In the first meeting of the long-time rivals this season, the Pistons executed their game plan almost to perfection as they dominated the Portage Terriers en route to a commanding 6-1 win.
The top line of Travis Hensrud, Ty Paisley, and Davis Fry didn't wait long to get Steinbach on the board. In fact, it took the trio just 14 seconds after the puck dropped to open the game to make it 1-0 Steinbach.
Off the faceoff, Portage mishandled the puck in their own zone, Paisley sealed off the wall, took the puck, and flipped it over to Fry who found Hensrud streaking in where he made no mistake cashing in for his 13th goal of the season.
Scoring 14 seconds into the contest set a new Pistons record for the fastest goal to open a hockey game. The previous record was 15 seconds and was shared by Cam Hildebrand, who got it on January 16th, 2010, and Julien Koga who did it on Oct 28th, 2016.
After going up a goal, penalty trouble threatened to get the Terriers back to even but incredible goaltending from Dominik Wasik who made several, eye-popping, Terrier frustrating saves, combined with strong defensive zone awareness, fearless blocks, and timely clears kept Portage off the scoreboard despite having almost six consecutive minutes of 5 on 4 time.
Part of that elite penalty kill was Hunter Degelman. In the final seconds of killing off their third straight minor, Degelman wheeled the puck out of his own zone, through the neutral zone, and into Terrier territory where he snapped off a wonderful wrist shot through the legs of a Portage defender that rang off the far post and in to double the Pistons lead, 2-0.
That was the second goal of the year for the 19-year-old heart and soul player Degelman. Noah Szabo, who once again continued to gain confidence and ramp up his strong play, picked up the lone assist.
In the third, both teams did their best to limit time and space which resulted in few scoring chances.
Steinbach's power play unit had a couple of chances at the end of the first and into the early second but they couldn't find the back of the net.
That changed when on the fourth consecutive power play chance, a point shot from Warren Clark sailed high over the net, hit off the glass behind the goal, and bounced right back out over the crossbar and behind the goalie where Hensrud was waiting to knock it out of the air for his second of the game and 14th of the year. Ty Paisley also picked up an assist on the 3-0.
Wasik was a rock tuning away every Terrier chance from in tight, off the rush, point shots, or jam plays. He kept piling up the saves.
Finally, the Terriers were able to solve him after a tough giveaway in the defensive zone let the Terriers work the puck around, and cut the lead to 3-1.
Things seemed to be tilting in the Terrier's favor. After the goal, they earned another power play chance but couldn't cut deeper into the lead before the period was through. Once the horn sounded, a Terrier defender went after Ian Amsbaugh and both players were wrestled to the ice.
When the dust settled, it was Portage getting a roughing penalty plus a roughing after the whistle minor. What was supposed to be a power play, put them short-handed and cut into their comeback plans.
Steinbach couldn't capitalize on the 4-on-4 to start the third nor the power play that followed.
Leo Chambers, who was buzzing all night in all three zones, did capitalize after a Terrier player was clipped with a high stick and down on the ice in the Piston's zone (the Terriers didn't touch the puck which is why the whistle didn't go). Clark again was involved as the defender who just committed to the NCAA Div 1 program St. Cloud, bobbed and weaved his way through the Terrier defense, dished it over to Chambers who snapped off a beauty shot short-side for his 7th, putting Steinbach up 4-1.
Coming off a two-goal game against the Winkler Flyers, Nick Mikan continued his hot streak as the 18-year-old picked up his 5th of the year cashing in after fighting for space in front of the Terriers net and winning the battle for a loose puck. Clark notched his third assist of the game while Josh Nelson also picked up a helper in his return to action after missing the last couple of weeks due to injury.
The newest member of the club, Kirk Mullen, capped off the scoring for Steinbach notching his first as a Piston while on a power play. Chambers and Amsbaugh picked up the assists on the 6-1 goal that sent a few Terriers fans to the exit early.
Things got chippy towards the end of the game as Daniel O'Neill mixed it up with a couple of Terriers but overall the fireworks were kept to a minimum and Steinbach came away with the 6-1 victory.
Wasik finished with 39 saves and was named the game's 2nd star for his incredible effort.
Steinbach's power play clicked twice finishing 2-7 while the penalty kill was a perfect 5-5.
Next up for the Pistons is a visit to Niverville to battle the Nighthawks. Wednesday night at the CRRC with puck drop set for 7:30 pm.