Courtesy of Steinbachonline.com
The Steinbach Pistons weathered the early storm and actually led 3-0 after the first period but it was all downhill from there as they surrendered 5 unanswered goals and had their 5 game winning streak snapped falling to the Winnipeg Blues 5-3 on Tuesday night.
After the Thanksgiving long weekend, head coach Paul Dyck did not see to much to be thankful for. “It was a difficult way to watch. From a fans perspective and as a coaching staff it was pretty painful. It think our effort was okay, it certainly wasn’t what we expect from our group and mentally we just looked checked out. I thought the mental errors we made from the start of the second period on, were at a level we haven’t seen this year.”
The Winnipeg Blues who came into the contest losers of 4 straight games came out fast and hungry, throwing some big hits and even getting the first power play of the game, but Steinbach held the fort with some strong goaltending from Jeremy Wik and actually took the lead midway through the frame.
Mack Graham would walk out from the corner and fire the puck between the arm and the pad of starting goalie Scott Parsons to make it 1-0 Steinbach with assists going to Eddie Eades and Tyler Anderson. Less than two minutes later, a James Shearer shot from the point was perfectly redirected by Hayden Goderis pushing the lead to 2-0, the second assist going to Luke Amsbaugh and then on the power play, Graham would pick up his second of the game with helpers going to Dan Taillefer and Tyler Penner.
Dyck was pleased to see Graham hit the score sheet after always coming to the rink ready to play and play hard. “He plays the game the right way and he plays the same way every night. Unfortunately, we couldn’t capitalize on his effort tonight.”
That would be it for goals by Steinbach.
“I’m not sure what took place in our room between periods or what was said.” Dyck explains, “We felt pretty good about ourselves. It seemed like we were focused and prepared to win another period, but we came out flat. Our puck management was very poor and they were the hungrier team. Early on in the second they started taking over pace of play, they were first on pucks and just a much more determined hockey team then we were.”
Special teams, as always, plays a factor in games and for Steinbach, they currently hold the league’s best power play clicking at 30% but are dead last in the 11 team league on the penalty kill, successfully killing off the man advantage 70% of the time, (Portage holds the top penalty kill at 89%). Dyck knows that especially in this game, it wasn’t so much on the ice, but between the ears. “It was a matter of executing structure and when you’re not mentally in it, you’re not going to be in the right places and won’t execute whatever fore-check or whatever aspect of the penalty kill or even five on five. Really, our mind frame in the second and third, we really didn’t get much done on PK.”
Steinbach would finish 1 for 7 on the power play and 4 for 6 on the penalty kill. Steinbach also surrendered a shorthanded goal in the second period.
Jeremy Wik made 17 saves in the loss.
Right off the opening faceoff, the two rivals were going toe to toe in the hitting department and as one player put it, “I bet there are twice as many hits as there are shots tonight.” Connor Martin would throw some big hits and players like Graham, Jordan Bochinski, Ryan Carlson and Julien Koga were not afraid to muck it up in front of the net or after a whistle to try and establish a physical presence.
But as the game wore on, the Blues fore-check got the better of the Pistons and Dyck knows maybe toughness is an area where the team needs to improve. “It’s possible, if you looked at our group today, we lost battles. We didn’t show willingness to be first on pucks like we should. I don’t know why we were softer then we normally are or if there was an intimidation factor but we clearly lost that battle today.”
No rest for the Pistons as they will hit the road and take on the first place Portage Terriers and Dyck knows that the effort can’t be duplicated or his team is in for a long night. “If we come out like we did tonight and with that kind of mental effort, we might as well stay in Steinbach. The week just gets more difficult, we have Portage tomorrow (Wednesday) Winkler on Friday and then Virden on Sunday so a very challenging week and a good test for us. Tonight is just one game and that’s the positive of it, but we’re going to have to wake up tomorrow.”