By Derek Holtom
MJHL Web Correspondent
There’s no better way to prepare a team than actual game action. And the intensity level increases 10-fold come playoff time. The stakes are high. A championship is in the offing.
Virden head coach Troy Leslie said his team has really been tested as the intensity of their games has been ramped up in the post-season.
“The first round was really good for us in terms of (playing in close games),” said Leslie. “We had some young guys who got some valuable experience playing in that round, with four overtime games.
“That helps bring your team together, and battled hardens them.”
The Oil Caps are now involved in a thrilling best-of-seven series against Portage Terriers. A complete schedule of all games can be seen on the MJHL website.
Through seven playoff games, the Virden Oil Capitals have seen six decided by only one goal, including four into overtime. The other game was decided by two goals, and with the final two goals of that contest coming in the final 1:33, it might as well be considered a one-goal game.
The trend continued in Game 1 of the MJHL semifinal series versus the Portage Terriers, as the Oil Capitals kept the RBC Cup hosts in check for most of the night, yet still dropped a 1-0 decision.
Up and down the bench, players are stepping up their game for Leslie. But one player in particular seems to have elevated his play to a new level – defenceman Jordan Greig, who had eight assists in six games against the Winkler Flyers in the opening round of the playoffs.
“Jordan Greig has logged a lot of minutes for us, and provides as lot of offence from the back end for us, and plays in all key situations,” said Leslie. “If we’re going to be a good team, he generally has to be one of our best players.”
Leslie said others have followed Greig’s lead, and are playing at a higher level this post season.
“Goaltender Sean Kuehn has been very good for us, even going back to the regular season,” said Leslie. “He gives us a chance to win every night, and he’s done that through the playoffs. Even in Game 1 (versus Portage), he gave us a chance to tie the game and get it into overtime.
“Lucas Oliver has stepped it up as well, Corey Haverstick has been very good, and the same with Devan Schram – those guys bring it every night.”
Adding to the excitement of this playoff run has been the packed arena in Virden. The Oil Capitals continue to be an attendance juggernaut, attracting 1,244 for the Game 6-clinching victory against the Flyers.
“We’ve had very good fan support, and being in our third year here, it’s something a lot of people in the community have embraced,” noted Leslie.
“They’ve given us a lot of support, from the regular season right into the playoffs. They really provide a great atmosphere for us.”
Now facing the top team in the league, the Oil Capitals were effective in limiting their offence. Now they just need to score against a Portage team that’s hasn’t allowed a goal in 240 plus minutes.
“We’re going to have to get to their net,” said Leslie. “I thought we had some decent looks in the third period (in Game 1). But we need to get some people to the net as well, and create some havoc.
“We knew this would be a tough battle, and I thought we played well in our own end, but maybe spent too much time in our own zone,” he added. “So we need to make sure when we do turn over the puck, that we get scoring chances from them.”