The Steinbach Pistons are proud to announce that graduating captain Tyson McConnell has committed to the Ontario Tech University Ridgebacks of U Sports.
McConnell was picked by Steinbach in the second round of the 2013 MJHL Bantam Draft, and has spent his entire four-year junior career with the Pistons organization.
“Tyson has been a huge part of our program and driving our culture,“ Head Coach/General Manager Paul Dyck said of his last captain. “He has been totally invested in developing his game since we selected him in the 2013 draft, and has exhibited a team first, whatever it takes attitude since he arrived in our lineup four years ago. I am confident he will make an impact both on and off the ice as he makes the transition to university hockey.”
Formerly known as the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Ontario Tech University is located within the Greater Toronto Area in Oshawa. The Pilot Mound native will join former teammate and Piston Matt Gomercic on the Ridgebacks, who just wrapped up his first season there in February.
“I am really looking forward to the character and team first mentality that Tyson will be bringing to our hockey program,” Ontario Tech Head Coach Curtis Hodgins said. “As still a relatively young program, that type of character and commitment is very important to us as we continue to build our culture on and off the ice. I know Tyson is coming from a junior program in Steinbach where he has been well coached over his four years and thus I believe he should be able to step in and begin making an impact in his first season at the U Sports level.“
“The size of the school was very appealing with it not being an overly big school,” McConnell said of his next destination. “Coach Hodgins was also very welcoming of me and has been great to me throughout the whole recruiting process. I’m very excited for what the future holds.”
The 21-year-old plans to first get his Kinesiology degree, but the main goal is to head into education to become a teacher in the future. McConnell says that taking courses during his Pistons career was vital. “Being able to take classes as I played junior was important, as I was allowed to get a start on my university degree.”
McConnell leaves the Pistons having played the third most regular season games in franchise history with 228, and is fourth with 48 career playoff games. The captain played in a record 232 consecutive games for Steinbach (including playoffs), and finishes his career amongst the top 10 in the main offensive categories; 6th in goals (58), 8th in assists (71), and 7th in points (129).
He says his favorite memory was winning the Turnbull Cup in Virden one year ago. “We went further on that year, but winning that first Turnbull after some very difficult losses the years before just made it that much more special,” he explained. “The entire group of guys from that year’s team were incredibly special as well.”
Over his time with the Pistons, McConnell became known for his overall 200 foot game and solidified himself as one of the top two-way players in the MJHL over the course of his career. He led the league in shot blocks over the past two years, quarterbacked a penalty kill unit that was best in Manitoba in two of the past three seasons, and posted a career-high of 20 goals and 27 assists this season. He put forth a team-high five goals during this year’s playoff run.
“He is without question the most fearless shot blocker we have seen here, and his work ethic set a great example for the younger players in our organization,” Dyck added. “Most players don’t play all 60 games in a season; Tyson played in 232 consecutive games. It speaks to his toughness as he doesn’t play a soft game.”
McConnell recently received the prestigious IBAM-MJHL Scholarship for exemplifying what it means to be a leader on the ice, in the classroom, and in the community.
“The Pistons have helped me so much over the course of my four years. The organization is one of the best in Canada by far,” the graduating captain complimented. “I was able to grow as a hockey player, but also as a person. I can’t thank Paul, all my coaches, team staff, and most importantly my billets enough for the last four years.”