The 2017-18 season for the Steinbach Pistons officially came to a close with the awards banquet last Tuesday. With that, it is time to look back on the season that was, as the Pistons took the ice from late September until late May. Here are our picks for the top 10 on-ice moments and games from 2017-18.
#10 – First game with the brand new jumbo screen
It may have been in place for two home games early in January, but the first official game with the new fully-functional jumbo screen at the TG Smith Centre was on January 24th against the Winkler Flyers. The debut was a historic moment, as it was the first of its kind in junior A hockey in Manitoba, complete with a live-camera broadcast, motion graphics, a player introduction video, and instant replay.
It was a big game for the Pistons too, who didn’t seem fazed by the moment. The Flyers had beaten the Pistons in their first three meetings of the season, including a 4-2 loss in early January where Steinbach outshot Winkler 50-15.
When it was all said and done, Steinbach scored its largest win of the season over any team. They won the game by a score of 10-1 over their orange and black rivals, as they scored 8 goals alone in the first two periods of play. The win set the tone for the rest of 2018, as they only lost one game in regulation throughout the rest of the regular season.
#9 – Mark Taraschuk’s OT winner in Game 4 against Swan Valley
The Pistons got all they could handle in Game 4 of their first round series in the MJHL playoffs against the Swan Valley Stampeders after winning the first three games. The Stamps scored 4 goals in the second period to take a 5-3 lead after 40 minutes of play.
But the Pistons dug down deep in the third period, and tied the game thanks to goals by Daniel McKitrick on the PP, and Jack Johnson equalizing for the Pistons with 2:11 to go in the third.
Matt Radomsky came up huge in the first overtime as Swan put on the pressure to extend the series. Then in the second overtime period, defenceman Mark Taraschuk stripped a Swan forward at the blue line and busted in on a breakaway. He scored on the backhand to win the series for the Pistons and sent them onto the second round.
It was the second series-winning overtime goal in Pistons franchise history, and for Taraschuk it capped a huge first round for him as he tallied 8 points in the series to lead Steinbach in that category.
#8 – Record-breaking seasons
It was a milestone season for a couple of Pistons players and their Head Coach. Bradley Schoonbaert broke Pistons record for goals (36) and points (91) in a season, and moved into second place in franchise history in goals, assists, and points behind Dan Taillefer.
Darby Gula was rewarded with the Top MJHL Defenceman this season, and he set the Pistons record for assists (47) and points in a season by a defenceman (61, previously held by Tyler Anderson). He also tied Kyle Rous’ record for goals by a defenceman this year (14).
Head Coach Paul Dyck also made MJHL history in early February, earning his 250th win as the bench boss of Steinbach, and moving into 10th place for all time wins by a coach in the MJHL. He was the fastest coach to ever reach the 250 win milestone, doing it in just 376 games.
#7 – Pistons achieve first 100-point season
Heading into the final week of the regular season, the Pistons had clinched first place in the MJHL standings for the second consecutive season. The big question was if they get to triple digits by the end of the year.
Steinbach had 96 points heading into two pivotal clashes with the Portage Terriers and the Winkler Flyers. The previous franchise high was 99 points set in 2016-17.
Matt Radomsky recorded his 8th shutout of the season in a 2-0 victory over Portage in the home finale of the regular season, and Steinbach went into Winkler and clipped the Flyers 4-2, securing them their first 100-point season in franchise history.
#6 – Game 6, Second Round vs Winnipeg
The Pistons were in a hard-fought series against the Winnipeg Blues. Each game up until that point had been decided by 1 goal or 2 goals in the series. The Blues were riding high after knocking out the three-time defending MJHL champion Portage Terriers in the previous round, and Steinbach’s major obstacle was goaltender Jeremy Link, who was on fire in the playoffs.
It was a split crowd at the BellMTS Iceplex for Game 6. One half were Blues fans, the other were the road Pistons fans. The Blues were desperate to stay alive in the series, and were tied with Steinbach 1-1 midway through the game.
On a power play, Braden Purtill took the puck coast-to-coast and beat Link to the backhand side giving Steinbach a 2-1 lead. Drew Worrad added the insurance marker the Pistons would need, cutting across the middle on a 2-on-1 and putting the puck top corner for a 3-1 lead.
The lead proved to be too much for Winnipeg to overcome, as Steinbach would win Game 6 3-2 sending their fans home loud and happy. The win put the Pistons in the MJHL final for the 3rd time in 4 years.
#5 – Game 3, Second Round vs Winnipeg
In one of the games of the year at the TG Smith Centre, the Pistons found themselves in trouble in Game 3 as Winnipeg would look to take a huge 2-1 series lead back to Game 4.
