Playoff hockey is back in Steinbach, as the Pistons (48-8-4) get set to go to battle with the Swan Valley Stampeders (28-25-7) in the quarterfinal round of the 2018 MJHL Playoffs.
This is the second ever playoff series meeting between the Pistons and Swan, with the first coming back in the 2016 1st round. Steinbach won four straight to sweep the series, with Cole Smith scoring the winning goal in overtime in game 4. Smith’s goal is the only playoff series-winning overtime goal in franchise history.
Steinbach has had the upper hand over the Stampeders the last few years, as they are currently on a 32-game win streak over Swan dating back to February 2013. The closest Swan came to beating the Pistons this season was their first matchup of the year, when Darby Gula ended the game in overtime to lift the Pistons to a 5-4 win back on October 20th at the TG Smith Centre.
Steinbach has been in cruise control for much of the final month of the season with the first seed locked up for a few weeks. But they have had challenging games down the stretch, with their final two games against bitter rivals in both Portage and Winkler to prepare them for the playoffs. Bradley Schoonbaert and Darby Gula both set franchise records this year for goals, assists, and points in a season by a Pistons player and defencemen respectively. With the last two wins against their rivals, Steinbach recorded their first 100 point regular season in franchise history.
To put things into perspective on just how good of a 2018 it was, the Pistons only lost once in regulation in 2018, and that was against the Winkler Flyers back on January 9th. One reason why this stretch has been successful is the play of goaltending tandem Matthew Thiessen and Matt Radomsky. Thiessen led the league with a 28-3-2 record and a 2.06 GAA, while sporting a .923 SV%. Radomsky wasn’t too bad either, recording a 20-5-2 record with a 2.16 GAA, and posting a league-high 8 shutouts this season.
Turning to Swan Valley, the Stampeders have been in a dogfight for the past two months, and finally secured the 8th and final playoff spot with a Neepawa Natives loss to the Blues on February 27th. Swan finished with 63 points this season, which is 27 points back of their first-round matchup in Steinbach.
The Pistons should not take this team lightly, as they have one of the top players in the MJHL in captain Keaton Jameson, and a top rookie in Matt Osadick who recently committed to the University of Maine Black Bears of NCAA Division I. The Stamps have also gotten solid goaltending from both Brett Evans and Ethan Peterson, as their play has helped them get into the playoffs as the 8th seed.
The Pistons came into last year’s playoffs with the best record, but battled the 8th seeded Natives right from the get-go, with Steinbach ultimately prevailing in six. The Stampeders are capable of the same thing this year, as they have practically been in playoff mode for the past two months. Steinbach will have to be ready for a motivated Swan team to begin the 2018 MJHL Playoffs.
FULL SERIES SCHEDULE
Game 1 – Stampeders @ Pistons – Friday, February 9 – 7:30 pm
Game 2 – Stampeders @ Pistons – Saturday, March 10 – 7:30 pm
Game 3 – Pistons @ Stampeders – Tuesday, March 13 – 7:30 pm
Game 4 – Pistons @ Stampeders – Wednesday, March 14 – 7:30 pm.
Game 5 – Stampeders @ Pistons – Friday, March 16 – 7:30 pm **
Game 6 – Pistons @ Stampeders – Sunday, March 18 – 7:30 pm **
Game 7 – Stampeders @ Pistons – Tuesday, March 20 – 7:30 pm **
** If necessary
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Pistons: Drew Worrad
Worrad missed the final four games of the season due to an upper body injury, but he should be back in the lineup for game 1. Worrad led the league this year with a 1.6 Pt/G average, scoring 75 points in 47 games played. He is a difference-maker when he is at his best, which is why Head Coach Paul Dyck acquired him in the summer. In the big moments, Worrad only gets better, scoring 6 game-winning-goals for Steinbach this year. Nothing seems to phase him, so watch for him to have a big series as he matches up against Swan’s top centre in Keaton Jameson.
Stampeders: Ethan Peterson
Since coming over from the Waywayseecappo Wolverines, Peterson has been a bright spot in net for Head Coach Taurean White and the Stampeders. In 20 games played with Swan, he has posted a 11-5-2 record with a 925 SV% and two shutouts. Do not be surprised if he gets the nod as the starter for Swan, as he has been one of the hottest goalies in the MJHL over the past two months.
Pistons: Bradley Schoonbaert – 91 PTS (36 G, 55 A)
Drew Worrad – 75 PTS (26 G, 45 A)
Darby Gula – 61 PTS (14 G, 46 A)
Stampeders: Keaton Jameson – 70 PTS (22 G, 48 A)
Connor Navrot – 54 PTS (11 G, 43 A)
Josh Tripp – 42 PTS (28 G, 14 A)
Pistons: Matthew Thiessen – (28-3-2, .923 SV%, 2.06 GAA, 2 SO)
Matt Radomsky – (20-5-2, .912 SV%, 2.16 GAA, 8 SO)
Stampeders: Brett Evans – (16-20-3, .896 SV%, 3.62 GAA, 2 SO)
Ethan Peterson – (11-5-2, .925 SV%, 2.52 GAA, 2 SO) ^
^With Swan Valley