Nipawin forward Brandan Arnold had a hat-trick and an assist, including scoring the game-winner with 1:04 remaining in the third period as the Hawks stole Game 1 of the ANAVET Cup final with a 4-3 victory over the Pistons at the TG Smith Centre.
Declan Hobbs was the winning goaltender, making 29 saves for Nipawin. Matthew Thiessen kept his team in the game in the first and second. He stopped 21 shots in the loss.’
It was a shaky start for the Pistons, as Jaret Lalli took an early hooking penalty to send the Hawks to the power play just 38 seconds into the game. Arnold capitalized as he took a cross-ice pass from Josh McDougall and slammed it home to give the Hawks an early lead. Grant Baetsen also assisted on the goal.
The Pistons found some life as they got on the forecheck and started roughing up the Hawks along the boards. Big hits by Tyson McConnell and Brady Tatro brought the crowd into the game. But with Steinbach having all of the momentum, Arnold scored again as he found his own rebound to put it past Thiessen and make it 2-0 with 3:47 left in the first.
The Pistons started the climb back as Drew Worrad cut across the middle of the ice, and took a pass from Bradley Schoonbaert and ripped the puck past the glove of Hobbs to cut the lead in half with 1:23 to go in period 1. Darby Gula picked up an extra assist as Worrad and Schoonbaert continued their hot play from the MJHL playoffs in this game.
Nipawin restored the 2-goal lead just 8 seconds later, as captain Carter Doerksen took a back pass from Arnold and beat Thiessen with a point shot.
The Pistons were the better team in the second period and tied the game as a result. First, Austin Heidemann fanned on a shot in the slot on a power play, but he stayed with it and slid a backhand shot past Hobbs to make it 3-2. Schoonbaert and Worrad assisted on the goal at 3:24 of the second. Schoonbaert tied the game just past the halfway point of the period, as his wrist shot beat the glove of Hobbs in the slot. Worrad picked up the lone assist on Schoonbaert’s third point of the night.
The Pistons controlled play the rest of the way, but could not put the puck past Hobbs. A Mark Wilson point shot was deflected at the end of the second, and just rolled past the near post and wide. Wilson had a chance again in the third, as his shot beat Hobbs and rang square off of the pipe. And then Brendan Martin was sent in on a breakaway, but his backhand shot couldn’t beat the outstretched Hobbs.
The Hawks broke the Pistons’ hearts in the end, as a shot deflected on Thiessen who made an incredible toe save. The rebound went to a cutting Arnold, who deposited a backhand into the yawning cage to seal his hat-trick and give Nipawin the win.
Defenceman and assistant captain Mark Taraschuk said that the Pistons nervous start did not help the cause. “Our slow start hurt us tonight,” he said. “I didn’t think we played a bad second or third period, but we put ourselves in a great position to win the hockey game.”
Taraschuk observed that the Pistons were too fancy in the neutral zone, which led to turnovers. “We have to have that ‘go-go-go’ mentality, and focus on chipping pucks deep.”
He also said that the Pistons need to eliminate those little detailed mistakes against a Nipawin team that they hadn’t faced all year. “You could compare that team to a lot of the teams in our league,” he commented. “If we bring our best for a full 60 minutes, there’s no doubt in my mind that we are going to do this and win a hockey game.”
Both teams scored on the power play; Nipawin scored on their only chance, and the Pistons went 1/5.
UP NEXT: Game 2 goes tomorrow at the TG Smith, with a 7:30 pm (local time) puck drop being scheduled.