net goal late. Dosch made 31 saves on 35 shots.
“We did battle hard all night in that game,” Leslie said. “The one thing I wish we had done better was limit our turnovers. … We let them have some opportunities and they took advantage of it.”