Neepawa Farmers fall in playoff opener



By Eoin Devereux

Neepawa Banner & Press

The Cartwright Clippers continue to be the biggest surprise of the post-season in the Tiger Hills Hockey League. After first upsetting the fourth place Minnedosa Bombers 3-games-to-one in the opening round of the playoffs, the Clippers followed that up with a 6-4 win over the top ranked Neepawa Farmers on Thursday, Feb. 17.

With that fourth win of the post-season, Cartwright, who finished fifth in the east, have already matched their entire win mark from the regular season schedule (4-11-3. 11 points). But more importantly, it has shifted home ice advantage in their favour, in the best-of-five Eastern Division quarterfinal series.

As for the game itself, Neepawa never once held the lead, falling behind early off a Brody Mullin goal. Ward Szucki would tie it up with just under four minute remaining in the opening period, off a power-play opportunity. Cartwright reclaimed the lead though just before the intermission, making it 2-1 after the initial 20 minutes. 

Bret Levandoski scored in the second for the Farmers, but that was quickly nullified by a pair from the Clippers, making it 4-2. A late period goal from Kyle McDonald would make it 4-3, and provide a bit pf a spark for Neepawa as it headed into the third period. 

A Reigan Buchanan marker just 2:33 into the third would tie the game once again. But as occurred in both other periods of play, Cartwright would once more reply with a goal of their own, as Tyler Wallace responded with a power-play goal less than two minutes later. Wallace put away one more with just 8:13 left in regulation, making the final a 6-4 win for the Clippers.

With the loss, Neepawa (14-4-0. 28 points) find themselves at an early disadvantage in the series. The team will hope to bounce back on Saturday, Feb. 17, when they travel to Cartwright for game two. The start time for opening face-off is scheduled for 8:00 p.m.