The Blues had all the momentum in the second period, heavily outshooting Steinbach and putting on tons of pressure in the offensive zone. But thanks to Matthew Thiessen, the Pistons were able to escape the middle frame down 2-1.
Winnipeg extended their lead to 3-1 early in the third, and the way the series was going, it looked like the two-goal lead would stand.
Cue the comeback.
The Pistons came out flying right after the Winnipeg goal, and got power play goals from Brady Tatro and Riese Gaber to tie it up. Then on another Pistons power play, Bradley Schoonbaert found captain Braden Purtill cross-ice and his wrist shot found the yawning cage to give the Pistons the lead.
The Pistons would add an unusual empty-netter late, as a misfortunate hop in their own zone resulted in an Blues own goal. Steinbach snatched victory away from the Blues, giving them a 2-1 series lead heading to Winnipeg.
#4 – Game 3 vs Virden Oil Capitals – MJHL Final
It was the first ever playoff meeting between the Pistons and the Virden Oil Capitals, and it was for the Turnbull Cup. It was also a highly emotional series, due to the tragic events of April 6th involving the SJHL’s Humboldt Broncos.
The Oil Caps grabbed the first two games of the series thanks to late third period goals. Game 3 was a virtual must-win for Steinbach if they wanted to get back in the series.
The Pistons got off to a great start and took a 3-1 lead, but Virden stormed back in the second to tie the game at 3 heading into the third period. The Pistons would regain the lead in the third period, as former Humboldt player Daniel McKitrick scored the eventual game-winner on the power play.
It was an powerful moment for McKitrick and all of the fans, as he pointed up to the heavens after putting the puck in the back of the net in honour of his former Broncos teammates. The Pistons would add another in the third to win 5-3, and the win got them back into the MJHL championship series.
#3 – Pistons win 2nd Turnbull Cup in Franchise History
After beating Virden 4-0 in Game 4, and 7-1 in Game 5, the Pistons travelled to the Tundra Oil and Gas Place in Virden looking to win four straight in the MJHL championship series. After Virden took the lead 1-0 in the first, Riese Gaber and Brendan Martin scored two quick goals on Oil Caps netminder Riley McVeigh and took a 2-1 lead into the first period.
Virden came close to tying it on multiple occasions, but ultimately the one-goal proved to be enough as Matthew Thiessen and the defense of Steinbach came through in the second and third periods, as the Pistons defeated the Virden Oil Caps 2-1 to lift their 2nd Turnbull Cup in franchise history.
For all involved with the Pistons, it was a huge weight lifted off of their shoulders after spending 5 years trying to win it all again after coming up empty in the past 4 seasons.
#2 – Pistons represent the West at the 2018 RBC Cup
The goal for every junior A team in Canada is to get to the Canadian national championship, the RBC Cup. Above the Pistons dressing room entrance to the ice surface, the RBC Cup logo sat above the door with the phrase “Our Journey Ends Here”.
Steinbach got the chance this year, and ventured out to Chilliwack, B.C. to represent Manitoba and Saskatchewan at the national junior ‘A’ championship. They played the best teams across Canada in a week-long tournament trying to earn their way to becoming national champions.
Although Steinbach did not win a game in the tournament, this year’s Pistons showed that this team could hang with the best of the best in our country. The tournament solidified Steinbach as an organization that is amongst the best junior A franchises in Canada.
#1 – Pistons win first ever ANAVET Cup on Home Ice
The Pistons faced off against the Nipawin Hawks of the SJHL for the right to head to the RBC Cup. After Nipawin scored with just over a minute left in the third to win Game 1, Braden Purtill scored twice in the third period as the Pistons scored three in the frame to tie up the series with a Game 2 victory.
Steinbach would travel to one of the noisiest barns in junior A hockey in Nipawin for a week’s worth of hockey, and would go on to win two important games. They silenced the raucous crowd with a 6-2 Game 3 victory, and a 2-1 Game 5 win thanks to the game-winner scored by Jack Johnson after Nipawin tied the series up in Game 4.
The Pistons would return home with a 3-2 series lead, and a chance to win the ANAVET Cup on home ice. After the teams exchanged a goal in the first and second period, three-year Pistons forward Bradley Schoonbaert scored the biggest goal of his junior career in his final home game, as he sniped one from the slot to give the Pistons a 2-1 lead in the third.
The lead would hold up as Steinbach defeated Nipawin in six games in the best moment in Steinbach’s hockey history, and gave them a spot in the RBC Cup later that week with an ANAVET Cup title.
Thanks for looking back with us! We are looking forward to our 10th anniversary season in 2018-19, and we hope you can join us as well. #GoPistonsGo!