The Steinbach Pistons ended their five-game road trip in style with a big 5-1 win over the Portage Terriers on Wednesday night, making it four wins in a row for the top team in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.
It was a similar start that the Pistons had in Winkler the night before, going up 3-0 in the first period. This time, it was the Portage crowd that was left stunned by the Pistons quick offensive strike.
The scoring parade started early for Steinbach as Wyatt Hinson knocked home his 8th of the season as his linemates Danny Pion and Tyson McConnell drew the assists as that line has combined for 20 points in their past 5 games.
McConnell would get his own goal later on in the period as the man from Pilot Mound, MB, hit double digits in goals for the first time in his career with his 10th. Before the period was through, Mack Graham would find a loose puck in the slot and rifled home his team-leading 27th goal of the year. Bradley Schoonbaert and Tyler Anderson picked up the assists.
As impressive a 3-0 lead was after 20 minutes of play, it was the Pistons commitment to defensive zone efficiency that really stood out, allowing only 5 shots to reach starting goalie Matt Radomsky.
In the middle period, Portage began to put on the pressure. It’s rare when your team is leading 3-0 that a save may just be a turning point in a game, but that’s exactly what happened for Radomsky, who explained the play after the game.
“We coughed up the puck a little bit right beside the net, and I saw him (Portage forward Ty Enns) out of the corner of my eye, and I knew that the Terriers player with the puck was not going to beat me with a straight shot,” he said. “He was going to use the guy on the side, so I anticipated that play a little bit more, and fortunately, he passed it over, and I could make the save.”
The Terriers would convert later in the period to cut the lead to 3-1, but Steinbach’s Ryan Carlson responded with an incredible display of puck protection and strong skating. With the Pistons on the power play, the 20 year-old defender from Hermantown, MN, grabbed the puck in his zone and collected speed through the neutral zone, going right past a couple of would be Terrier checkers. Carlson continued his path to the net and with a couple of players all over him, lifted a backhander high into the corner for his 5th of the year and more importantly, restoring the Pistons three-goal lead, 4-1 after two periods. Tyler Anderson collected his third assist on the night, giving him 34 points in 39 games this season.
In the third, it was again the Pistons power play converting and again it was Carlson. This time, he showed off some impressive hand-eye coordination, knocking down point shot to give the Pistons a 5-1 cushion. Mack Graham and Schoonbaert picked up assists on the final goal of the game for either side.
Radomsky finished the night with 25 saves. The power play was 2 for 8 and the penalty kill, again perfect, finishing 5 for 5.
With the win, Steinbach’s record now stands at 37-6-1 with 75 points in the bank. They are 10 points clear of second place Selkirk with two games in hand, while 11 points up on third place Winkler with the same amount of games played (44).
A big chance to put even more distance between themselves and the Steelers comes on Friday night at home, a place the Pistons haven’t seen in just under two weeks. Tyler Anderson is excited about getting back on familiar ground. “It’s so nice to be home. I just remember finishing the last one, (the game against the Terriers) and thinking ‘Friday and Saturday, home crowd, home ice, home bed’, it’s going to be great.”