In their first exhibition game of the year, the Steinbach Pistons beat the Winkler Flyers 5-1 with three of the goals coming from defensemen.
Being the first exhibition game and both teams dressing a younger lineup, it took some time for the players to adjust to the speed of play and how little time their opponents would give them.
As always between these two clubs, things got chippy as just past the midway point of the first, Steinbach defender Kasen Mateychuk was in a vulnerable position then drilled into the boards leaving him slow to get up.
The play resulted in a 2:00 minor penalty for boarding. Mateychuk stayed on the bench for the rest of the period but did not play. He did not return for the second or third period.
During that power play, 18-year-old Liam Doyle fired a puck from the point that found its way home to make it 1-0. Carson White and Jackson Kostiuk had the helpers.
Steinbach's penalty kill was put to work late in the first period but the short-handed units came away with the kill, keeping it 1-0 heading into the second.
Power plays early in the second frame gave the Pistons a chance to pull away but despite some good looks, they couldn't capitalize.
Returning defender Noah Szabo was clipped with a high stick drawing blood which gave the Pistons a double minor to work with but they couldn't score.
On yet another man advantage, it would be the Flyers finding the back of the net as they floated a point shot that made its way through traffic and in, knotting the game up 1-1.
The game wasn't tied for long as Eli Antoine, a 19-year-old from LaSalle, Quebec crashed the net after a good drive by Job Peters and cashed in to put the Pistons back up 2-1. Along with Peters, Southwest Cougar standout Jayce Thompson also was credited with an assist.
Just over a minute later, Pistons forward Connor Paronuzzi from Emeryville, Ontario led a two-on-one with Wyatt Mattfield from Bemidji, Minnesota, who put his head down and drove the net hard, pulling all the attention towards him, allowing just a sliver of room short side for Paronuzzi who showcased his elite goalscoring, wiring home the 3-1 marker. Mattfield didn't get an assist but was key in the goal. Doyle collected his second point of the night with one assist while Szabo nabbed a point as well.
In the third, the Pistons pulled away but it came at the price of more pain for the 19-year-old Szabo.
Early in the third, another stick came up and clipped Szabo in the face again drawing blood for a double minor. "You know, the nose is feeling alright, mouth is a little bit worse... but we just gotta keep going." He said with a smile post-game.
On that four-minute advantage, 18-year-old Shane Burns from San Clemente, California showcased his excellent hands and calmness as he managed to keep a puck in at the blue line, walk in, pick his spot, and fire a puck past the goalie to extend the lead to 4-1. Peters earned his second assist of the night while Antoine capped off a tidy two-point effort with the secondary assist.
Doyle, who started the scoring in the first, potted his second of the game and final goal of the contest on the same power play, making it a 5-1 contest. Reeve Sukut who played on a line with Kostiuk and White, arguably the Piston's best line all night, collected one of the helpers while Eric Cote grabbed the other.
Both Pistons goalies were strong making saves from distance and in tight.
Chase Furlong was 17/17 while Brant Catellier was 11/12.
After the game, Doyle talked about his first taste of MJHL action. "It was a good game. The boys came out flying. We got pucks in deep, went hard at them, and played the way Paul (Dyck) wanted us to play. (Scoring) is huge for the confidence. We've only played inter-squad games on small ice, it's been a little choppy for me. To come out and get a couple really helps my confidence."
The product of Essex, Ontario who spent last year with the Chatham Maroons adds he's not afraid to get right in the middle of the longstanding Pistons/Flyers rivalry. "It's fun for sure. I never like to back down from any physicality. It's a fun way to play, it keeps you aware on the backend and it makes you go even quicker. You could feel the rivalry tonight, there were a few extra chops after the whistle. I love it. Keeps you into the game, that's for sure."
Steinbach's pre-season games will be played in Steinbach at the TG Smith. Their first of two exhibition home games is Saturday vs Winkler.