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Pistons knot up MJHL Final with dominant defensive display

Mark Taraschuk, Darby Gula, Austin Heidemann, and Brady Tatro were the goal-scorers, and Matthew Thiessen turned in a 23 save shutout performance as the Steinbach Pistons beat the Virden Oil Capitals 4-0 Monday night.

With the win, Steinbach ties the MJHL Turnbull Cup Final at two games apiece. It’s now a best-of-3 series, as the Pistons handed Virden their first loss of the MJHL playoffs and Tundra Oil and Gas Place.

Virden came out flying in the first frame, looking to grab the first goal of the game. They outshot Steinbach 7-6 in the first period, and hit three posts in the frame. But Steinbach came out unscaved thanks to their defencemen clearing a lot of pucks away from Thiessen’s crease.

“I thought we gave up some really good looks in the first, but tightened it up after that,” Pistons Head Coach and General Manager Paul Dyck said. “We limited their second looks and closed a lot of lanes with active sticks. We (as a coaching staff) were pleased with the commitment to our defensive game.”

Before the halfway mark, Tyler Kirkup took a high-sticking penalty when he got his hands up too high for the referee’s liking on Declan Graham. The Pistons took advantage, as quick puck movement at the point led to Mark Taraschuk blasting a slapshot passed Virden goaltender Riley McVeigh. Darby Gula and Brendan Martin picked up the assists on Taraschuk’s 5th goal of the playoffs at the 10:06 mark of the first.

The Pistons took full control of the game in the second, and Darby Gula scored just 14 seconds into the second period. His point shot went through everyone, including a screened McVeigh, to give Steinbach a 2-0 lead. Austin Heidemann picked up the assist on Gula’s 1st of the postseason.

Steinbach grabbed the first three goal lead of the series, as Bradley Schoonbaert threw a hard check in the corner to dislodge the puck from a Virden defender. Schoonbaert picked up the puck, and centered for Austin Heidemann who fired it home from the slot. Taraschuk also picked up the assist on Heidemann’s 4th of the playoffs at 8:45 of the second period.

Brady Tatro sealed the deal in the third after a hard-working shift by the Pistons’ de facto 4th line. He worked his way out of the right corner, and threw a backhander over McVeigh for the fourth goal of the game. Easton Bennett and Tanner Mole picked up the assist on Tatro’s 5th of the playoffs with 5:47 to go in the game.

Rylee Zimmer, the MJHL Player of the Week for Virden, has been held in check by the Pistons, going pointless in his last 2 after getting 4 points in the first 2 games of the series. “He plays with a lot of pace,” Dyck said. “He’s someone we always have to be aware of and take away his time and space.”

Dyck says his team will have to be ready for the Oil Caps’ best on Thursday night. “We need to continue to execute and bring the same effort,” he explained. “We have a lot of work ahead of us still and cannot afford to look beyond Game 5.”

SPECIAL TEAMS

The Pistons went 1 for 2 on the power play, and once again were perfect on the PK by killing off all 3 Virden man advantages.

UP NEXT: Game 5 goes Thursday night at the TG Smith Centre in Steinbach, with the puck scheduled to drop at 7:30 pm. You can get your tickets for that game online at Steinbachpistons.ca.