On a day when Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck was in the building, the Pistons scored twice in the final minutes and then Easton Bennett was the hero in overtime to beat the Winkler Flyers 3-2.
Pistons goaltender Matt Radomsky, who was nominated today for the MJHL Top Goaltender award, kept his team in the game all afternoon with 23 saves. Flyers goalie Riley Morgan made 36 saves in the loss.
Hellebuyck and his agent, Ray Petkau, performed the ceremonial faceoff along with Colin Loewen from Steinbach Minor Hockey as the Jets goaltender and the Steinbach native recently donated some goalie gear for the Millers novice program. Radomsky and Morgan took the faceoff instead of the captains, which brought the fans to their feet at the packed TG Smith Centre
The Pistons did not get off on the right foot though, as Radomsky misplayed the puck behind his own goal allowing Everett Bestland to pick up the puck and slide it in to the net 40 seconds into the game.
Steinbach couldn’t get anything going throughout the first two periods of play, in which the Flyers had a solid defensive game. Winkler made it 2-0 just past the halfway point as Josh Kagan lifted a backhander over the shoulder of Radomsky, with defenceman Garrett Kuklica picking up the lone assist.
Determined not to lose on home ice in front of a capacity crowd, the Pistons pushed on the gas and caught a break. Caydin Cleland threw a shot in front of the net, and Winkler defenceman Drake Burgin accidentally tipped the puck into his own net to cut the Flyers lead in half. For Cleland, the goal was his first in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, and it was unassisted with 7:15 to go.
After the Flyers’ Marcel Berube took a high-sticking penalty in Steinbach’s end, Declan Graham led the charge. At the beginning of the power play, Graham’s shot beat Morgan but clanked right off the post and out.
Then a minute and a half later with the pressure mounting on Winkler, Easton Bennett fed a pass to a pinching Graham from below the goal line, and the Toronto native brought the crowd to its feet with a rifle wrister that beat Morgan top shelf to tie it up with 2:10 to go. Riley Vautour picked up the extra assist on Graham’s 2nd goal of the season on the power play.
The Pistons went to their fifth OT game in their last six outings, and this one didn’t look so good as the Flyers had possession of the puck for the majority of the extra session.
But then a Winkler forward turned the puck over to Bennett, who streaked in with Boedey Vaeth on a 2-on-1 as the seconds wound down. Bennett fed Vaeth, who got a weak shot away and the puck trickled towards the goal line past an out of position Morgan. Bennett whacked it in the open goal to complete the comeback and give Steinbach the extra point.
The win also means that the Pistons have swept the season series with their Mennonite rivals, something that the team has never done in its 10-year history.
Steinbach went 1 for 7 on the power play, and killed off all five man advantages they faced.
UP NEXT: Steinbach travels to Selkirk on Friday night to take on the Steelers at 7:30 pm. Catch the game live on HockeyTV, or listen on your radio to MIX 96 and Steinbachonline.com with Dave Anthony!