The Neepawa Natives knew they’d have an uphill battle to catch the Waywayseecappo Wolverines in the race for the final MJHL playoff spot.
This past weekend, that hill proved just too big to climb.
Earlier this month the Natives were only four points behind the Wolverines with eight games remaining, meaning they’d have to win at least two more games than Wayway to finish out the season.
That opportunity fizzled this past week though, as the Natives lost three consecutively while the Wolverines won two of three to eliminate Neepawa’s chances of returning to the playoffs.
As of Monday, with two games remaining, the Natives now sit with a 13-40-5 record with 31 points while Wayway has 39 points and a 18-37-3 record.
Neepawa 3 at Dauphin 4
Sunday night put the final nail in Neepawa’s coffin as the Natives lost 4-3 while Waywayseecappo beat Virden 4-2.
In Dauphin, the Natives led 3-2 with two minutes remaining in the second period, but the Kings finished the game with two unanswered goals to clinch the win.
Brady Bouchard, Drake Lindsay and Riley Hillis scored for Neepawa, while Ty Webber, Sam Briscoe, Bouchard and Jaret Smith registered assists.
Matthieu Verreault took the loss for Neepawa despite a 37-save performance. The Natives were outshot 41-21 on the night.
Former Native Brayden Cuthbert scored Dauphin’s second goal of the game.
OCN 4 at Neepawa 2
Just over 300 people filled the Yellowhead Centre Friday for Neepawa’s second-last home game of the season, but it was the Blizzard who left the arena with the upper hand.
OCN never trailed in the game, leading 1-0 after one period, 3-1 after 40 minutes and 4-2 by the final buzzer. Anthony Agner-Bouchard scored the clinching goal for OCN with about nine minutes remaining in the game.
On the other side of the puck, Hillis and Bouchard scored for Neepawa with Reigan Buchanan, Robbie Moar, Drake Lindsay and Briscoe assisting.
The Natives outshot OCN 40-38 on the evening, with Verreault taking the loss in net.
Neepawa 3 at Virden 6
The Natives headed to Virden Thursday evening in a make-up game from December. Neepawa wasn’t able to field a team due to injuries and absentees at the time, having only about 10 eligible players.
On Thursday, Virden took a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes before a strong second period catapulted the Natives into a 2-2 tie.
Neepawa added one more goal just over one minute into the third period, but Virden responded with four unanswered - including an empty net goal - to clinch the 6-2 win.
Smith and Lindsay scored for the Natives with Moar, Luke Karakas, Bouchard and Briscoe assisting.
Verreault took the loss for Neepawa as the Natives outshot Virden 32-38.
Long Weekend Results
Neepawa lost two of three the weekend prior.
Family Day saw Neepawa lose 6-3 in Winkler, while Saturday, Feb. 15 a two-goal game from Karakas and three-assist outing from Moar led Neepawa to a 5-2 win over OCN.
On Friday, Feb. 14 in Neepawa the Natives lost a10-4 game despite tying Virden in shots with 43. Hometown goalie call-up Brady Plett was a bright spot for the Natives in an otherwise lopsided outing, saving 13 of 14 shots faced after replacing Verreault to start the third period.
Neepawa was shut out of the MJHL awards and All-Star selections this year.
Selkirk’s Parker Thomas was named league MVP, Portage’s Tyler Jeanson named Rookie of the Year, Selkirk’s Braeden Ostepchuk earned Top Goaltender honours, Selkirk’s Joel Messner won Top Defenseman, Swan Valley’s Max Flanagan was the Hockey Ability award winner, while Selkirk’s Ryan Smith was named Coach of the Year.