The Steinbach Pistons three-game winning streak was snapped on Wednesday as they were blanked by the Virden Oil Capital 3-0 to kick off a 5 game home-stand.
Virden came out strong in the first period, hemming Steinbach into their own zone for periods of time.
Although they were on their heels for much of the first period, they were able to keep the Oil Caps to the outside for the most part and give goalie Matt Radomsky clear lanes to see pucks from a distance.
When it was all said and done, the shots favoured Virden 12-6 but it was scoreless after 20.
Head coach Paul Dyck was not impressed with the way his team came out on home ice. "I thought there were two positives of the first period," the veteran bench boss said after the game. "One is that the period ended and the second was that it was scoreless. There's not much more to take away from that period."
The lone bright spots were a couple hard checks thrown by Cater Loney and Easton Bennett.
Steinbach did turn it up a notch in the second and had a couple of good chances on goal but it was a breakdown on a power play that resulted in Virden's first goal of the game, a shorthanded marker to make it 1-0.
Virden had 14 shots in the second to the Pistons 5.
From Bad To Worse To Even Worse
The Pistons came out looking for a spark in the third period, despite being outshot 26-11, they were only down one goal... until 12 seconds into the period when Virden capitalized on a lucky bounce off the glass behind the net to make it 2-0.
If there was any doubt about the outcome, it was sealed when Virden cashed in again with just over a minute remaining in the game to take a 3-0 lead in a nearly perfect road game.
Steinbach had more chances to the net but never overly tested the Oil Caps goalie.
Matt Radomsky did all he could to give his team a chance to win finishing the night with 31 saves.
The penalty kill was perfect against one of the top-ranked power play units going 6/6 on the night but the power play was not good finishing 0/4 with a shorthanded goal allowed.
Dyck summed up the game with a couple of different words. "Disappointing, we were lethargic. There's a lot of ways to describe it and none of them are very positive. We were never engaged in this game until maybe the third period. It's very disappointing. Their top guys were better than our top guys. They controlled the game and it was just a very lacklustre effort."
Trying to mine for positives there were a few, including how despite giving up 26 shots through two periods, not many were considered "grade A" type of chances. "I thought we were in decent spots on the ice in the d-zone. But, there was no real urgency. We had chances to jump on loose pucks and close off some plays earlier but they just spent extended time and we got chasing."
The Pistons have been cutting a pretty clear path to the penalty box of late.
As a team, they 6th in the league with 899 minutes in penalties.
Since the turn of the calendar, the Pistons have had 8 games and the amount of power plays they've given up in that time are as follows: 1 vs Neepawa, 3 vs Dauphin, 5 vs Neepawa, 5 vs Winnipeg, 5 vs OCN and 14 combined between back to back games vs the Waywayseecappo Wolverines.
In those 7 games, they've only given up 3 power play goals.
On Wednesday, more penalty trouble as the Pistons took 6 minor penalties and Dyck is pretty tired of it. "We took three hooking penalties, a crosschecking penalty, a double spearing penalty... so that's a lot of minutes in stick penalties. We're spending a ton of energy killing penalties and it's very difficult to generate any offence or gain momentum when you're in the box the whole night. It's been an issue for some time with our team. We're discussing it with the group but it seems to be all lip service it seems. Until the guys make a change and commit to playing a more disciplined game with their sticks, it's going to continue."
A Message Has Been Delivered
Matt Radomsky showed frustration at times throughout the game and Dyck says it was a wake-up call for some. "Rads is a leader on this team and he recognized how we had a few passengers on this team. He has a birds-eye view of that and it's disappointing when you're battling and playing well, and you're seeing the majority of your teammates not pulling on the rope. He came into the room afterwards and he had some words for our group. Hopefully, they were received and come Friday, we apply what we've talked about today."
Help Not Coming
Steinbach was without three top six forwards on Wednesday with Nico Labossiere, Brendan Westbrook and Kyle Bettens all out of the lineup. Dyck updated their status and if they'd be back come Friday.
"Westbrook, definitely not. We're not sure on Labossiere at this stage or not sure on Bettens either. So, we'll know more (Thursday) but still be somewhat shorthanded through the weekend."
A big pair of games that will put the Steinbach Pistons to the test and it starts Friday night vs the Waywayseecappo Wolverines who are coming in off a win over the Neepawa Natives on Wednesday and are looking to not only get back into the playoff picture in the MJHL but also dole out some retribution after back to back losses over the weekend in which they feel were close, winnable games.
Dyck knows his team has to be ready right from the start, or else. "I don't think another word needs to be said (tonight.) I know nobody likes the feeling that is there in the room right now, so we just have to be better in so many areas and it starts with between the ears. We need to be prepared, be prepared to battle and be engaged in the hockey game, right from the opening faceoff.
After Waywayseecappo on Friday night, the Pistons continue their 5 game home stand vs the Winnipeg Blues on Saturday night.