Captain Declan Graham scored the game-winner on the power play with 9:20 left in regulation as the Steinbach Pistons finished strong and took Game #1 of their opening round series with a 3-1 win over the Winnipeg Blues.
The line of Codey Behun, Rylan Bettens, and Tanner Mole led the way offensively for the Pistons as Behun and Bettens both finished with a goal and an assist, while Mole played well defensively and also picked up an apple.
Matt Lenz picked up his first career MJHL playoff win in his first postseason start, getting better as the game wore on to finish with 18 saves on the night. Cooper Hatfield was excellent in goal for the Blues as the Kenora native stopped 37 of 39 shots on the night.
It was a fast start for Steinbach, who got on the board just 3:22 into the first period. While behind his own net, Hatfield gave the puck away to Rylan Bettens. Bettens found Behun all alone in front, and the former Blue would bury the puck into the open net for his first goal of the playoffs and gave the Pistons a 1-0 lead.
After Behun’s goal, the game really slowed down as both teams played pretty conservative hockey throughout the first two periods. The best chance for the Pistons came in the second period on a 2-on-1 rush by Carter Loney and Ryan Butler, but Loney was turned away by the right pad of Hatfield.
The only real opportunity for the Blues came in the waning minutes of the middle frame as both Brayden Foreman and Rhys Raeside had two good looks in front of the Steinbach net. Lenz would turn aside Foreman, and Raeside’s rebound attempt was cleared away off the line by Graham to thwart the Winnipeg attack.
Winnipeg would tie things up just 18 seconds into the third period on a rebound goal by Carson Tiede. The Blues would get their first PP of the game with all of the momentum behind them, but Steinbach would catch a big break on that man advantage.
Lenz was caught out of position on a scramble and the puck would come right out to Mitchell Joss, who appeared to have a wide-open net to put the Blues in front. But he shot the puck way too hard and rung it right off the crossbar, giving the Pistons new life in the game.
Steinbach took control of the third period after that and would get a man advantage of their own halfway through the final frame. Graham threw a shot on goal that hit a Blues defender in the leg and past Hatfield to bring the TG Smith crowd to life. Kyle Bettens and Max Neill would get the helpers on Graham’s first of the postseason, and his second career playoff goal gave the Pistons a 2-1 lead.
The Pistons would kill off another Blues power play late in the third period and did not allow the Blues another opportunity. Rylan Bettens would seal the deal with an empty-net goal with 1.9 seconds left from Behun and Mole to give Steinbach a Game #1 win.
The Pistons went 1 for 3 on the power play and 2 for 2 on the penalty kill.
UP NEXT: Steinbach leads the series 1-0 as Game #2 takes place at the Rink Training Centre on Sunday afternoon, with puck drop scheduled for 2:00 pm.