Declan Graham scored with 2:05 minutes remaining in the third period, as the Steinbach Pistons stunned the Virden Oil Capitals to sweep the weekend series with a 3-1 victory.
Graham got the puck at the right point after Will Koop won a crucial faceoff, and wristed a shot on goal that sifted its way through traffic and found the back of the net for the game winner. “I was just trying to get it through to the net,” he said after the game. “Fortunately, it hit a few skates and found the back of the net.”
Matthew Thiessen was spectacular once again for Steinbach, making 36 saves in the win. Oil Caps netminder Riley McVeigh was solid in defeat, stopping 33 of 35 Piston shots. Thiessen’s recent hot stretch has vaulted him to a 2.19 GAA, which is tops in the MJHL. When asked about his play, he was quick to credit his teammates in front of him. “Lots of shots have been coming from the outside, and I’ve been able to see a lot of pucks,” he said.
The first period saw another tight checked frame, although the Pistons had more quality scoring chances than Virden. With just over a minute to play in the period, Brendan Martin picked up a loose puck in a scramble, and snapped one home to give the Pistons a 1-0 lead. Mark Taraschuk and Danny Pion picked up assists on the goal.
After there was no scoring in the second period, the Oil Capitals equalized seven minutes into the third period. Tyler Kirkup notched his 12th of the year, with assists going to Landyn Cochrane and Dylan Thiessen.
The Pistons came close to taking the lead much earlier in the third period, as Tanner Mole came in on the right wing, and rang one off of the far post. With about 5 minutes to go, McVeigh couldn’t control a Jack Johnson shot, and Martin knocked the puck out of the air into the net, but the referee signalled that the puck was contacted by a high stick and the goal was called back.
Virden looked to go on one last attack, but Kirkup took a hooking penalty with 37 seconds to go to seal it for Steinbach. Will Koop added his 13th of the year, a empty net goal, shortly after for good measure.
DEFENCE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS
It might be an old sports cliché, but the Pistons’ effort in their own zone has been noticeable during their past 3 games, allowing only 5 goals in the process. “Our defence are locking guys down and our forwards have back checked really hard,” Graham said.
“When our team plays with energy for 60 minutes, we wear down our opponents and it leads to success for our team,” Thiessen added.
Koop’s empty netter was actually credited as being on the power play, so the Pistons finished up 1 for 3 with the man advantage. Virden went 0 for 2.
UP NEXT: The Pistons get the next 5 days off to prepare for a tough stretch of 3 games in 3 days next weekend on the road. It starts off with games on Friday and Saturday against the OCN Blizzard. They conclude the 5 game road swing with a date with the Swan Valley Stampeders next Sunday.