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Pistons Kick Off 2017 with Win Over Portage

The Steinbach Pistons started off the calendar year 2017 with a big road win over the Portage Terriers, 4-2 on Wednesday night.

After 17 days between games, the Pistons showed a little rust in the first period, showing off their speed on the big ice service in Portage. Tyson McConnell got Steinbach on the board late in the period, with assists going to Julien Koga and Wyatt Hinson.

It was goal number seven on the season for the man from Pilot Mound, Manitoba and he was all smiles post-game. “It’s nice to get things started. We had a decent start to the game and it was nice to get one in there,” McConnell said.

The Pistons would take the 1-0 lead into the second period where both teams traded chances, really opening up and showing off some good speed to create scoring opportunities.

The Pistons would catch a break late in the period. After some good work down low from Mack Graham, the puck found it’s way to the point where Mark Taraschuk let one rip. The puck hit the stick of Will Koop and found its way to the back of the net. The Taraschuk shot was so hard, it knocked the stick out of Koop’s hands. “It went in, that’s all that matters,” Taraschuk said with a laugh post-game. 

After 40 minutes the Pistons led 2-0 and were out-shooting the Terriers 26-20.

In the third, Portage turned it on and grabbed momentum with two goals in the first 10 minutes of the period to tie the game at two. The Pistons bent, but never broke, and it was an unlikely rush from defenseman Declan Graham that gave Steinbach the back the lead.

Declan Graham rushed the puck down the boards and cut towards the net and fired a low shot, he was able to tap in a loose puck to make it 3-2. “I was pretty excited,” Declan Graham said after the game. “We just blew a 2-0 lead, so it was good to get it back.”

Declan Graham, only 18 years old, knows a game like this goes a long way in terms of learning how to be a top team in the MJHL. “It shows a lot of character in our guys. It would have been easy to just give up, but we stuck with it.” Bradley Schoonbaert picked up the lone assist on Graham’s third goal of the year.

It was the other Graham, Mack, that would seal it for Steinbach with an empty-netter. It was another multi-point night for Mack who now has 9 points in his past 4 games and has hit the 50 point plateau for the first time in his career (23 goals 28 assists). Despite being the team’s leading scorer, brother

Declan noted that he scored with the goalie in the net, while Mack had a wide open cage. “I mean, he’ll take whatever he can get,” said the younger of the two brothers. “When the goalie is out, that’s probably when he’s most effective.” 

It was all smiles and laughs, but the Pistons know they have room to improve. The power play had several chances to put the game away but failed to light the lamp going 0-for-5, but the penalty kill was outstanding going 6-for-6, including killing off a double minor late in the third period, clinging to a one-goal lead.

Roman Bengert was a steady as a rock in the crease, finishing with 34 saves, including 14 in the third period. For Bengert it was win 21 on the season. Bengert has made 628 saves this season on 678 shot attempts for a save percentage of .926, goals-against-average of 2.02 and a record of 21-3. Bengert’s numbers are the best in the MJHL for any goalie that has played more than 12 games.

The Pistons will begin a 4 game homestand on Friday night when they welcome in the Swan Valley Stampeders. The Pistons have not been on home ice since a 5-3 victory over the Virden Oil Capitals on December the 18th. McConnell knows defending home ice is important for the confidence of the team. “These home games are huge, a couple big games against good teams,” he said. “These are good tests for us to see where we stand and it would be nice to get a couple of wins.”

You can stream every home game by going to the Pistons Page at SteinbachOnline.com https://www.steinbachonline.com/pistons-schedule