Season ends for Neepawa Natives



Fall to Virden Oil Capitals 6-2

By Eoin Devereux

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The numbers suggest that the 2017-2018 MJHL regular season was a step in the right direction for the Neepawa Natives. Over the course of 60 games, the club scored 47 more goals, than they’d accumulated in the previous year (215 vs. 173). They also generated more wins (25 vs. 21) and increased their points total in the league standings by six (54 pts. vs 48 pts.). By all these measures, the 2017-2018 MJHL regular season was more successful than 2016-2017. So why doesn’t it feel that way? 

“The objection every year is to win a championship, first and foremost” said Natives head coach Dustin Howden. “But, saying that, growth is always encouraged. You want to see growth as a team. We did take steps forward in some areas. I’m proud of the guys for what they accomplished this year. They’re a good group of young men. They put everything they could in it this season. There is disappointment right now [in the dressing room], things didn’t work out, but we’ll be better next year.”

Howden’s assessment came just moments after the regular season ended for Neepawa, with a 6-2 loss to the Virden Oil Capitals, on Friday, Mar. 2. The Natives made a solid go of it, but simply couldn’t hold off the effort of the Oil Caps. 

Tyler Kirkup scored twice for Virden in the win, while Benoit Mowbray and Noah Carson each tallied for Neepawa. Austin Friesen added two assists, while affiliated player Kyle Moore had one. The Natives could have added a few more to the scoreboard, were it not for three shots clanging off the post over the course of the game. But the luck was not with Neepawa on this night, as they would close out the year with a 25-31-4 record, good enough for 54 points. 

Goaltender Riley McVeigh collected his 25th win of the season for Virden (39-17-3. 81 pts.), while Spencer Eschyschyn made 41 saves over the course of regulation for the Natives.

Looking ahead to the off-season, coach Howden said the players should simply focus on the positives of the year, but also identify what needs to be changed or worked on over the course of the summer.