Led by captain Braden Purtill, standout defenceman Mark Taraschuk and Manitoba Junior Hockey League Coach of the Year Paul Dyck, the Pistons cruised to victory over their Saskatchewan counterpart at home in the T.G. Smith Arena Monday.
In a tight province vs. province best-of-seven series that saw the Manitoba Junior Hockey League champ (Steinbach) face off against the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League champ (Nipawin) the Manitobans finished off their rival in a low-scoring thriller from southern Manitoba.
Brady Tatro put the Pistons on the board first, less than three minutes into the game, before Wayde Johannesson knotted the game up at two midway through the second period. The goaltenders kept the game as low-scoring as it was with highlight reel save after highlight reel save.
It wasn’t until the seven minute mark of the third period that high-flying forward Bradley Schoonbaert put Steinbach atop the scoreboard once and for all. His game winner came with 13:23 to play in the third.
Matthew Thiessen stopped 22 of 23 shots for the Pistons, while Declan Hobbs turned aside 25 of 27 pucks for the Hawks.
Monday’s victory for Steinbach marked the first Anavet Cup championship for an MJHL team since 2011 (Portage Terriers). Drew Worrad collected Anavet Cup MVP honours after leading the Pistons in scoring with nine points.
It was an emotional series for both the Pistons and Hawks, as it was these same Nipawin Hawks that the Humboldt Broncos were travelling to for a playoff game a month ago when the team bus was involved in a tragically fatal collision en route. Many players in the series had played with or against some of the 16 lost in the wreck.
With the series victory, the Steinbach Pistons have earned their way into the RBC Cup held in Chilliwack B.C. from May 12th to 21st. In order to advance to the national Junior ‘A’ championship, the Pistons won four best-of-seven series, along with the Turnbull and Anavet Cups.