STEINBACH PISTONS – MJHL
This will be the first trip to the RBC Cup for your Steinbach Pistons. The Pistons faced stiff tests from the Winnipeg Blues in the semi-final, and the Virden Oil Caps in the MJHL final before defeating both of those teams in six games. Then they defeated the SJHL’s Nipawin Hawks in the reinstallment of the ANAVET Cup by splitting the first two games at home, taking 2 of 3 at Nipawin, and winning the Cup on home ice 2-1 in Game 6 to represent the West region.
The first time the Pistons went to a tournament of different Canadian junior A teams was the 2013 Western Canada Cup. The team lost all of its games at the tournament, but all who have known the team since that 2013 WCC say they are better prepared this year to take on a tournament of this magnitude.
The catalysts for the Pistons have been the top line of Schoonbaert-Worrad-Heidemann. Drew Worrad won the Turnbull Cup and ANAVET Cup MVP by leading his team in scoring (18 points in MJHL playoffs, and 9 points in ANAVET). Schoonbaert arguably scored the biggest goal in team history on Monday night, as his game-winner was the difference in the Game 6 victory.
Braden Purtill, Easton Bennett, Daniel McKitrick, and Brady Tatro all chipped in at various points during the ANAVET Cup to provide depth scoring for Steinbach. Watch out for Jack Johnson as well, he scored the game-winner in Nipawin during Game 5 and he has been one of the most dangerous Piston forwards recently.
On defense, the trio of Darby Gula, Mark Wilson, and Mark Taraschuk proved to be reliable options on the back-end for Head Coach Paul Dyck during this playoff run. Young defencemen Jaret Lalli, Tristan Culeton, and Declan Graham all played well at different points in the playoffs, and all together form one of the best D-corps in the RBC Cup.
But none of this would be possible without stingy goaltending, and the Pistons have that in Matthew Thiessen. He has had an incredible rookie year, committing to the University of Maine, winning Top Goaltender in the MJHL playoffs, and is currently ranked #4 amongst North American goalies on the NHL Central Scouting list. Thiessen posted a 1.58 GAA with a .944 SV% and had four shutouts in the MJHL playoffs, and recorded a 2.47 GAA with a .903 SV% in the ANAVET Cup, helping the Pistons to back-to-back 2-1 wins in Games 5 and 6 to close it out.
The Pistons have a well-rounded team heading to Chilliwack. All four lines and three defensive pairs are a threat to score, and all play with a strong commitment and structure in their own zone. Steinbach will be a tough out at this year’s RBC Cup.
LEADING PLAYOFF SCORERS (MJHL)
F Drew Worrad (’97) – 16 GP – 18 PTS (6 G, 12 A)
F Bradley Schoonbaert (’97) – 16 GP – 17 PTS (6 G, 11 A)
D Mark Taraschuk (’97) – 16 GP – 16 PTS (5 G, 11 A)
Matthew Thiessen – 1.58 GAA .944 SV%, 4 SO