The Niverville Nighthawks went into Virden last week hoping to keep moving forward up the MGEU Eastern Conference standings or at least hold strong in 4th place as the 5th place Winnipeg Blues were quickly gaining ground.
The Oil Caps have been on a tear lately, after sweeping the Steinbach Pistons and OCN Blizzard in recent weeks. Their only loss in their last 5 contests has come at the hands of the Portage Terriers.
Friday night, the game started out with both teams spending significant time in the box after a number of roughing penalties, but it was Virden striking first on the man advantage. The Oil Capitals skated into the first intermission up 1-0.
The Nighthawks broke through near the end of the middle frame when Brett Tataryn scored at the 17:47 mark with his 13th goal of the year. Kayden Skulmoski and Isaac Rentmeester assisted on the game was tied after 40 minutes.
In the 3rd, Niverville tried to even things up and fired 13 shots on goal throughout the period, but it was some stellar play by Owen LaRoque keeping the Oil Caps in the game. The Virden power play was a huge contributor, as they scored twice in the final 20 minutes, sealing the win on the first leg of the home and home match up. The game ended 3-1, with Josh Lehto grabbing 2 points in the win, and Owen LaRoque stopping 35 of 36 attempts. Chris Fines played well for the Nighthawks, saving 23 out of 25 shots.
Niverville headed home and hoped to rebound on Sunday afternoon.
The game started off somewhat more reserved than the match up on Friday, as both squads showed off their speed and combined for 22 shots on goal. Carson Reed broke the 0-0 tie late in the period after a net front scramble, when he was able to bang the loose puck in on the backhand. Desmond Johnson and Josh Paulhus started things off on some nice passing down low, leading the way to the scoring chance. The goal came on the power play with just over a minute remaining in the first.
Heading into the second the game was 1-0 in favour of the home team and it looked like they would have a great chance at extending their lead on a 4 min double minor assessed at the end of the first period. However, Owen LaRoque continued his strong play in net making a few key saves, helping to kill off the penalty time and giving his team some momentum as the period progressed. Josh Lehto and Roux Bazin capitalized on the Virden push and gave their team a 2-1 lead at the midway point of the contest. Desmond Johnson showed off his skill with a fantastic individual effort resulting in a highlight reel goal, tying the game at 2 after 2 periods of play.
In the 3rd, Niverville found themselves in the penalty box again and it was a Joey Bielek PP goal launching the Oil Caps into the lead. The Nighthawks fought hard and came close to tying the game, but just couldn’t put one past the Virden net minder. Josh Lehto sealed things with an empty net goal near the end of the period. Dane Couture had the start in net for Niverville and saved 22 of 26 shots on goal, while Owen LaRoque stopped 32 of 34 attempts.
Virden managed to score 4 PP goals during the weekend series while going 4-7 on the man advantage. On the other hand the Nighthawks went 1-9 and will look to sort things out as they face the Waywayseecappo Wolverines this week, starting Thursday on the road, and back at home for a Saturday night tilt.