It was an historic day for the Steinbach Pistons organization, as they were making their first appearance in franchise history at the RBC Cup. But it didn’t turn out on the winning side, as AJ Vanderbeck scored the game-winner at the 7:51 mark of the third period to lift the Wenatchee Wild over the Pistons 4-3 on Day 2 at the RBC Cup.
Backup goalie Seth Eisele got the win in relief of starter Austin Park for the Wild as they improved to 1-1-0 (W-OTW-L). He stopped 14 of 15 shots, while Steinbach goalie Matthew Thiessen made 26 saves as the Pistons dropped to 0-1-0-0 on the tournament.
Steinbach was given Day 1 off at the RBC Cup, and came out flying in the first period against a Wild team that played to a 2-1 overtime win over the host Chilliwack Chiefs in the late game yesterday. Luke Bellerose got the Pistons on the board just 2:33 into the first, as a Brady Tatro shot was padded to the corner by Park. Bellerose got to the puck first, and wristed it short-side past Park who was not on his post. Tatro and Easton Bennett picked up the helpers on the first goal for the Pistons at the RBC Cup.
And then all of a sudden it was 2-0 Steinbach, as good breakout passes by Tristan Culleton and Bradley Schoonbaert sprung Austin Heidemann on a breakaway. He went through the five-hole and slid it home for a quick 2-0 lead 5:06 into the first. That was the end for Park, as he let in 2 goals on 4 shots and was replaced by Eisele.
The Pistons controlled the first 15 minutes of the first period, outshooting the Wild 11-6 in the frame. But leading scorer and BCHL Jasper Weatherby fired one bardown past Thiessen to give Wenatchee life with just 51 seconds remaining in the period. Vanderbeck picked up one of his 2 assists on the night, giving the Wild captain 3 points on the game.
Weatherby tied it up after a turnover by Declan Graham at the Pistons blue line, and walked in to beat Thiessen on the backhand just 21 seconds into the second period. Vanderbeck and Lukas Svejkovsky notched the helpers on Weatherby’s 2nd of the game.
“Their top line attacks with a lot of speed,” Austin Heidemann said after the game. “They know how to shoot the puck, so we need to key on them if we play (the Wild) again.”
The Wild outshot the Pistons 15-4 in the second, but Thiessen and the defence stood tall as the second ended 2-2 after 40.
“After we got those 2 goals, we started getting a little too fancy, and it ended up costing us (in the third),” Heidemann said.
The Pistons took the lead early in the third, as Tyson McConnell put a backhand pass right on the tape of Daniel McKitrick, and the Coral Harbour native one-timed the puck into the yawning Wild cage to give the Pistons a 3-2 lead. Jack Johnson added the bonus assist on McKitrick’s first of the tournament, and second career goal at the RBC Cup in his 2nd straight appearance.
31 seconds after, Darby Gula took a high-sticking penalty, and Wenatchee equalized on that man advantage as good passing along the points found the stick of Zak Galambos. His wrist shot from just below the left face-off dot beat a sprawling Thiessen to tie it up at the 3:53 mark. Weatherby and Cooper Zech picked up the assists on the power play goal.
Vanderbeck then gave the Wild their first lead of the hockey game, as his slapshot from just inside the blue line rocketed past Thiessen and in. Josh Arnold and Chad Sasaki had the helpers on Vanderbeck’s 2nd of the tournament.
The Pistons got on the forecheck and tried to create scoring chances around Eisele, but could not solve him as Wenatchee held on for the 4-3 win.
Throughout the first two days at the RBC Cup, the main talking point has been the problematic ice conditions in the Prospera Centre in Chilliwack. Two humid days in Chilliwack have resulted in pucks rolling and bouncing all over the ice. There was about a 10-minute delay after the players took the ice of the third period, due to a big crack near the centre ice face-off dot.
The Pistons went 0 for 2 on the power play, while the Wild went 1 for 3.
UP NEXT: The Pistons will be back on the ice tomorrow night, as the take on the OJHL’s Wellington Dukes at 9:00 pm CDT (7:00 pm in Chilliwack). The Dukes lost 2-1 in overtime to the Ottawa Jr. Senators on Sunday afternoon. “I don’t think we really need to change anything up,” Heidemann added, saying they just need to focus for 60 minutes. “If you play with a lack of focus, it’ll cost you. We just need to focus for three periods, we’ll be fine.”
You can listen to that game on MIX 96, or watch the game for free on HockeyCanada.ca.