The trade deadline has come and gone, and now the Steinbach Pistons roster has been set for the final push to the playoffs. That will begin tonight as they meet the Portage Terriers for the sixth and final time this season.
The Pistons have already won the season series with Portage, doing so with a 2-1 win at the TG Smith Centre this past Wednesday. Koby Morrisseau got the scoring started for the Terriers in the first period, but the Pistons would score twice in 30 seconds in the middle frame to take the lead.
Rylan Bettens fired a quick shot from the slot past starter Noah Giesbrecht, and then Kasyn Kruse scored his first as a Piston on a nice feed from Troy Beauchemin on the rush. Matt Lenz shut the door the rest of the game, making 12 saves in the third period to pick up his MJHL best 21st win of the season.
Steinbach and Portage have played in tight games all season, with four of the five meetings have been contested in one goal games. The Terriers won their first matchup 4-3 in OT back on September 25th; however, the Pistons have won the next four meetings 5-1, 2-1, 3-2, and 2-1 on Wednesday night.
Both teams were making moves before yesterday’s 5:00 pm trade deadline. The Pistons started off January 10th by getting goalie Thomson Phinney from the Waywayseecappo Wolverines. Phinney has played in 25 games and sports a 13-8-2 record with Wayway as their starter. Phinney is expected to be dressed and in the lineup tonight.
Head Coach and General Manager Paul Dyck pulled off the final move in the MJHL before the deadline by acquiring forward Ryan Butler from the OCN Blizzard. Butler was OCN’s leading scorer this season with 18 goals and 33 points in 28 games this season, however it is unclear if he will be in the lineup for the Pistons.
The Terriers did most of their work on Thursday. Portage traded away leading scorer Riley Bruce to the SJHL’s Nipawin Hawks in exchange for forward Austen Flaman. They also acquired defenceman Parker Malchuk from the Neepawa Natives and forward Carter Barley from the Selkirk Steelers. Barley was their biggest acquisition as he led the Steelers in scoring with 14 goals and 41 points in 38 games played before becoming a Terrier.
The Pistons hold a 8 point lead over the Winkler Flyers in the MJHL standings with an upcoming game against each other this Tuesday. For now, the Pistons will look to grab another two points over the upcoming Centennial Cup hosts tonight.
Pistons PP 19.3% (7th), PK 77.7% (7th)
Terriers PP 28.6% (1st), PK 79.5% (6th)
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Pistons: Kasyn Kruse
Kruse has brought an element of speed and grit to the Pistons lineup since arriving from the Swan Valley Stampeders. The Minnesota native was dangerous every time he stepped out on the ice Wednesday and got his first goal of the season as a result. Kruse has found some chemistry on the right wing with Troy Beauchemin, making that line extremely difficult to play against.
Terriers: Caelan McPhee
McPhee is by far the team’s leading defence scorer as he’s put forth 5 goals and 28 assists in 37 games played this season. The 20-year-old from Ontario is paired up alongside reigning Rookie of the Year Owen Murray, making for a dynamic duo that are looking to jump into the rush any chance they get.
WHERE TO WATCH/LISTEN
Puck drop for tonight’s game is set for 7:30 pm. Watch the game live on HockeyTV or listen on your radio/online to MIX 96 and Steinbachonline.com with Dave Anthony on the call beginning at 7:15 pm.