It took some massive penalty-killing work but the Steinbach Pistons put in the effort and were rewarded with a 5-2 win over the Selkirk Steelers, extending their winning streak to 8 games.
In early moments, Steinbach established the physical play with 18-year-old Noah Szabo setting the tone with a great, hard check at the Pistons blueline.
On top of that, Dominik Wasik was called on to make a massive pad save after a Steeler broke in all alone with a partial breakaway. The 20-year-old Colorado product tracked the shooter as he went to his forehand, stretching out his right pad for a sensational save.
In the opening minutes of the first period and with Steinbach already short-handed, a questionable penalty call put the Pistons down 5 on 3 for just under a minute and while the Steelers couldn't capitalize on the two-man advantage, they did score after a Piston came out of the box to grab a 1-0 lead, less than five minutes in.
Steinbach didn't wait long to respond.
On a power play of their own, the Pistons worked the puck around the Steeler's zone, outworking their opponent which eventually led to Nick Mikan scoring on a wraparound to tie the game 1-1.
For Mikan, it was his 11th of the year. Nate Goodbrandson and Ian Amsbaugh had the assists.
A few minutes later, Leo Chambers took a breakout pass from Mikan, turned on the jets, and tore into the Selkirk zone. Defender Warren Clark jumped into the play, took a pass from Chambers, and fired a puck off a Selkirk defender's shinpads and through the five-hole of the goalie for his 4th of the year.
Less than two minutes after that, it was Landon Roberts cashing in off a great pass from Davis Fry to make it 3-1. Dawson Milliken also picked up an assist as that line continues to dominate.
For Roberts, it extends his point streak to 7 games while Fry leads the MJHL in assists with 31 and points with 45. Milliken has chipped in 4 points in his last two games, as well.
Travis Hensrud capped off the scoring in the first with his 19th of the year. The 20-year-old from Thunder Bay sits just one off the MJHL goal-scoring lead. Neo Kiemeny picked up a helper, giving him 3 points in his last 3 games, while former Steeler Spencer Penner also collected an assist.
Steinbach took a 4-1 lead into the first intermission.
In the second, the Piston's penalty kill was put to work a couple of times but managed to do the job, keeping it the same 4-1 score through the entire second period.
Rookie Brett Kaiser, getting into the lineup with Ty Paisley at Team Canada West, had a couple of good chances and set up his teammates for a few chances as well in that middle period.
In the third, more penalty trouble put Steinbach in a tough spot.
Defenseman Langley Kruggel was given a 5-minute penalty for checking from behind.
Selkirk managed to score to cut the lead to 4-2 before they took a penalty themselves and cut out all but just over a minute of the major man advantage.
While Kruggel's major was still on the board but after the Steeler's penalty had expired, Hugo Larkin tried to go after a Steelers player.
Larkin dropped his gloves, but the Steelers player did not.
Larkin was given the rarely-seen 7:00 penalty. 2 minutes for instigating, 5-minutes for fighting, and a game misconduct.
With no Kruggel and no Larkin, the defensive core of Spencer Penner, Warren Clark, Noah Szabo, and Josh Nelson were tasked to kill off basically the rest of regulation shorthanded.
The four-man defensive unit, combined with some excellent work from forwards Hunter Degelman, Davin Griffin, Dawson Milliken, Leo Chambers, Neo Kiemeney, Travis Hensrud, Landon Roberts, and Davis Fry, along with some amazingly timely saves from goalie Dominik Wasik, helped Steinbach kill off the entire 7-minute power play for Selkirk.
In the final seconds, after all the dust had settled and all the penalties had been served, Leo Chambers put the game away for his club, scoring his 10th of the year from Degelman and Kiemeney.
Wasik finished the game with 22 saves for his 12th win of the year.
Cole Plowman didn't get into the game but like Penner, is a former Steeler. He said it was great to get the win even though it felt a little weird coming in through the visitor's entrance. "I looked and saw where I used to park," the 19-year-old said with a laugh. "There's a lot of good people here. But, I'm really happy in Steinbach. It's the most fun I've had in hockey in quite some time. I'm really happy."
Steinbach's power play was a solid 1-4 while the penalty kill finished 6 of 8.
A home-and-home with the Niverville Nighthawks awaits the Pistons, starting on Friday night at the CRRC in Niverville.