After two long weeks since the Waywayseecappo Wolverines finished the 2021-22 regular season, they finally get to start their first round playoff series against the Virden Oil Capitals.
The two teams have been destined to play each other since the first week of March, with it being finalized under a week later that the Wolverines would be hosting Game 1 and getting home-ice advantage.
With that being said, let’s look at both teams as the playoffs begin on Friday at the Waywayseecappo Arena at 7:30pm.
With a 33-18-2-1 record, the Wolverines completed the franchise’s best season in terms of points percentage.
After a dominating first two months, only losing two games, the Wolverines faced some trouble going up against the Dauphin Kings, losing 3 out of 4. They returned to form for a bit, before losing three straight during a week on the road during the MJHL showcase and a bad loss to the Winnipeg Freeze.
But the Wolverines finished the 2021 portion of the season with 6 wins in their last 7.
After losing their first game against Steinbach, the Wolverines went on six game win streak to start 2022, including two big wins over an up and coming Winkler team.
But February is when the Wolverines hit a little bit of a slump, losing 7 of 11 including all four games against Dauphin.
The Wolverines finished the season on a high, taking down West Division rivals Neepawa, eliminating them from the playoffs.
Waywayseecappo led the league in goals with 241 this year, which was head and shoulders better than the others until late in the season when Steinbach nearly caught up.
But what makes the Wolverines dangerous is that all four lines can contribute, and did for most of the season.
But in the last few months, after a few acquisitions of Kolton Shindle and Joey Moffatt, one of the top lines in the MJHL was born. Along with Boston Bird, the first line and main powerplay unit was a force, and sometimes carried the team through a rough stretch in February and early March.
But you’ll find notable offensive stars down the lineup with Andrew Boucher, Caleb Petrie, Carson Baptiste, Logan Wotton, Jacob Charko and Luke Robson, filling the point sheet.
There’s a reason the Wolverines offence is the top of the league.
With a big offensive presence, the defence of the Wolverines have contributed a lot as well with points.
The MJHL’s top scoring defencemen was Lonan Bulger, who also led the team in scoring for most of the year. Sharing the back end is Reagan Rabbit who had 30 points of his own.
The Wolverines picked up 20 year-old Eric Krywy at the trade deadline, and he played solid, playing on the powerplay before falling to injury near the end of the season.
But with that opportunity, rookie Owen Wheatley began playing big minutes on the powerplay, and improving his game on the back end finishing strong.
The Wolverines also have a feisty offensive defencemen with Leyton Smith and an intimidating force with Lucas Eagle.
It’s been an up and down season for the Wolverines with goaltending, as the team has been going with trade deadline acquisition Brett Mirwald and team veteran Liam Tereposky sharing the pipes over the last month of the season.
Tereposky leads the team in wins and has a better record, but Mirwald had a great month of January winning MJHL Goaltender of the month showing his peak.
After a tough month for everyone in February, it’ll be interesting to see what direction the Wolverines go for the series after the two goalies split the net in March.
You can’t beat the Wolverines powerplay, after they finished first in the league with a 27.3%. The top unit of Moffatt-Shindle-Bird-Bulger-Rabbit has been impossible to stop throughout the season, and in games where penalties are high with the Wolverines, you might give the powerplay plenty of chances.
With the penalty kill, it’s a different story. The team has sometimes gone on stretches where they keep up with the league’s top powerplay units, but sometimes will crater. But with the old saying that your goalie is your best penalty killer, it has shown true to the Wolverines during strong moments during the year.
Virden Oil Capitals
With a 30-20-4-0 record, the Oil Capitals finished third in the West Division after fighting with Swan Valley, Neepawa and OCN for most of the season for playoff spots until a late breakaway near the end of the season.
After a not great start in the opening months, the Oil Capitals were battling for most of the year with the bottom four West teams, trading punches and landing anywhere from third to sixth, depending on the matchups.
But the Oil Capitals showed signs late in 2021 what they had in them after going 6 of 7 over East Division teams.
