Bad bounces beat Neepawa Natives



Photo by Diane Warner. Neepawa team captain Griffin Chwaliboga lays in a check on a Winkler player, during a game on Friday, Nov. 24.

By Eoin Devereux

Neepawa Banner & Press

There are some nights when the bounces all go your way. Friday, Nov. 24 was definitely not one of those nights for the Neepawa Natives, as the club was bested by the Winkler Flyers by the score of 5-2.

On three of Winkler’s five goals, the puck ended up in the back of the net due to an unfortunate bounce or ricochet. At the same time, the Natives had several chances to score themselves, but couldn’t get the puck to lay down for them to take a clean shot. That combination of factors ended up sinking Neepawa’s hopes for a win, dropping their regular season record to 13-12-2. Winkler meanwhile, improved to 18-8-0 with the victory. 

This game was the fifth time the two teams had faced one another this season. Neepawa came into the contest with three victories in their previous four matchups. With that in mind, the Flyers were looking to take control of the game early, playing aggressively from the get go. Though that tenacity lead to several early chances, the score would remain tied at 0-0 after the first period. 

In the second, Winkler would take advantage of a power-play chance just 36 seconds into the period, as defenseman Brady Pupp scored. Neepawa quickly replied when Mackenzie Belinski potted a power-play marker of his own with 3:48 gone in the second. That was his seventh goal of the season. A few minutes later, recent returnee Sam Stewart scored his first of the year, giving Neepawa the lead at 2-1. The advantage, unfortunately, was short lived as Winkler drew even with a bouncer that seemed to get lost in a crowd in front of the net. Weiland Parrish would get credit for that goal, which tied things up at 2-2. Then just before the end of the second, a shot from Winkler’s Brett Opperman would deflect off the skate of a Natives player and into the net. That provided the Flyers with the 3-2 lead, heading into the third period. 

Winkler found themselves lucky once again when another unexpected bounce landed in the back of the Natives goal, making it 4-2. An empty net goal with just 15 seconds left in the game closed things out on Neepawa, as they fell by a 5-2 margin.

After the game, Neepawa head coach Dustin Howden lamented that there are just some nights where things don’t go your way, and this was one of those nights for his team.

“It was just one of those nights for us. We felt as though we played a competitive hockey game, but Winkler did as well and on top of that, they had opportunities where the puck went in for them. We wish we could have had the same opportunities ourselves, but that wasn’t the case tonight,” said Howden. “We’re rebounded from this and hopefully, the luck will be with us next time.” 

With this latest defeat, the Natives remained, as of Saturday, Nov. 25, in seventh place in the MJHL standings, one point behind the Selkirk Steelers in the standings and three points up on the Winnipeg Blues.