Natives optimistic for next season

By Derek Holtom
MJHL Web Correspondent

The Neepawa Natives were the first team officially eliminated from the hunt for the MJHL’s Turnbull Cup by not making it into the Survivor Series playoffs. It’s been a rough stretch for the junior A franchise, but they appear to be close to turning the corner and hoping to return to a playoff contender.

Natives’ general manager Myles Cathcart took time to speak about how the season ended, what he liked about the past year, and what the future holds.

“We are disappointed with the end result,” said Cathcart. “We knew we had a young group going in, and we had a goal in mind, but a lot of games seemed to get away from us.”

With roughly the same win total the past two years (15 and 13), the Natives know they need to at least the 20 win mark to really get themselves into the playoff picture.

Cathcart says they are on the way to doing that, and that the hard work from the past couple of seasons is going to start paying off dividends.

“I think we were competitive this year, and in a lot of games,” he said. “Maybe three quarters of the games.”

“We’ve basically rebuilt this franchise from the ground up, and after everything we’ve gone through, we’ve got players from all over wanting to come here and play. So it’s positive from that perspective.”

The Natives graduate only three 20-year-olds, and will perhaps lose a couple more to other levels of hockey. But Cathcart says the majority of the team is eligible to return, which is another positive.

Who will fill out those remaining spots? Some of those questions will be start to be answered in a few weeks, as the Natives host their spring camp.

“We’re holding our camp Easter weekend, and we have close to 90 players coming in, and we expect more to come in soon,” said Cathcart. “And we’ll also be scouting the midget AAA games, and the bantam games, and our scouts will be busy all over the place.

“The season just keeps going, and we’ll keep working towards the draft.”

Cathcart added he knows fans are hungry for some on-ice success, and he wanted to stress there are a lot of positives going forward.

“There’s a very positive vibe around here, more than it’s been in a long time,” he said. “We really feel we’ve turned the page, and our next step is playoff hockey.”