It’s down to the final two in the MJHL playoffs, as the Virden Oil Capitals get set to take on the battle-tested Steinbach Pistons in the 2018 Turnbull Cup Final.
The Pistons faced a stiff test in the second round against a Winnipeg Blues team that came off of a huge first-round win against the Portage Terriers. Steinbach was matched blow for blow by Winnipeg through the first 4 games of the series, with it ending up 2-2. However, the Pistons put forward complete 60 minute efforts in Games 5 and 6 this past Saturday and Sunday to overwhelm the Blues, and in turn lock up their place in the MJHL Final.
Steinbach was led by captain Braden Purtill, who put up 7 points in the second-round series against Winnipeg. As Pistons fans have come to expect, Purtill is the classic playoff performer. When you need a big goal, you can expect the captain to usually get it. In the Pistons’ third period comeback in Game 3, Purtill scored the game-winner on the power play. In Game 5, Purtill iced the game with a beauty breakaway goal, and in Game 6 he went coast-to-coast on the power play and gave the Pistons the lead for good to help win the series in Winnipeg.
Purtill wasn’t the only Piston to have a solid series; as Drew Worrad, Bradley Schoonbaert, and Brady Tatro each put up 6 points in the series. Worrad now leads Steinbach with 12 points this postseason, which includes 9 assists. Schoonbaert had a dynamite Game 3, in which he notched 3 points (1G, 2A) to help the Pistons win. Since Braden Purtill has joined his line with Easton Bennett centering, Tatro has upped his reliable two-way play to another level for Head Coach Paul Dyck. He played on the first power play unit, and tipped in a power play goal for the first goal of the game in the series-clincher.
But none of it would be possible if it wasn’t for the play of Steinbach’s rookie sensation in goaltender Matthew Thiessen. The Altona native got the call to be the starter the rest of the way for the Pistons, and he delivered for his team by never allowing more than 3 goals in a game in the series against Winnipeg. He sports a 1.38 GAA, a .950 SV%, and has 3 shutouts these playoffs; all of which lead the MJHL.
They will face an Oil Caps team that have rolled through the first two rounds of the MJHL playoffs. They knocked off the Selkirk Steelers in five games, and then proceeded to sweep a Winkler Flyers team that was decimated by injuries in the playoffs. They have been led by their usual suspects in forwards Rylee Zimmer, Kirklan Lycar, and Kyle Salaway. Zimmer and Lycar both have 9 points this postseason, while Salaway has 8 points. Ben Dalke has been an unexpected source of offense for the Oil Caps in the playoffs, as he has 7 goals which leads all scorers.
The Oil Caps have a young defence core that will be a part of their team for years to come, led by Tristen Cross, Marco Creta, Garrett Sambrook, and University of Denver commit Justin Lee. Cross and Creta both have 6 points this postseason, while Lee has been solid on the power play picking up 3 PP assists thus far. However, their leading regular season scorer Tyler Kirkup has been quiet offensively, only scoring 4 points in the first 2 series for Virden. He will not be playing in Game #1, as he was suspended for 2 games during the Winkler series. But expect him to make an impact for the Oil Caps in the finals.
Goaltender Riley McVeigh has been solid in the postseason, posting a 2.32 GAA with a .926 SV% and 1 shutout. Just like Jeremy Link for Winnipeg, McVeigh will need a monster series to give his team a chance to win. He will likely face a lot of shots, as the Pistons put at least 40 shots on goal in 5 of the 6 games against Winnipeg, so expect him to be busy in the Virden goal.
It’s the first time that these two teams will lock horns in a playoff series in MJHL history, and it’s for the Turnbull Cup. The winner gets to play the best team in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League for the 2018 ANAVET Cup.
FULL SERIES SCHEDULE
Game 1 – Oil Caps @ Pistons – Friday, April 6th – 7:30 pm
Game 2 – Pistons @ Oil Caps – Sunday, April 8th – 7:30 pm
Game 3 – Oil Caps @ Pistons – Tuesday, April 10th – 7:30 pm
Game 4 – Pistons @ Oil Caps – Thursday, April 12th – 7:30 pm
Game 5 – Oil Caps @ Pistons – Saturday, April 14th – 7:30 pm **
Game 6 – Pistons @ Oil Caps – Monday, April 16th – 7:30 pm **
Game 7 – Oil Caps @ Pistons – Thursday, April 19th – 7:30 pm **
** If necessary
SPECIAL TEAMS (through 2 rounds)
Pistons PP 20.5% (4th), PK 85.4% (2nd)
Oil Caps PP 29.4% (1st), PK 83.8% (3rd)
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Pistons: Brady Tatro
Tatro started his hot play in Game 3 of the second-round series against Winnipeg, where he notched 2 goals in the comeback victory. Since Coach Dyck put the line of him with Braden Purtill and Easton Bennett together, they have been impressive with their consistent cycle game, and continuously grinding out opposing defenceman in the offensive zone. Standing at 6’3” and with most of the Virden Oil Caps defenceman at under 6’ tall, Tatro should have no problem continuing his great play into the MJHL Final.
Oil Caps: Kyle Salaway
Salaway has been one of the most consistent performers for Virden, both in the regular season and in the playoffs. He has scored 3 power play goals this postseason, as well as having the lead in game-winning goals amongst all MJHL scorers. Look for him to have an impact in this series.
LEADING PLAYOFF SCORERS
Pistons: Drew Worrad – 12 PTS (3 G, 9 A)
Bradley Schoonbaert – 11 PTS (5 G, 6 A)
Braden Purtill – 10 PTS (5 G, 5 A)
Oil Caps: Ben Dalke – 11 PTS (7 G, 4 A)
Rylee Zimmer – 9 PTS (5 G, 4 A)
Kirklan Lycar – 9 PTS (4 G, 5 A)
Pistons: Matthew Thiessen (8 GP, 1.38 GAA, .950 SV%, 3 SO)
Oil Caps: Riley McVeigh (9 GP, 2.32 GAA, .926 SV%, 1 SO)