Austin Heidemann scored two powerplay goals, including the game winner with 4:05 left in the third as the Steinbach Pistons ended the regular season with a 4-2 win over the Winkler Flyers in the regular season finale.
With the win, the Pistons reached 100 points for the first time in franchise history. Matthew Thiessen got the start in net in a penalty-filled affair, and he made 23 saves in the victory. MJHL Top Goaltender Troy Martyniuk stopped 36 of 39 shots in the loss. Steinbach also tied Winkler in the season series with three wins apiece.
After a long pre-game ceremony in which the Flyers handed out their end-of-season awards, the Pistons got off to a slow start, and Winkler jumped on them early. Then the Flyers took two consecutive penalties in a row, and the Pistons capitalized on the second power play as Heidemann slammed home a rebound in front to give the Pistons a 1-0 lead. Bradley Schoonbaert and Tyson McConnell picked up assists at 11:55 of the first period.
The Pistons grabbed a 2-0 lead early in the second, as the puck was worked around to Brady Tatro in front, and he buried the puck in the back of the net for his 19th of the season at the 3:53 mark. Jaret Lalli and Easton Bennett picked up the assists on the goal.
However, the second period was marred by penalties, as ten combined minor penalties in the frame were taken by both teams as both sides had to adjust to a tightly called game. But as Pistons Head Coach Paul Dyck noted, the penalty kill stepped up to the challenge. “The complexion of the game changed with the number of penalties that were taken,” Dyck said. “I thought we maintained our foucus and did a good job on the PK. We were determined to leave here with two points”
The Pistons got into penalty trouble early in the third as the Flyers went on a 5-on-3 PP. Mitch Dyck used his devastating one-time shot to beat Thiessen and pull the Flyers within one at the 5:40 mark on his 8th of the season. And Everett Bestland tied it up for the Flyers with his 2nd of the year from Lucas Barker and Trent Halfdanson at 11:56.
Then it was Winkler’s turn to take a critical penalty as Erik Dahl took an interference penalty with just over 5 minutes to go. After a Schoonbaert shot on goal, the puck came to the side of the net and Heidemann roofed it past Martyniuk to give the Pistons a 3-2 lead with just over 4 minutes to go. The goal was Heidemann’s 24th of the season from Schoonbaert and McConnell at 15:55.
Heidemann made a key block late in the third on a point shot, and used his hand to push the puck to Jack Johnson in his own zone (which is legal), and Johnson used his speed to pull away from the Flyers defence and bury it into the yawning cage. The goal is Johnson’s 13th of the year from Heidemann with 7 seconds left.
It’s onto the playoffs for Steinbach, and the head coach of Steinbach likes where his team is headed. “I liked our compete the past two games, and I felt they were games that forced us to play a playoff style game,” Dyck said. “We paid the price to make plays, blocked shots, and played with a lot of urgency.”
TOUGH PLACE TO PLAY
The Winkler Recreational Complex has been a tough place to play for Steinbach this season. They did not have a lead in the previous two games played in Winkler’s home arena, but did not trail tonight in their first win in Winkler this season.
The Pistons went 2 for 8 on the PP, while the Flyers went 1 for 8 on their man advantages.
UP NEXT: The Pistons start their road to the Turnbull Cup, beginning with a first-round matchup against the Swan Valley Stampeders. Game 1 goes next Friday, March 9 at the TG Smith Centre. Stay tuned to Steinbachpistons.ca, and all of the Pistons social media accounts for upcoming playoff ticket information.