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(Photo courtesy: Adi Loewen)

Pistons win 2018 ANAVET Cup, off to Chilliwack for RBC Cup

Above the doorway to the Pistons dressing room is a logo. The logo is the 2018 RBC Cup, which is the goal of every team in junior A hockey in Canada. It was there above so that each of the Pistons players could look at the logo above to remind them of what their ultimate goal was.

Well, instead of looking, they can now start packing for Chilliwack.

Bradley Schoonbaert netted the winner with 12:35 to go in the third period as the Steinbach Pistons defeated the Nipawin Hawks 2-1 in Game 6 to lift their first ANAVET Cup in franchise history at the TG Smith Centre. They are now off to the Fraser Valley in British Columbia for the Canadian Junior ‘A’ National Championship running from May 12-20.

Matthew Thiessen made 23 saves in the victory, and Declan Hobbs of the Hawks stopped 25 of 27 Pistons shots in the loss.

“It’s absolutely the best feeling in the world,” Pistons forward Drew Worrad said during the on-ice celebration. “We’ve been working all year for this, and we’ve got one more to go. I couldn’t be more excited.”

The Pistons started off the game by getting the first goal of the game for just the second time in this ANAVET Cup series, as Brady Tatro wrapped around the back of the net to give Steinbach an early lead just 2:52 in. Luke Bellerose and Easton Bennett assisted on Tatro’s 2nd of the series.

After a real defensive hockey game, the Hawks would equalize just past the midway point of the second period. A seeing eye shot by former Waywayseecappo Wolverine Wayde Johannesson beat Thiessen to the glove side from the left point tying the hockey game up. Jake Tremblay and Brett Harasymuk picked up the helpers with 5:50 to go in the second.

“These guys (Nipawin) have played us just so hard,” Worrad said. “They play the game hard, and make it tough on you.”

The Pistons had a chance to take the lead, as Braden Purtill was sent in on a partial breakaway. His stick was checked at the last second, and he did not get the shot he wanted resulting in a right pad save for Hobbs.

Schoonbaert would capitalize shortly after, as Worrad forced a Johannesson turnover behind Hobbs. He centered the puck to Schoonbaert in the slot, who went top corner to put the Pistons back on top for good. In his final home game with the Pistons, it was fitting that Schoonbaert would score the winner, giving him 3 goals in the series. Worrad, who was named the ANAVET Cup MVP, notched his 9th point of the series on the goal, and Austin Heidemann notched the secondary assist.

“That doesn’t come without my line mates Schoonbaert and Heids (Heidemann),” Worrad said. “They were incredible all series long and all year long. This award goes right to them as well.”

For Worrad, it has been a season to remember after making his way to Steinbach after 4 years of playing junior A hockey in Ontario. “I just trusted that God had a plan, He’s looking out for me and wanting the best for me. And He’s blessed us all with a huge opportunity here.”

The Hawks pushed to tie the game, but the minutes and seconds clock ticked down to zero as the Pistons rushed their goalie in celebration as they scored back-to-back 2-1 victories in games 5 and 6 to win the ANAVET Cup

SPECIAL TEAMS

Both teams went 0 for 2 on the power play.

TWICE IS NICE

For Pistons forward Daniel McKitrick, this will be his second straight year in the RBC Cup. He spent time last year with the Cobourg Cougars, who eventually lifted the cup on home ice.

UP NEXT: The Pistons are off to face the best in Canada in Chilliwack. They join the Pacific region champion Wenatchee Wild (BCHL, Doyle Cup champions), the Central region champion Wellington Dukes (OJHL, Dudley-Hewitt Cup champions), the East region champion Ottawa Jr. A Senators (CCHL, Fred Page Cup champions), and the host Chilliwack Chiefs (BCHL).