A strong defensive effort and a hard-fought comeback produced victories for the Steinbach Pistons as they extended their recent winning streak to 10 games.
On Friday, the Pistons traveled to take on the Portage Terriers and thanks to a pair of power-play goals from Noah Szabo, some strong defensive play and key saves by Cole Plowman, the visitors came away with a 2-1 win.
Before the puck dropped, the Terriers honored their long-time head coach Blake Spiller as in the previous game, he became the winningest coach in MJHL history, racking up 671 regular season career wins.
Once the game got underway, Portage came out strong but Steinbach weathered the storm and pushed back.
After a Terrier penalty, Steinbach went to work on the man advantage. Noah Szabo scored his 10th of the year after making a nice move at the blue line, whipping a puck through traffic and into the back of the net. Grady Hoffman and Connor Paronuzzi picked up the assists.
It was another power play in the second that gave the Pistons a 2-0 lead and again, it was the creative work of Szabo who took a great pass from Leo Chambers, waltzed in, and wired a wrister home for his 11th of the campaign.
Portage would cut the lead on a power play of their own with under three minutes to go in the second, bringing the score to 2-1 heading into the third.
The final frame was uncharacteristic for these long-time rivals as neither team managed to do a whole lot, which was just fine by Steinbach as they clamped down and rode out the clock to a 2-1 victory.
Plowman finished with 19 saves on the night and while they weren't the highest of quality, the 20-year-old did make timely saves, especially in the final minutes, even after being run into early causing what looked to be an upper-body issue. Plowman battled through and notched win number 20 on the year and another game where he allowed just one goal.
Steinbach's power play was 2-6 and the penalty kill was 3-4.
On Sunday afternoon, the Pistons were back on home ice and despite going down 2-0 early in the second, rattled off 5 straight goals to skate away with a 5-2 win over the Neepawa Titans.
In the first period, Steinbach dominated with puck control with brought good chances on goal but couldn't find the game's opening marker.
The Titans did manage to open the scoring, burying a great shot off a turnover in the d-zone to take a 1-0 lead.
Shots were 18-7 Steinbach after the first, but the team trailed heading into the second.
While on a power play in the first minute of the middle frame, the Titans managed to score on a shorthanded breakaway to expand the lead to 2-0.
Time after time, the Pistons put together good, hard forechecking shifts that resulted in chances but nothing was going in.
That was until Connor Paronuzzi helped force a turnover in the neutral zone, blazed a path into the Titans zone, and dished a perfect pass to a cutting Grady Hoffman who netted his 20th of the season. Liam Doyle also picked up an assist on the strike that put Steinbach down by just one.
It looked as though Steinbach had tied the game as Spencer Penner roared in from the point and wired a shot home but the play was blown dead before the goal on an interference penalty taken by Steinbach.
The Pistons killed off the penalty and kept it 2-1 heading into the final frame.
Penner would get his revenge and it would count this time.
After some great work down low, Brett Kaiser filtered a pass to Trey Sauder who wired one off the post. The rebound came right out and Penner pounced like a puma, slamming it into the open net for his 2nd of the year.
Hoffman would give the Pistons a lead a few minutes later on a power play, but it wasn't as easy as that.
Steinbach worked the puck around the zone and had the Titans chasing. A shot was deflected by Hoffman that appeared to go under the crossbar and in but there was no signal from the official.
The referee didn't wave it a goal or no goal, there was simply no signal at all. Fans in that part of the rink hollered that it should be a goal and all the players on the ice reacted as if it went it. However, there was no whistle, and play carried on.
At the next stoppage in play, the officials got together and after a brief meeting, they awarded the goal to Hoffman, his second of the game, putting Steinbach on top for the first time in the game, 3-1.
For Hoffman, his rookie scoring and team-leading 21st goal was assisted by Brandon Funk and Paronuzzi, who picked up his third point of the weekend.
Neepawa had a chance to tie the game late on a power play. They pulled the goalie to go 6 on 4 but it backfired as Steinbach won a board battle, getting the puck to Penner who aimed and fired into the yawning cage his second of the night.
With 5 seconds left, Penner dumped the puck and Kirk Mullen busted his tail to win a battle, getting the puck freed and putting home Steinbach's second empty-net goal, making it a 5-2 game.
According to stats guru Russ Dyck, it's the first time in Pistons history they've scored two empty-net goals in the same game.
Cole Plowman wasn't tested early but the goalie came up huge after the second goal allowed, keeping his team in the game until the offense could go to work.
His 17 saves helped get him his 21st win which is tied for the MJHL lead but he owns the best winning percentage for a goalie who's played more than 20 games. Also, his 1.88 goals-against average is number 1 in the MJHL while his save percentage of .930 is third in the league.
Steinbach's power play was 1 for 6 while the penalty kill was 3-3. Both teams scored a shorthanded goal.
Steinbach will head out on a three-game road trip starting Wednesday night in Niverville. After a day off on Thursday, the Pistons travel to Winkler on Friday followed by an adventure to Dauphin to take on the Kings on Saturday.