Neepawa Natives ready to begin MJHL season


By Eoin Devereux

Neepawa Banner & Press

The prelude to the regular season has come to a close for the Neepawa Natives. For the past three weeks, the junior “A” squad’s schedule has been quite busy, with the combination of training camp and a half-dozen exhibition games. With those now out of the way, Natives head coach/GM Dustin Howden said they are all focused on the start of the real games.

“Everyone that is left in [the Natives] dressing room is very excited about what’s to come. They’re looking forward to beginning the season. We worked on a few things in practice over the past few weeks to prepare, so everyone is feeling optimistic heading into the games that matter,” stated Howden.

The Natives closed out their six-game pre-season with a record of 3-3-0. Howden noted that over the course of the exhibition schedule, many of the team’s long-term prospects played some significant time. He noted there was purpose behind that decision as they wanted to see exactly how the young talent would adapt to pressure.

Heading into the first game of the regular season, Neepawa will have 25 players (15 forwards, 7 defense and 3 goaltenders) on the depth chart. It’ll likely have to rely on its youth as only three 20-year-olds will suit up for the club to start the year. Howden said this year’s club will have speed to spare on both sides of the puck.

“We’ll be a very mobile team this year. There is alot of speed up front, similar to what we had last season. To go with that though, I feel as though our blue line has also improved and will be quite mobile as well. With speed on both sides of the puck, we’re going to have a very balanced approach.”

The club’s focus this past week has turned towards the first game of the regular season, a showdown with the Winkler Flyers at the Yellowhead Centre. Neepawa has already played Winkler in a pair of pre-season games, both losses. The Natives will be searching for a bit of redemption out of this upcoming matchup, The start time for the Natives game against the Flyers on Friday, Sept. 21 is scheduled for 7:30 p.m., in Winkler. The next night, those two teams will clash once again, this time at the Yellowhead Centre. The opening faceoff for that contest is also scheduled for 7:30 p.m.