Sports Local Hockey

A capital finish

By Aaron Wilgosh, The Graphic

The Central Plains Capitals deserve to celebrate after clawing their way into the Manitoba AAA Midget Hockey League playoffs by going 11-3-1 in their last 15 games. (Aaron Wilgosh/The Graphic)

The Central Plains Capitals deserve to celebrate after clawing their way into the Manitoba AAA Midget Hockey League playoffs by going 11-3-1 in their last 15 games. (Aaron Wilgosh/The Graphic)

They’re a freight train rolling into the playoffs and a Cinderella story all rolled into one.

The Central Plains Capitals won their final two games of the Manitoba AAA Midget Hockey League regular season over Kenora this weekend to hop one point ahead of the Pembina Valley Hawks, finally snagging the last playoff spot to extend their season.

“It’s gratifying to get in there,” says Capitals’ head coach, Brad Gnidziejko. “If you go back to when we had the middle of the season blues with a bunch of injuries and everything was negative to now, it’s just crazy. The boys had a players meeting, we get a few bodies back including Funk and everyone just bought in.”

The Caps went into the weekend three points back of the Hawks in ninth place, two points behind the Southwest Cougars who also won their last two games to hop over the Hawks. Pembina Valley had a tough finish with injuries stacking up and two matches against the Brandon Wheat Kings they weren’t able to grab the single point they needed to extend their season.

Reilly Funk scored the game winner Saturday night versus the Thistles to secure their first two points in the standings. There was a scary moment in game one when Caps’ goalie Riley Sveistrup went down with an injury but backup Rhett Boschman came in and stood tall to secure the win in both games.

“Sveistrup has a minor injury but he should be good to go for the Wild series,” says Gnidziejko. “Boschman stepped in and we got what we needed out of him. For a 15-year-old to do what he did was incredible, and he’s cool as a cucumber when he’s in there and the boys build off it.”

Logan Calder stepped up in game two for Central Plains, scoring back-to-back goals to give them a 6-4 lead late in the third period. Jaxon Blight added one more for Central Plains with 90 seconds to go to secure a spot in the AAA Midget postseason. Boschman picked up another win Sunday with 21 saves.

The playoffs look like this. The Winnipeg Wild (1) vs. Central Plains (8), Brandon Wheat Kings (2) vs. Southwest Cougars (7), Winnipeg Bruins (3) vs. Yellowhead Chiefs (6), and Winnipeg Thrashers (4) vs. Eastman Selects (5). The Caps lost all four meetings with the Wild this season, two of which were blowouts. Central Plains is 11-3-1 in their last 15 games, and are one of the hottest teams in the league next to the Wild who only lost seven games this season.

“You get out of this group what you need. Everyone is pulling the same rope right now, we weren’t perfect by any means but we did enough to win these two games and it’s pretty satisfying for the boys,” adds Gnidziejko.

The Caps and Wild will open their best-of-five series in Winnipeg later this week.


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