The Neepawa Natives kicked off the 2012-13 regular season with a pair of exciting games in front of their home crowd Friday and Sunday.
Steinbach 4 - Neepawa 1
A goal or not a goal; that was the question asked Friday night, twice.
And, unfortunately for the Natives, the answer went against them on both occasions.
After Lacey Tremaine kicked off the season with a great rendition of 'O Canada', an energized Natives squad grabbed the lead midway through the first period while on the powerplay where Matt Boha wired a slapshot from inside the blueline that found its way to the back of the net.
Clayton Heinrichs and Landon Thompson grabbed assists on the first goal of the Natives season.
Less than a minute later Neepawa rifled another shot that hit both posts and set off the goal light but, after referee's discussion, the goal was waived off and Neepawa's lead stood at 1-0.
Unfortunately for Neepawa the 'no-goal' helped sway the momentum in Steinbach's favour and the Pistons tied it up before the first period ended, scored once more in the second and then took a 3-1 lead six minutes into the third period.
At the 13-minute mark of the third period, Steinbach took a shot that set off the goal light, but referees waived off the goal and continued play. While it seemed like Neepawa had its chance to regain the momentum, the officials decided at the next whistle - about a minute later - to count Steinbach's shot as a goal.
As a result, Winkler went on to clinch a 4-1 win while, despite a spirited effort, the Natives wound up losing their home opener.
Goaltender Corey Koop shone for Neepawa, saving 41 shots including a few key goalscoring opportunities.
Natives Landon Thompson also gave fans an extra reason to cheer when he put on a dominant performance fighting Steinbach's Taylor Friesen midway through the third period.
The Natives totalled 37 shots and went 1-for-8 on the powerplay on the night.
Winkler 3 - Neepawa 4
Sunday night the Natives grabbed their first win of the season in front of a crowd of over 500 fans at the Yellowhead Centre.
After a scoreless first period, Jordan Denisiuk put away a powerplay marker midway through the second period to put Neepawa up 1-0.
Winkler responded with a goal two minutes later, but Derrick Brooks notched his first of the season with just over a minute left in the second period to give Neepawa a 2-1 lead.
Brooks scored his second of the night on a powerplay one minute into the third frame to extend Neepawa's lead to 3-1.
Winkler responded seven minutes later to cut into the Natives lead, but Neeppawa had an answer once again as Kellen MacBlain scored shortly after to put the Natives up 4-2.
Winkler added one more goal in the dying minutes, but Neepawa held on to win the game 4-3.
Natives goaltender Corey Koop grabbed the game's first star after saving 33 shots on the night.
In a spread-out offense, Craig Sigvaldason, T.J. Sneath, Sawyer Jacobsen, Robbie Moar, Justin Dalebozik, Thompson and Heinrichs all grabbed one assist in the game.
Neepawa registered 39 shots, went 2-for-8 on the powerplay, and gave up one goal on four penalty kill situations.
The Natives return to the ice Friday to face off against the Portage Terriers in Neepawa at 7:30 p.m.
Following that, Neepawa will host the Waywayseecappo Wolverines Sunday night at 6:30 p.m. and the Steinbach Pistons next Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m.