Sports Local Hockey

Caps' season closes in Portage

By Aaron Wilgosh, The Graphic

Caps players head to the bench dejected after the Wild's seventh goal of the game to take a 7-3 lead in the third period. (Aaron Wilgosh/The Graphic)

Caps players head to the bench dejected after the Wild's seventh goal of the game to take a 7-3 lead in the third period. (Aaron Wilgosh/The Graphic)

Every great thing has to come to an end.

A storybook run came to a close in the first round of the Manitoba AAA Midget Hockey League playoffs Thursday night when the Central Plains Capitals fell 8-3 to the Winnipeg Wild in Game 4 to fall 3-1 in the best-of-five series.

“That’s a good team. If you make mistakes in your own end against them they’ll capitalize, and we weren’t very good in our own end at certain points of that game and it cost us,” says Capitals head coach, Brad Gnidziejko. “Give the kids credit. We couldn’t be happier with how they played this entire season. We started hot and faced a lot of adversity, but the way they powered through it and fought their way into a playoff spot is really inspiring.”

First periods were something the boys had struggled with throughout the year, and again, they had trouble finding any jump from the opening face-off. The Wild were up 2-0 around the half of the period. The Caps looked like they had found their form in the final minutes but the Wild struck once more with 11 seconds to go to take a 3-0 lead into the second.

The second period may have been the best 20 minutes of hockey the Caps played all season as the boys knew their season was on the line. Mitchell Wilson notched a couple of goals for Central Plains two minutes in to get them within 1, but again the Wild answered back around the 12-minute mark to retake a 2-goal lead. Logan Rands would add one more for Central Plains on the power play to make it 4-3 to start the final frame.

The first place Wild showed their prowess in the final 20 minutes, scoring four more times to make it an 8-3 final. The last goal came at 13:12 when the Caps pulled goaltender Rhett Boschman on a power play in hopes of getting something sparked late. Boschman finished the game with 26 saves and has another two years to look forward to as a goaltender with the Caps. 

“The starting goalie goes down, and credit to Boschman, he showed some serious poise in this series,” says Gnidziejko. “We let him know that it was his team from the point Sveistrup went down and that he would be taking the ball. The boys rallied in front of him and we have looked great in our defensive zone but a few minor errors ended up being the difference here this series.”

The Caps finished the regular season with a 23-19-6 record, finishing the regular season 12-5-1 and as one of the hottest teams in the league. Two weeks before the end of the year the boys weren’t even in a playoff spot but they managed to shock the league and fight their way in, giving the first place Wild a run for their money.

“We lost a lot of good hockey players at one point when Logan Calder went down, then Tanner Boyle, and then Joe Courrier – a right-handed shot right winger – and a few other injuries which ended up hindering us pretty bad,” adds Gnidziejko. “Then Funk came back and we started to catch some traction. At that point, we were down, but the boys pulled themselves together and with some positive energy they turned it around.”

Seven Caps will be moving on to new things as Jaxon Blight, Tyler Van Deynze, Jordan Rogers, Mitchell Wilson, Joe Courrier, Reilly Funk, and Riley Sveistrup are all aging out of the Central Plains program.

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