The Steinbach Pistons had a number of players out of the lineup and lost a defender in the first due to injury but put forth a solid, workman like effort, just falling short in the end in a 4-3 loss to the Portage Terriers in overtime.
Hard Work Lead To Success
The Pistons went into the game with 10 forwards but to a man, every one of them went into the contest with their work boots on and put together a strong opening five minutes of the first.
Steinbach got the first goal on a delayed penalty as after a great, forceful entry by Tanner Mole put the puck behind the Portage net and fought to get it to Boedey Vaeth along the side boards. As Vaeth set up, Troy Beauchemin darted to the net and Vaeth hit him with a perfect pass and Beauchemin directed home his 3rd of the year.
Less than a minute after scoring, Beauchemin was assessed a minor for slashing and the MJHL's best power play converted to tie the game 1-1.
Beauchemin struck again to close out the period as a hardworking shift from David Queree and Max Neil out hustled and out battled the Terriers and directed a puck towards the net that Beauchemin one handed into the open cage after fighting his way to the net for the 2-1 lead.
With the second goal of the game, Beauchemin put together two goal game in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.
Breaking The Streak
Another strong second period followed a strong first as the Pistons were backstopped by Matt Lenz who made several big saves before Steinbach was put on the power play.
Curtis Ireland got the play started with a good, fast entry into the offensive zone which was partially broken up by the Terriers and they rimmed the puck trying to get it out but the boards were sealed off the Caydin Cleland and it resulted in Boedey Vaeth's 17th of the year after Vaeth took the puck from Cleland and circled into the slot. Mole provided the screen and Vaeth put Steinbach up 3-1 with the lone assist going to Cleland.
The third was similar to the first two period as Steinbach continued to work the clock down but with under five minutes to go, Portage got within one and then managed to tie the game up with just over 90 seconds remaining and the goalie pulled.
A late penalty against the Pistons put them down a man but the Pistons held on and nursed a 3-3 game into overtime.
After managing to kill off the penalty early in the overtime period, both teams kept the pace down till about a minute or so remaining. Then both teams cranked it up and traded chances and with only 8.8 seconds remaining in the extra period, Portage was able to score to come away with the bonus point.
The power play finished 1-2 and the leagues best penalty kill finished 2-3 including killing off over a minute of 4 on 3 in overtime.
The final shots on goal were 52-20 Portage.
Matt Lenz...Enough Said
Matt Lenz was nothing short of spectacular on the night as he finished with 48 saves in the overtime loss. Lenz made key saves at big times, had excellent rebound control and fought hard to freeze pucks with many Terriers either coming close or flat out crashing into him.
Head coach Paul Dyck was not happy about the result but couldn't fault the effort from a depleted lineup. "We brought the effort we expected from our group and we just fell short. I don't think we managed the final minutes well but our guys might have been tired. We had a lot of young guys playing in larger roles then they have so far this year. It's a gutsy effort and young guys really stepped up. (Troy) Beauchemin and DQ (David Queree) really played well and Lenzy was spectacular."
Its two games in a row that didn't produce the desired result but Dyck is very encouraged heading into the post-season. "We know there's a lot there with our group. We've seen the good, the bad and the ugly with this group after Christmas and during that 7 game winning streak, we were winning games we shouldn't have and I don't think it resonated with our team just how many holes we had in our game. These last two games, we've played well. The effort has been at a level where it hasn't been in quite some time. There are key guys outa the lineup and we're in games being very short handed. The guys are starting to see how much work ethic pays off."
The coach talked about the feeling in the locker room after the game. "We have a group that cares. I know they're disappointed. No one went into to tonight thinking we're short handed and we just wanna keep it close. They came here with the intention of winning and they were very disappointed at the end, which they should be. I'm glad to see that but they can leave here with their heads held high. We managed the game well, managed our energy level. There are positives.
Steinbach was without Troy Williams, Nico Labossiere, Brendan Martin, Riley Vautour and Brendan Westbrook to start the game and then lost defender Declan Graham in the late stages of the first period to an upper body injury.
Dyck says don't expect any of them to be in this weekend. "I'm not sure we'll see any of them this weekend. We'll have a similar lineup to tonight. We have a week and a half to get ready and best guess we'll have at least 3 back for the start of playoffs. We'd love to have all back cause they're all impact guys. All of them have played top 6 but the good thing is, the young guys are getting larger roles, better opportunities and that'll help us in the long run.
The final regular season game is in Steinbach on Saturday night vs the Selkirk Steelers. The last time these two teams met in which Selkirk scored 3 first period goals, the message from the coaching staff was a simple one according to Dyck. "Play the right away. We want to reinforce good habits. We just really want to walk into the dressing room after 60 minutes and feel good about our effort and our execution of our structure. Wherever that leaves us, it can bring confidence. We also want to get healthy."
Prior to Saturday's game, there will be a special Steinbach Pistons Alumni Game featuring a number of players from past teams like Colin Baudry, Justin Augert, Jonah Wasylak and Kyle Rous to name a few. They will play a game at 5:30 pm then will have a special tribute video and introduction in the first period intermission.
The game is free to attend.