Daniel McKitrick scored on the power play 1:07 into the third period in what ended up being the game-winning goal, as the opportunistic Steinbach Pistons got back into the series with a big 5-3 win over the Virden Oil Capitals in the MJHL Turnbull Cup Final. The Pistons cut Virden’s series to 2-1 heading back to Virden for Game 4.
McKitrick missed Game 2 on Thursday, as he spent some time in Humboldt where he was a former member of the Broncos a season ago. After he scored his goal, he pointed to the heavens and honored his fallen former teammates.
“It felt great, and it was a crazy game,” McKitrick said after the game. “At the start, the nerves were in us a bit, but the third we really showed what we can do. Hopefully we can keep that going.”
Matthew Thiessen got his first MJHL Finals win with a 34 save performance, and he was huge in the first two periods keeping his team in the game. Steinbach finally got to Riley McVeigh tonight, as he stopped just 24 of 29 shots and took the loss.
The Oil Caps dominated the first two periods of play, outshooting the Pistons 35-17 through two periods, but it was the Pistons getting on the board first as Tristan Culleton’s point shot beat a screened McVeigh to make it 1-0 just 2:23 into the first frame. Tyson McConnell picked up the assist on Culleton’s first career MJHL playoff goal.
The Pistons had a chance to go up 2-0 when Austin Heidemann was hauled down on a breakaway, and a penalty shot was called. Heidemann was stuffed by McVeigh, and the Oil Caps really started to pour it on after that. They tied it up with under 6 minutes left in the first, after a mad scramble on the boards. Defenceman Justin Lee beat Thiessen to the glove side unassisted to tie it up.
However, Bradley Schoonbaert took a drop pass from Drew Worrad on an odd man rush, and he ripped it past McVeigh just 20 seconds later to give the Pistons the lead back. Worrad and Heidemann picked up the helpers on Schoonbaert’s 5th of the playoffs. The Pistons led 2-1 after one.
The Pistons would grab a much leaded two-goal lead in the midst of a penalty filled 2nd period, when Schoonbaert banged home a rebound in tight at 4:41 on the power play. Worrad and Heidemann picked up the helpers on the Brandon native’s second of the game. But penalties were the name of the game in the first two periods, as both teams combined for 24 PIM, 9 minor penalties, and one double minor in the first 30 minutes of the hockey game.
Virden turned up the pressure after that, and they equalized the game in the second. Graeme Hore deflected a Tristen Cross point shot with 5:19 left. And then Kirklan Lycar beat his man one-on-one and slipped a backhander past the blocker of Thiessen to tie the game up with 56 seconds remaining.
“It was a game of inches,” McKitrick said. “But you just have to stay positive and keep pulling through right ‘till the end.”
McKitrick scored on the power play after Virden took a penalty to end the second period, when a Darby Gula point shot lay loose in McVeigh’s crease, and ‘Tricksy’ put it home to give the Pistons the lead for good. Mark Taraschuk picked up the bonus assist on the power play goal, which is McKitrick’s 4th of the playoffs.
“The coaches have been telling me to get to the front of the net and get hungry,” he said. “There was some people watching down on that one, and it was great to get that goal for the team.”
Drew Worrad added the insurance marker, as Mark Wilson took a shot that missed the net high. The rebound bounced on top of the net, and back behind McVeigh which allowed Worrad to push it in. The goal is Worrad’s 4th goal of the playoffs from Wilson and Schoonbaert.
The Pistons locked down the Oil Caps in the third, as opposed to the last two games. Schoonbaert had 2 goals and 2 assists on the night, and Worrad had a goal and two helpers in a bounceback effort.
Will Koop left the game in the third, after he fell awkwardly into the boards late in the period. He did not return to action.
In a penalty-fest, the Pistons were the first team in this series to win the special teams battle. They went 2 for 7 on the power play, and killed off all 8 penalties they faced in the game.
UP NEXT: Game 4 goes back in Virden on Monday at 7:30 pm. Game 5 is back here at the TG Smith Centre at 7:30 pm, you can reserve your seats already for that one. Head to Steinbachpistons.ca, and go under the ‘Fan Zone’ section and click on ‘Tickets’.