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ROAD REPORT – @ Neepawa Dec 18

The Steinbach Pistons continue their four-game road trip tonight as they head to the Yellowhead Centre for a matchup against the Neepawa Natives.

Steinbach is coming off of a weekend where they split a pair of games. It wasn’t one of their best games on Saturday night as they team combined for a season-high 75 penalty minutes in a 4-1 loss to the Virden Oil Capitals. Ty Naaykens had the Pistons’ only goal in that game, which tied him for the team lead with Codey Behun.

They took out their frustrations on the Selkirk Steelers the following night with a convincing 9-1 win. Nine different Pistons registered multi-point games on Sunday and every single forward in the lineup had at least a point. Steinbach got a great game from call-up Nik Anderson, who stepped in and made 28 saves on the night including a couple of highlight reel stops in the first and third periods.

The Pistons will see the returns of a couple of key figures to their lineup this week. Carter Loney is back with the team after suiting up for Team Canada West at the 2019 World Junior A Challenge. Dante Giannuzzi has also returned to Steinbach after spending a week with the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks, where he got into one game and stopped 17 of 18 shots in an 8-1 Portland win over the Tri-City Americans.

Tanner Mole was named an MJHL Star of the Week for his play the past seven days. Mole broke out of his slump in a big way after returning from injury, notching 5 goals and 3 assists over the past 4 games for the Pistons.

This is the fourth meeting of the season between the Pistons and Natives, with Steinbach winning two of the three previous games. Steinbach’s first visit to the Yellowhead Centre resulted in a 4-2 win back on October 6th. Neepawa is currently 11th in the standings, but have won two of their past three games over the Waywayseecappo Wolverines and the OCN Blizzard.

Forward Eli Lieffers is their leading scorer with 13 goals and 32 points on the season, and had his six-game point streak snapped in their last game against OCN. Lieffers is 17 points clear of their next leading scorer in defenceman Parker Malchuk, who has 4 goals and 15 points in 21 games this year.

The Natives also boast an underrated defence group along with Malchuk. Rhys Bremner has put up 3 goals and 13 points this season while Brady Morrison has the same point total as well. Neepawa likes to dress seven defencemen as a result of their depth at the position, showcasing young players like Cooper Morris and Cody Shearer in the process.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Pistons PP 20.2% (7th), PK 77% (8th)

Natives PP 16.8% (9th), PK 82.3% (3rd)

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Pistons: Bryce Young

Young had his eight-game point streak busted in Saturday’s loss to the Oil Caps, however he made up for it on Sunday with a goal and three assists in the win over Selkirk. The 20-year-old from The Pas already is tied for the team lead with 10 power play points and is currently 5th amongst all MJHL regulars with a 1.29 points per game average.

Natives: Bradley Marshall

Marshall is the second leading forward on Neepawa with 8 goals and 14 points in 33 games this season. The fourth-year Native has performed consistently for his team over the course of his junior career, and right now has points in his past two games. The Pistons will need to watch out for him tonight.