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Riese Gaber celebrating after tying Game 3 against the Winnipeg Blues. (Photo courtesy: Adi Loewen)

Pistons score 4 in final frame to regain series lead

Braden Purtill scored the game-winning goal on the power play with 8:01 left in the third period, as the Steinbach Pistons used 4 third-period goals to comeback and beat the Winnipeg Blues 5-3 in a wild one on Tuesday night.

With the win, the Pistons now hold a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 MJHL Semifinal series. Matthew Thiessen made 27 saves in the victory, and Jeremy Link from the Blues stopped 36 shots in the loss.

After a struggle in the first and second periods, the Pistons stormed out of the gates in the third to rip victory away from the Blues. “That third period we came out to play like we only can,” forward Brady Tatro said after the game, in which he had 2 goals. “What can you say, that was a fun hockey game out there and a good win.”

Bradley Schoonbaert got the Pistons on the board in the first period with the only goal in the frame when Drew Worrad came in and toe-dragged around the defender. He fed Schoonbaert out in front for a tap-in goal to give the Pistons a 1-0 lead. Jaret Lalli also notched a helper on Schoonbaert’s 4th of the playoffs at 8:52.

The second period was one to forget for Steinbach, as the Pistons came out flat-footed. The Blues pounced on the opportunity, and tied the game on a breakaway as Devon Skoleski scored his 5th of the playoffs when he tucked it through the five-hole of Thiessen.

The game almost got away from the Pistons when Austin Heidemann crunched Codey Behun along the boards, and Behun went down in a heap. Heidemann received a game misconduct for boarding, and the Blues went to work on a 5-minute PP. The Pistons almost killed all of it off, but late in the frame Mark Taraschuk smoked Kelton Sutherland behind the Steinbach goal. Play continued, and Joel McGillvary took advantage to score his first of the series, when walked out into the slot and beat a screened Thiessen to give Winnipeg its first lead of the hockey game.

“They scored that (first) goal, and I think that got to us a little bit,” Tatro assessed. “We stopped working and they started outworking us, beating us in our one-on-one battles.”

The third period was the difference in the hockey, and they came out strong to start the period. “The leaders in the dressing room stepped up, and told us that period was unacceptable,” Tatro said. “(They said) we could be a lot better, and the boys listened and we came out flying.”

Although Winnipeg did get the next goal when a Dexter Kuczek shot was stopped, Dale Goodbrandson was there to bury the rebound for his 3rd of the playoffs at 3:45. The tide turned when Winnipeg got into penalty trouble, and it cost them. Schoonbaert wheeled around the blue line and found Tatro in front on the PP, and Tatro tipped the puck past Link to make it 3-2 at the 6:46 mark.

The TG Smith Centre crowd came to life after that and pushed the Pistons to tie the game. After Michael Ladyman took a boarding minor, a Pistons point shot got through and a mad scramble ensued in front of the Blues goalie Link. Riese Gaber found the loose puck and fired it past Link, who still didn’t see the puck, into the yawning cage to tie it up. Will Koop and Daniel McKitrick picked up assists on Gaber’s third of the playoffs at the 8:59 mark.

The Pistons completed the comeback on yet another power play, as Schoonbaert found a pinching Braden Purtill who ripped it into the back of the net to give Steinbach the lead. The crowd went bezerk as Purtill scored his 3rd of the playoffs from Schoonbaert and Tatro.

Winnipeg could not get back into the game. To make matters worse, after Link was pulled the Pistons cleared the puck into the Blues zone. Dexter Kuczek looked to regroup the Blues to break back in, but as he was backing up, the puck hopped on him and slid into the empty net. The MJHL MVP looked dumbfounded as Tatro was given credit for the goal with 2:01 to play. Tatro ended up with 3 points on the night.

SPECIAL TEAMS

A dorment Pistons power play awoke on Tuesday, going 3 for 6 on the PP. The Blues went 1 for 4, although they scored their goal on the Austin Heidemann game misconduct.

UP NEXT: Game 4 goes Thursday night at the BellMTS Iceplex, with a 7:00 pm scheduled puck drop. Game 5 will be back in Steinbach at 7:30 pm, you can get your tickets right now by heading online to Steinbachpistons.ca.