Newcomer Zach Purcell netted two goals and an assist, including the game-winner in the second period, as the Steinbach Pistons survived a Winkler Flyers comeback to win 6-4 over their Mennonite rivals Friday night in Winkler.
Caydin Cleland chipped in with three assists from the Pistons back end, while Kyle Bettens continued his hot play this preseason with a goal and two assists to push the Pistons’ preseason record to 5-0.
Danton Belluk got the start in goal for Steinbach, stopping 24 of 28 Flyers shots. Winkler starter Dylan Meilun played the first two periods and made 18 saves, while backup Malachi Klassen took to the net in the third period and stopped all 12 shots he faced.
Steinbach got the scoring started early in the first period, as Joel Matthews took a pass from Rylan Clemons and sniped home his 2nd goal of the preseason to give the Pistons a 1-0 lead 3:25 in.
The road team would double their lead on the power play when Purcell fed a cross-ice pass to Bettens, and the Bemidji State commit tapped it in for a 2-0 Steinbach lead. Caydin Cleland picked up the extra helper on Bettens’ 3rd in exhibition play.
Ty Naaykens, who made his preseason debut for the Pistons after coming over from the Winnipeg Blues in the offseason, tipped in a point shot by Declan Graham 1:19 into the second period for a 3-0 Steinbach lead. Cleland had the extra helper, and he would pick up his third and final assist on the night on Max Neill’s marker with under 8 minutes to go in period 2. Neill buried a rebound in the crease off a Codey Behun shot past Meilun for a 4-0 lead.
Winkler would get on the board shortly after as Mitch Thiessen beat Belluk with 6:34 remaining to cut into the four-goal Pistons lead. But Purcell restored the advantage 23 seconds later, as he took a breakout pass from Bettens and beat the Flyers goalie with a backhand shot over the glove to make it 5-1 for Steinbach. Tucker Hodgson continued to impress in the preseason and picked up his third assist during exhibition play on the Purcell goal.
The Flyers would bounce back with three straight goals; two coming in the final three minutes of play in the second period. Brody Moffatt wired home a wrist shot past Belluk with 2:41 to go, and Bryce Krauter made it a 5-3 game with 1:27 remaining in the second period.
There was some extracurricular activity towards the end of the second period, and it would carry over to the third where the two teams combined for 106 total minutes in penalties in the final frame. Max Neill and Cameron Critch of the Flyers dropped the gloves early in the period, and Brody Moffatt would tussle with the Pistons’ Carter Loney with 1:21 to go.
Matty Harold would pull the Flyers to within a goal with thirteen minutes remaining in the hockey game, but that’s as close as Winkler would get as Purcell scored his second of the game into the empty net with 51 seconds left as Steinbach would skate away with a two-goal win.
UP NEXT: These same two teams will do battle once again to wrap up the 2019 MJHL Preseason, but this time it’s at the TG Smith Centre with puck drop at 7:30 pm.