In 2022, the Oil Capitals made a few trades maximizing their offensive talents but it still took some time to find the winning formula.
But after a 6-0 loss on home ice to Neepawa, Virden turned things around, winning 8 out of 10, including three wins over Waywayseecappo and a win over Dauphin.
Virden finished the season on a five game winning streak, finishing the season strong heading into the playoffs.
Led by the MJHL MVP Braden Fischer, the Oil Capitals offence woke up a but late in the season, but has been very good during the team’s best months.
It helps after the Oil Capitals picked up Nathan Driver from the Winnipeg Freeze at the trade deadline.
But a big surprise this season has been the awakening of the MJHL Rookie of the Year, Carson Buydens, who burned the Wolverines one game for four goals and has led the team in the last few months.
The top two lines for the Oil Capitals have all the ability to score at will and can matchup with any line a team will throw at them.
The Oil Capitals also have depth at centre with Evan Groening playing fourth line minutes, but still putting up good numbers.
Led by the top line of Logan Rands and David Bielik, the Oil Capitals have a strong back end.
Other than the top pairing, the defence won’t put up as many points as their opposition, but they will play smart defensive hockey.
Bray Rookes and Nathan McInnis fills in the last line of defence with a hard hitting presence.
Just like the Wolverines, there will have to be decisions made for who gets the starts in the playoffs.
Bailey Monteith has looked like he has taken over the reins in the past few weeks, but Eric Reid can pull out a good performance here and then as well. Monteith has sometimes faltered during the stretch run, once getting pulled against Waywayseecappo.
It has been consistent .900 goaltending by the tandem throughout the season, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see them switch throughout the playoffs.
Like the Wolverines, the Oil Capitals do a great job on the powerplay, but falter on the penalty kill.
The powerplay is 5th in the league at 23.3%, near the top, but unlike most teams, it does better on the road, sitting second in the league.
The penalty kill is near the bottom, and does very poor on the road, sitting under 70%.
Things to Watch
Start of games
The Wolverines slide into the playoffs can be attributed to poor starts they have had. And in most of the games between the Wolverines and Oil Capitals, Virden has had the good start, putting them in the lead right off the bat.
We’ll see if the Wolverines continue to put themselves behind the 8-ball in these games and if they do, whether they are able to climb out of early holes, like they have shown they can do.
Home Ice Advantage
Both teams beat each other three times on home ice, and it’s probably going to be that way this series again.
The last change proved to a big decider in the season series, and the home crowd behind the teams will also be a huge advantage.
Both teams were 18-9 on home ice this season.
It’s the usual rhetoric when they say goalies can steal a series, but with these two high-power offences going head to head, we don’t expect any goalie to go out and do that. But to steal an important game on the road, or a must-win when everyone is counting you out, that’s what all four goalies will be aiming to accomplish in this series.
With much uncertainty on who will be starting this series, we might see everyone get a chance at doing something special.
The Wolverines finished second in the league in penalty minutes, and their penalty kill didn’t exactly save them this season, but in a playoff series it’ll be interesting to see what type of game the referees will let the two teams play.
Refs that let the teams play playoff hockey and let a bit more go, could benefit a team better at 5-on-5.
It’ll be hard to say which team will benefit from penalties disappearing, but if they keep on getting called, expect the special teams to make more of a difference this series.
Game 1 – March 25th 7:30pm @ Waywayseecappo Arena
Game 2 – March 27th 7:00pm @ Tundra Oil & Gas Place
Game 3 – March 30th 7:30pm @ Waywayseecappo Arena
Game 4 – April 2nd 7:30pm @ Tundra Oil & Gas Place
Game 5* – April 5th 7:30pm @ Waywayseecappo Arena
Game 6* – April 8th 7:30pm @ Tundra Oil & Gas Place
Game 7* – April 10th 7:30pm @ Waywayseecappo Arena
* – If Necessary
All games will be broadcasted live on HockeyTV.