Courtesy of Dave Anthony from Steinbachonline.com
The Steinbach Pistons scored midway through the third and added an empty-netter to secure a 3-1 win over the Neepawa Natives on Monday night and wrap up their first-round series 4-2.
In the first period, both teams came out and played the kind of game they wanted. The Pistons were able to get scoring chances off of a hard forecheck and cycle game while the Natives used their speed through the neutral zone to gain chances.
Neepawa scored the opening goal to make it 1-0 near the middle of the first period off a scramble in front to take the lead into the first intermission. The Natives also controlled in shots, 13-12.
In the second, Steinbach began to take over. The Pistons offence brought wave after wave of attack and were eventually rewarded. Jordan Bochinski fought the puck free near the Natives goal line before putting the puck back to the point for Darby Gula. Gula got a wrist shot towards the net that was stopped by the Natives goalie. Instead of covering the puck, the Neepawa tender tried to poke it away from the goal but instead put it on the stick of Braden Purtill who went top shelf to tie the game 1-1.
Shots in the period were again in Neepawa’s favor 7-6 but the Pistons seemed to carry most of the play, outside of killing off two penalties in the period.
In the third, fans on both sides were treated to a very entertaining 20 minutes of hockey.
The Natives came out strong and pushed the pace to start the final period. Steinbach returned the pressure and was rewarded for their efforts. As Mack Graham took the puck into the offensive zone, Bradley Schoonbaert drove to the net. Graham put a perfect, last second pass over to the streaking Schoonbaert who notched his third of the playoffs, putting Steinbach up 2-1. Ryan Carlson also notched an assist on the goal.
Late in the period, Neepawa pulled their goalie as they looked for the equalizer but a hard working shift from Purtill forced the puck down into Neepawa territory, he outworked the Natives defenders and slipped home the loose puck to seal the win for Steinbach. For Purtill, he now has three goals in the playoffs. Carlson collected his second assist of the night.
Things got a little heated as the horn sounded but Roman Bengert raised his arms in victory, making 27 saves on the night and will lead the Pistons into the second round of the MJHL playoffs.
The power play finished 0-1 while the penalty kill was 2-2. Shots on goal were 28-24 Neepawa.
Steinbach will host the Portage Terriers to open round 2. A full series preview is coming to SteinbachOnline.com. In the other series, the Winkler Flyers will open the second round against the OCN Blizzard.