It had been 212 days since the Steinbach Pistons last took the ice in a meaningful game. In the same building where their 2019-20 season was cut short, the result was the same as Game #4 in the playoffs.
19-year-old Simon Harkness made 25 saves for his first shutout of the season in his first start as a Piston as Steinbach began the season with a 2-0 victory over the fiery Winnipeg Freeze.
Playing their first game in the MJHL after being named as an expansion franchise, the Freeze showed well and put a scare into the defending regular season champs. However great work by Harkness and both the special team units for Steinbach allowed the Pistons to prevail in the 2020-21 opener.
Freeze goalie Will Gurski, a member of the Winnipeg Blues last season, showed well and stopped 36 of 38 Steinbach shots.
After a pre-game ceremony marking the debut of the Freeze, both teams got off to a nervy start playing against each other for the first time. Six penalties were called in the period; four against Winnipeg and two against Steinbach. The crucial calls came against the home Freeze late in the first period, as Kurtis Luke and Derrick Lange were called on the same play that gave Steinbach a two-man advantage.
The Pistons would capitalize quickly two men up on a laser wrist shot from rookie Neo Kiemeney, as he picked the top corner and handed the Pistons a 1-0 lead with 1:55 remaining in the opening frame. Kiemeney had a strong effort all throughout the night and notched his second career MJHL marker, with Rylan Bettens picking up the assist.
The second period was a stalemate with both Harkness and Gurski keeping the puck out of their own net, as the shots in the frame favoring Steinbach 12-10.
The third and final frame produced the most action of the night, as the Pistons were called for three straight infractions in the first nine minutes of the period including a double-minor high sticking penalty to Codey Behun.
Harkness and the Pistons penalty kill stood tall and didn’t allow a quality chance for the Freeze, giving the team the momentum to finish out the game. And once Winnipeg was called for their first minor since the first period, Matt Osadick scored the first of hopefully many goals for Steinbach. The University of Maine product fired a quick shot from the left wing that beat Gurski to give the road side a 2-0 lead. 16-year-old rookie d-man Sam Court picked up his first MJHL point with the primary helper, and assistant captain Ty Naaykens grabbed the secondary assist.
That was all the Pistons would need as the game came to a close, with Harkness celebrating in the goal after a dream start for him.
Steinbach went 2 for 6 with the man advantage, and killed off all eight penalties they faced.
UP NEXT: These two teams go right back at it tomorrow night for the 2020 Home Opener at the TG Smith Centre, with puck drop scheduled for 7:30 pm. Catch the game live on HockeyTV, or on your radio at MIX 96 and Steinbachonline.com. REMINDER: Due to seating capacity and safety restrictions, only season ticket holders will be given access to each Pistons regular season home game during the COVID-19 pandemic.