Neepawa Natives continue to struggle



Goaltender Jake MacLennan's first game for the Neepawa Natives was a defeat to the Winnipeg Blues.

By Eoin Devereux

Neepawa Banner & Press

On any given game night, it’s hard to guess exactly which version of the Neepawa Natives will be hitting the ice. Will it be the world-beaters, who jumped out to a 6-2-1 record to start the MJHL season and appeared the equal of the very best teams of the league. Or will it be the disorganized unit that currently sits in a playoff position, but does not appear to be a playoff caliber team. On Friday, Nov. 3, the latter of those two options reared its ugly head, on the way to a 6-3 loss to the Winnipeg Blues. 

The early portion of the game appeared to start positivitely for the Natives, as Justin Metcalf and Zach Johnson each scored their eighth goals of the season. Winnipeg replied just over a minute after the Johnson goal, to make it 2-1. A Nolan Richards marker with just 3:34 left in the opening period, seemed to give Neepawa the advantage heading into the first intermission. Unfortunately, the Blues bounced back with a quick pair of goals before the end of the first, making it 3-3. 

There were no goals in the second period, though Neepawa had several quality chances, but could not execute. Then in the third, Winnipeg put away three goals to seal the victory. At the end of regulation, former Natives goaltender Jeremy Link took the win, with a 39 save effort. Meanwhile new Neepawa goalie Jake MacLennan, who just arrived from the SJHL’s Weyburn Red Wings, registered the loss, making 43 saves over the course of the night. 

Neepawa head coach Dustin Howden said all the team can do right now is focus on the next game. 

“The Winnipeg Blues are a good hockey team. They’ve underachieved early on in the season, but they’re starting to turn things around. At the same time, we have to step up our game.” stressed Howden. “What we need to do now is just put this one behind us. Replaying this game in our heads over and over won’t change the outcome. All we can do right now is put our focus into the next game against Dauphin. That’s a big rivalry game and one where we should step up.” 

The Neepawa Natives game against the Kings (4-14-1. 9 points) will be played on Tuesday, Nov. 7 at Dauphin’s Credit Union Place. The following night, Neepawa returns home to the Yellowhead Centre for a matchup against the Selkirk Steelers (10-5-1. 21 points). Start time for both those games is set for 7:30 p.m.