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A four-goal second period gave the Steinbach Pistons a lead that they watched slip away in the third but the Niverville Nighthawks couldn’t complete the comeback in a thrilling 6-5 game Wednesday night.
Both teams took their time in the first to feel out their opponent.
Steinbach’s starting goalie Cole Plowman was tested a few times and came up with some very timely saves keeping things scoreless.
Niverville did a good job keeping pucks in the offensive zone allowing them to keep plays alive and generate.
As the period went on, Steinbach started to ramp up and dictated more of the play. They flexed their muscle and picked up the pace, pushing the Nighthawks to keep up.
In the final two minutes of the frame, both teams would find some scoring.
Hunter Degelman for Steinbach got the night started after a turnover down low thanks to some great work by his linemates Jamie Fuchs and Tyler Jordan. Degelman’s first of the pre-season was listed as unassisted but the whole line deserves credit for making the goal happen.
With just 20 seconds left to play, Bryce Warkentine deflected a Kaycee Coyle point shot past Plowman and in for his third goal of the pre-season.
Leo Chambers broke the tie with just two seconds remaining as the 20-year-old took a pass from defender Jack Cook, broke in all alone, and executed a beautiful move before finishing to restore the lead 2-1.
Early in the second, Nathan Brown displayed his speed and goalscoring ability as he walked into the Pistons zone and fired a shot home to knot the game 2-2.
Once again the Pistons responded.
A wonderful point shot from Noah Szabo was perfectly deflected by Jordan, beating the Nighthawks goalie to put the Pistons up 3-2. Brandon Funk also was given credit for an assist. The play really was generated off the great work by 20-year-old Kirk Mullen who shielded a Nighthawks defender off the puck and used his big frame to create space which eventually led to the point shot and tip.
Degelman would pick up his second point of the night as the 20-year-old heart and soul forward forced a turnover in the offensive zone, and flicked a pass out to the waiting Grady Hoffman who made no mistake scoring his first of the exhibition schedule putting Steinbach up 4-2.
Brandon Funk would add to Steinbach’s lead scoring twice back-to-back.
First, a power play tap-in after he fought his way to the front of the net and took a picture-perfect pass from Cook right on the tape for a tap-in. Wyatt Mattfield picked up the secondary assist for a Pistons power play that has scored in three consecutive games.
His second was a stretch pass from Spencer Penner that found a streaking Mullen busting into the Niverville zone and despite being tied up by the defender, he managed to get the puck back to Funk who walked right in and buried a backhander to extend the lead to 6-2.
The Nighthawks refused to go quietly into the night and came out in the third with something to prove.
Goalie Regan Legall couldn’t be faulted for the goals the team had given up but he made sure to give them a chance as he made some sensational stops throughout the period, keeping his team alive.
Carter Spirig sniped a wrister on a power play to cut the lead to 6-3 with captain Brett Tataryn and Ty Kennett picking up the assists.
Later in the period, Tataryn bullied his way to the front of the net and managed to fight through a couple of Piston’s checks to score his first of the pre-season, giving his team a shot of energy and cutting the lead to 6-4 with just under half of the period to play. Kyle Bochek had the lone assist.
Tim ticked down and both teams had their chances but Legall and Plowman stood tall.
In the final minute, Steinbach took a penalty and after pulling the goalie, the Nighthawks were steaked to a two-man advantage.
Once again it was Tataryn refusing to be denied as the 20-year-old second-year Nighthawk scooped home his second of the game and third point of the night to make it a 6-5 contest with 47 seconds to go in regulation. Spirig and Coyle nabbed the assists as the CRRC was brought to the edge of their seats.
A late flurry in the offensive zone resulted in a few close calls but nothing really major as time would wind down and Steinbach skated away with a 6-5 win.
After the game, Funk talked about his two-goal performance. “I for sure couldn’t have done any of it without my teammates. Mullen had a great drop pass, same with Cook. I couldn’t do it without them so a huge thanks to them.”
Being traded to Steinbach in the summer, Funk says now it’s all about building chemistry in-game action which is different than practice or scrimmaging. “The intensity is way up. Everyone is kind of reacting to plays and you have to learn to move and think quickly. It’s been so good here. Guys are great, coaching staff is awesome. I was lucky to spend some time in the community during power camp. No complaints, that’s for sure.”
The Nighthawks and Pistons wrap up the exhibition portion of the schedule on Saturday night in Steinbach.