Flyers and Oil Caps to clash in opening round

Winkler and Virden will meet in the opening round of the MJHL playoffs. Ryan Sawatzky

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For the third time in five years, the Winkler Flyers will take on the Virden Oil Capitals in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League playoffs. This time, the third place Flyers will play the sixth place Oil Capitals in one of four best-of-seven quarter final series, beginning with Game 1 Friday night in Winkler.

If their six game regular season series was any indication, this playoff round should prove to be a tight, high scoring affair. During the 2019-2020 regular season, the Flyers had two wins, two regulation losses and two shootout losses against the Oil Capitals with five of the six meetings being decided by a single goal. Winkler’s success against the Oil Capitals this season came on the road as they went 2-0-1 in their games played at Tundra Oil & Gas Place in Virden, compared to a 0-2-1 record in their three games played at the Winkler Recreation Complex. The Flyers have lost just three games at home since the start of December (18 total games), with two of those three losses coming against the Oil Capitals.

The Oil Capitals and Flyers, who were second and third in the MJHL in goal scoring respectfully, scored a combined 49 goals against each other in their regular season contests. Of the top eight goal scorers in the MJHL this season, the Flyers and Oil Caps occupy four of those eight spots (Virden – Hunter Cloutier (29), Kolton Kanaski (29) | Winkler – Sulivan Shortreed (29), Jayden McCarthy (28)).

Winkler had the edge in the goals against department throughout the season, allowing the third fewest goals in the MJHL (185), while Virden allowed the fifth most (218). Winkler goaltender Dorrin Luding will also be key to stopping the Oil Caps’ offensive attack. In his last three starts of the regular season, he picked up three wins, two shutouts and allowed just one goal combined in those three starts. He finished the regular season second in wins (27) and second in minutes played (2543). He also started all six games against Virden this season.

As is always the case in playoff hockey, special teams will be key in this series. The Flyers sported a 19% power play throughout the regular season which was eighth best in the MJHL. Against Virden, their power play was successful on just three of their 24 opportunities (12.5%), compared to Virden’s power play, which was efficient 35% of the time against Winkler (7-for-20). The Flyers did lead the MJHL in one special teams category this season and that was short-handed goals. They finished the regular season with 11 of them with the Oil Capitals right behind in that category with eight.

MJHL quarter final series schedule:

GAME 1: @ WINKLER – MARCH 6, 7:30 p.m.

GAME 2: @ VIRDEN – MARCH 8, 7:30 p.m.

GAME 3: @ WINKLER – MARCH 10, 7:30 p.m.

GAME 4: @ VIRDEN – MARCH 12, 7:30 p.m.

GAME 5: @ WINKLER – MARCH 14, 7:30 p.m. *

GAME 6: @ VIRDEN – MARCH 16, 7:30 p.m. *

GAME 7: @ WINKLER – MARCH 17, 7:30 p.m. *

*If necessary

-Matt Friesen