Natives top Terriers in OT



The Neepawa Natives celebrate a much needed win on Wednesday, Feb. 8, as they topped the Portage Terriers 4-3 in overtime.

By Eoin Devereux

Neepawa Banner & Press

A pair of three point nights from line-mates Brett Namaka and Mackenzie Belinski, lifted the Neepawa Natives to a 4-3 overtime win over the Portage Terriers on Wednesday, Feb. 7. Namaka (2 goals - 1 assist), who earned the first star of the game, would score the game winner just 31 seconds into OT. Belinski, meanwhile, scored once and added a pair of assists. 

As for the tempo of the game itself, the Terriers started strong, putting ample early pressure on the Natives. Neepawa was able to withstand the push, however, and ended up scoring the first goal of the night late in the first period. Portage replied just a few minutes later, to make it 1-1 after 20 minutes of play.

There was just one goal in the second period, though it did come at the end of a crazy combination of plays at both ends of the ice. First, Neepawa had a chance on a breakaway that just slid past the side of the Terriers’ net. Portage recovered the puck and on a fast break into the Neepawa zone, put one past goaltender Brendan Benoit, but not past the goal post. Off that bit of luck, the Natives capitalized with a fast break of their own, which ended with an Austin Friesen shot in the back of the net. After the whistle, the officials had to take a moment to discuss whether the Portage chance went in the net or not. After the deliberation, it was ruled that Portage didn’t score on their chance, allowing Neepawa’s goal to stand. That made it 2-1 for the Natives heading into the third. 


Natives captain Griffin Chwaliboga finishes a check in the Terriers' defensive zone, while Zach Johnson focuses on the puck.

For the final period, Portage notched a pair of goals, both on the power-play, while Neepawa had an even strength marker. With the game tied at 3-3, it shifted into three-on-three overtime. Neepawa would strike quickly, as with just 31 seconds expired, Brett Namaka was able to jam home a loose puck in the Portage crease to secure the win. After the game, Namaka said it was a solid night not just for him, but for all his line-mates.

“It’s a young line and it’s new, so we’re working hard out there to prove ourselves. Tonight, that paid off. We came up with a solid effort and took advantage of the opportunities,” said Namaka.

With the Natives fighting for the final playoff spot in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL) standing with the Swan Valley Stampeders, picking up both points on the night was very important for the club. Head coach Dustin Howden said that the team picked up their energy when it mattered

“A good effort by all of our guys. It’s starts off in the net, and Brendan [Benoit] had a solid night against his former team. And then from there, our defensive core played well. Kept the game in front of them and were able to shut down Portage’s offence on the five-on-five,” Howden indicated. “When we had chances, we took advantage. It was a gutsy effort.”

With ten games left on the regular season schedule, the Natives’ record now stands at 22-25-3, good enough for 47 points. That currently ties them with Swan Valley (21-20-5. 47 points), though the Stamps do have four games in hand on their schedule. 

The next action for Neepawa will be in Steinbach on Friday, Feb. 9. The next home game will be Sunday, Feb. 11, when the Natives host the OCN Blizzard. Start time is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.


Noah Carson looks to advance the puck, as a Portage players approaches.