After a grinding 60 game regular season, the 2019 MJHL Playoffs are set to begin, as each series gets underway tonight.
One of those series is the #3 seeded Steinbach Pistons taking on the #6 Winnipeg Blues. Here’s a breakdown of the scoring leaders, the matchups between these two teams this season, players to watch, and a preview of both sides.
Steinbach Pistons – 39-17-4 = 82 points (3rd)
Brendan Martin – 55 GP – 31G, 27A = 58 P
Tyson McConnell – 60 GP – 20G, 27A = 47 P
Boedey Vaeth – 55 GP – 18 G, 26 A = 44 P
Troy Williams – 54 GP – 8 G, 36 A = 44 P
Matt Radomsky – 40 GP – 27-12-1, 2.06 GAA, .929 SV%
Matt Lenz – 21 GP – 12-5-3, 2.10 GAA, .930 SV%
Winnipeg Blues – 31-22-7 = 69 points (6th)
Tony Apetagon – 59 GP – 29G, 45A = 74 P (between OCN and Winnipeg)
Braeden Binda – 53 GP – 20G, 22A = 42 P
James Maxwell – 49 GP – 18G, 23A = 41 P (between OCN and Winnipeg)
Jeremy Link – 48 GP – 26-16-2, 2.48 GAA, .931 SV%
Jack Branby – 17 GP – 5-6-0, 3.49 GAA, .892 SV%
Season Summary: Tied at 3-3.
First Meeting: October 2nd – Blues win 2-1 @ WPG
It was the Jeremy Link show in the first game between the two clubs, as the Pistons poured 45 shots on goal. Brady Tatro beat Link early in the first, but two goals by Codey Behun were enough as Winnipeg beat Steinbach 2-1. (W) Link, (L) Radomsky
Second Meeting: December 7th – Pistons win 9-3 @ TG Smith
The Pistons put together their best offensive output of the season, chasing Link from the net with five goals in a span of 10:17 in the first period for a convincing 9-3 win. Brendan Martin, Tanner Mole, and Easton Bennett each had two goals, while Evan Kaufman, Declan Graham, and Kyle Bettens each had a three-point night. (W) Lenz, (L) Link
Third Meeting: December 18th – Pistons win 1-0 @ WPG
In the first of back-to-back games against Winnipeg at the Iceplex, this one did not see a goal until Brendan Martin beat Link with 5:18 left in the third period. Matt Lenz picked up his second shutout of the season in the process. (W) Lenz, (L) Link
Fourth Meeting: December 21st – Blues win 4-2 @ WPG
The Pistons fired 50 shots towards Link, however the MJHL Goaltender of the Year made 48 saves in a win for Winnipeg. Coby Stauss had two goals for the Blues, and captain Kelton Sutherland and Jayson Szun each had two assists. Matt Radomsky made his return between the pipes for the Pistons after the World Junior A Challenge, but was tagged with the loss. (W) Link, (L) Radomsky
Fifth Meeting: January 12th – Blues win 3-1 @ TG Smith
In the first game after the trade deadline, new acquisition Tony Apetagon proved his worth for Winnipeg as he led the Blues with a goal and an assist in a 3-1 win over Steinbach. Jeremy Link and Matt Lenz once again were locked in a goaltending duel, and Link prevailed with a W. Kyle Bettens had the lone goal for the Pistons. (W) Link, (L) Lenz
Sixth Meeting: January 26th – Pistons win 6-3 @ TG Smith
The Pistons used four second period goals to beat Winnipeg in their final matchup, including two backhand beauties from Kyle Bettens. The rookie forward had an assist for a three point night, and Troy Williams also had three assists in the win as well. (W) Radomsky, (L) Link
Although they did not win as many games this season compared to the previous three seasons (45, 49, 48 wins), the Pistons were a consistent group this regular season. They put together a season best seven game win streak in late January-early February, and only lost three games in a row once this season. Steinbach was decimated by injuries, but were able to secure the third spot with a couple of weeks left.
The Pistons have been the best defensive club, as they have allowed the fewest goals in the MJHL with 127 goals against this season. Most of that is due in large part to the play of both Matt Radomsky and Matt Lenz in goal. Radomsky tied the Pistons franchise record for the best GAA in a season held by former goaltending partner Matthew Thiessen, as the third-year Pistons goalie and Holy Cross commit had a 2.06 GAA while also leading the MJHL in shutouts for the second straight season. Lenz was second amongst all MJHL goalies with a .930 SV% and was behind Radomsky with a 2.10 GAA.
Steinbach will see some regulars back in the lineup for Game #1, as forwards Brendan Martin, Nico Labossiere, Riley Vautour, and Brendan Westbrook will all be available for Head Coach Paul Dyck. The Pistons are beat up a bit on the back end, with Troy Williams (lower body injury) being listed as questionable for Game #1. Declan Graham (upper body injury) will be out of the lineup for Steinbach to begin the playoffs.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Tanner Mole
Mole finished second on the Pistons with 21 goals this season. The 19-year-old from Winnipeg has taken a big step forward this season, playing heavy minutes in all situations for Head Coach Paul Dyck. His big 6’3” frame should be a factor, as he can get to the front of the net and cause havoc for Blues goalie Jeremy Link.
The Blues were in a battle with Dauphin, Waywayseecappo, and Winkler for the final three playoff spots in the MJHL at the beginning of February. But Winnipeg won 11 of its last 14 games, including a ten-game win streak, to solidify their place in the postseason.
A lot like last season, key acquisitions at the trade deadline have helped give Winnipeg some life. They acquired the MJHL’s third leading scorer in Tony Apetagon, as well as James Maxwell and defenceman Darren Gisti from the OCN Blizzard at the trade deadline. The Blues also got defenceman Michael Ladyman back from the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs.
MJHL Top Goaltender Award winner Jeremy Link has been the backbone of the Blues this season, and has been a thorn in the Pistons side since last year’s semi-final series. He will need to come up big for the Blues once again if they want to make a deep run.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Michael Ladyman
The 17-year-old, second year blueliner had 9 points in 9 games before leaving for the Spokane Chiefs early in the season. When he returned to the Blues, he picked up right where he left off and now has 28 points in 26 games heading into the postseason. Expect him to get huge minutes against Steinbach in this series.
Friday, March 8th – Blues @ Pistons – 7:30 pm
Sunday, March 10th – Pistons @ Blues – 6:30 pm
Tuesday, March 12th – Blues @ Pistons – 7:30 pm
Thursday, March 14th – Pistons @ Blues – 7:00 pm
Saturday, March 16th – Blues @ Pistons – 7:30 pm ***
Monday, March 18th – Pistons @ Blues – 7:00 pm ***
Wednesday, March 20th – Blues @ Pistons – 7:30 pm ***