The Manitoba Junior Hockey Leagues' newest team, the Niverville Nighthawks, played their first-ever game at the Niverville Recreation Centre and sent the home fans home happy picking up a 3-2 exhibition win over the Steinbach Pistons.
It took both teams a few minutes early on in the game to knock the summer rust off.
As things moved along, both teams picked up the pace and quality of play.
Niverville got on the board first taking advantage of a power play opportunity as Owen Arnold snapped home his first of the pre-season to make it 1-0 for the home side. Aidan Balance and Brendan Bottem were given the assists on the opening marker.
Nick Mikan answered back quickly for the Pistons as the 18-year-old power forward showed off his speed, drive, and hands as he cut around the Nighthawks defender, pulled the puck around the goalie, and tucked in his first to tie the game 1-1. Defender Ethan Johnson had the lone helper on the goal.
Another power play just after the mid-way point of the first gave Niverville their lead back as Ty Kennett deflected a puck that hit the Steinbach goalie and just snuck through to make it 2-1. Zak Kennett and Arnold had the helpers.
Less than a minute into the second period, Steinbach evened things up again as returning forward Neo Kiemeney showed off some quick hands burying his first of the exhibition season to knot the game at 2-2.
In the third, strong work from the Nighthawks won them a couple of puck battles allowing them to work the puck around down in the Steinbach zone. Eventually, the puck made its way to the point where a shot was again deflected, this time by Kennan Reyelts putting Niverville up 3-2. Ethan Kelly and Merik Boles had the assists.
Steinbach pushed for the equalizer but ran out of time and the Niverville Nighthawks picked up their first pre-season win, 3-2.
"It was awesome", Niverville head coach Kelvin Cech said after the game. "When the guys saluted the crowd at the end, it shows they really get the support that we have here. I feel good for the guys that they have this kind of support and it just makes it more fun."
Cech adds there are a few positives to take away while knowing there is still much more to give as a team. "I thought we had a bunch of jump early and then both teams were kinda sloppy with the puck. Both teams got more urgent without it. I thought we improved as the game went along and the game itself just settled down and looked like an actual hockey game by the end of it."
For Pistons coach Paul Dyck, he was glad to get to see some players in game situations. "It's a good opportunity to see guys for the first time. Literally, we had two guys in the lineup that haven't even been at camp yet. Of course, we're only two days into camp so it's all new to a lot of guys out there. For us, I think we saw what we needed to see today. That's what these games are for. Guys are cutting their teeth out there. As we go on, we'll start injecting guys in that we've seen before."
Nighthawks goalie Raiden Legall played two periods making 14 saves on 16 shots before Levi Hall came in for the third and was a perfect 8 for 8.
Pistons goalie Sean Walia played the whole game and made 28 saves on 31 shots against.
Shots were 31-24 for Niverville.
The Nighthawks were 2-7 on the power play while the Pistons were 0-2.
Steinbach's next exhibition game is Wednesday at the TG Smith Centre as they'll welcome in the Winkler Flyers.
Niverville will host the Selkirk Steelers Wednesday night.