Drew Worrad and Jack Johnson scored third period goals as the Steinbach Pistons came from behind to clip the Nipawin Hawks 2-1 Friday night, and in turn they take a 3-2 series lead heading back to Steinbach.
Matthew Thiessen had a huge bounceback performance for Steinbach in Game 5, making 26 saves in the victory. Declan Hobbs withstood a Pistons attack for much of the game, stopping 34 of 36 shots, but he ultimately took the loss.
Game 5 started off as an neutral affair in ‘The Cage’ in Nipawin, as both teams traded chances in the first. The Pistons got hemmed in late in the first, and the Hawks put together consecutive long shifts in the offensive zone. It caught up to Steinbach, as Brandan Arnold got loose in the slot and beat Thiessen with a wrister to the glove side with 2:55 to go. The goal is Arnold’s 6th of the series already, with Carter Doerksen and Logan Casavant picking up the helpers.
Nipawin outshot the Pistons 14-8 in the first period, and the message from Head Coach Paul Dyck was to starting winning battles. “We were not happy with the first period,” he said. “We were losing our battles and not getting in on the forecheck. I thought we just let them take the game to us.”
But that changed in a crucial second period as Steinbach found their legs and began to tilt the ice in their favor. Daniel McKitrick, Kyle Bettens, and Jack Johnson all had grade A scoring chances, but could not beat Hobbs and the Hawks. Steinbach outshot Nipawin 15-8 in the second period, but it remained 1-0 after 40 minutes of play.
“The guys stayed positive and believed we would eventually be rewarded for playing the right way,” Dyck explained. “We felt we were creating some chances, and just needed to stick with the game plan.”
The third period was once again dominated by the Pistons, and this time they equalized early in the frame as Worrad banged home a loose puck in the crease 3:58 in. Austin Heidemann and Darby Gula assisted on Worrad’s third goal of the ANAVET Cup.
The Pistons continued to press on the gas pedal to take the lead. Then with under 8 minutes to go, Tyson McConnell came in on the left wing and threw a pass out in front of the net. Johnson got to it first, and beat the stacked pads of Hobbs with a backhand for his first goal of the series to put Steinbach out in front.
The Pistons outshot the Hawks 13-3 in the third, and Nipawin could not regain momentum after that as Thiessen and the defence corp locked down their end as the final buzzer sounded.
Dyck was asked if his team was able to draw on their past experiences in these 2018 playoffs that helped his team get the win in Game 5. “No question,” he quickly responded. “We have been learning as we have progressed. We have shown we can come back in a game if we are on the road or at home and have confidence in that ability.”
Mark Taraschuk was back in the lineup for the Pistons in Game 5, and rookie forward Kyle Bettens drew in for Brendan Martin on a line with Braden Purtill and Tanner Mole. The 16-year-old got into one regular season game for Steinbach, and was on the trip as an AP for Dyck when his name was called. Bettens led the Manitoba AAA Midget Hockey League in scoring with 95 points, and helped lead the Winnipeg Wild to the provincial AAA championship this season.
There was only one minor penalty called in the game, and it went to Thomas Lenchyshyn of the Hawks for interference. Steinbach did not score on that opportunity.
UP NEXT: Game 6 is back home in Steinbach, as the Pistons look to close out the Hawks at the TG Smith Centre. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 pm on Monday, May 7th. You can order your tickets online at Steinbachpistons.ca.