After already dethroning the past three season’s victor, Portage Terriers, the Pistons defeated the Virden Oil Capitals in six games Saturday, much to the demise of the capacity crowd gathered at Tundra Oil & Gas Place in Virden.
It wasn’t an easy journey for Steinbach, as the Oil Capitals jumped out to an early 2-0 series lead. The Pistons battled back, winning four-straight games, ripping the championship right out of Virden’s hands.
Although striking first in scoring the opening goal of game six, the Oil Caps fell apart shortly after, allowing Riese Gaber to knot the game up at ones just 36 seconds after Ben Dalke’s first period marker.
Recently acquired Brendan Martin then scored less than a minute after Gaber’s goal – the eventual game-winner, capping off a run of four-straight wins to pick up the Turnbull Cup and take it back to Steinbach.
Although playing without injured forward Will Koop, the Pistons relied on their depth to produce points. Playoff MVP Drew Worrad put up 18 points in the playoffs, while teammates Bradley Schoonbaert (17 points) and Mark Taraschuck (16 points) finished two and three in league scoring.
The MJHL championship finished off an exciting couple months for the Taraschuk family, as Mark’s younger sister Lauren helped guide the University of Manitoba Bisons to a Canada West championship, as well as the school’s first National Championship.
Pistons’ netminder Matthew Thiessen stopped 25 of 26 shots fired his way on Saturday, and collected the Top Goaltender of the Playoffs honours, while allowing only two goals against in the series’ final three games.
Now as league champs, Head Coach Paul Dyck and his Steinbach Pistons will move on to the Anavet Cup, a battle between the winners of the Manitoba and Saskatchewan Junior Hockey Leagues. This best-of-seven series will determine who moves on to the RBC Cup in Chilliwack, British Columbia this May.
Currently, the Nipawin Hawks and Estevan Bruins are tied at three-games-apiece, with game seven of the SJHL Canalta Cup scheduled for Tuesday evening in Nipawin.
The SJHL playoffs are slightly behind schedule due to the six-day break from hockey imposed by the governing bodies following the tragic accident involving the Humboldt Broncos three weeks ago. The Broncos were travelling to Nipawin to play the Hawks when their team bus collided with a semi truck, killing 16 team members, and injuring the rest.
Daniel McKitrick – a former member of the Humboldt Broncos, and current Steinbach Piston, originally from Nunavut – celebrated an extremely emotional championship with his Pistons teammates Saturday.
The Pistons will host games one and two from T.G. Smith Centre in Steinbach on Friday and Saturday evenings, while the series will shift to Saskatchewan for games three, four and five, before returning to Manitoba for games six and seven – if necessary.