The Steinbach Pistons but two more wins in the bank over the weekend and forward Brendan Martin had three goals over that span in victories over the Waywayseecappo Wolverines and the Neepawa Natives.
Flying High Friday Night
Coming into Friday night frustrated after a less than terrific effort in their last game, Steinbach came out with something to prove and really controlled play for long stretches in a 5-2 win over Waywayseecappo.
In the opening period, the Pistons played keep away with the puck in the offensive zone and when the Wolverines did get control, a strong forecheck forced turnovers or missed passes which gave Steinbach an advantage in play.
Matt Radomsky was very solid in the period stopping all 11 shots he faced.
One negative note of the period was during an early power play chance, forward Brady Tatro was worked over in the offensive zone and headed to the bench a little gingerly. After a few minutes, Tatro left the ice and did not return with what the team deemed after a lower-body injury.
Near the midway point, a clean faceoff win by Troy Beauchemin got the puck back to Caydin Cleland who floated a pass over to Tristan Culleton. Culleton laid a perfect slap-pass towards the net as forward Max Neil drifted through the slot and deflected it in to open the scoring 1-0. For Neil, it was his 5th goal of the year.
In the second period, Easton Bennett ripped home a beautiful wrist shot for his 5th of the year from Brendan Westbrook and Evan Kaufman to make it 2-0.
After a Wolverines penalty, the Pistons power play took advantage when Brendan Martin cut in front of the net but lost the handle of the puck on the backhand only to rediscover the disc on the forehand and roof a shot in tight for his 16th of the season from Troy Williams and Boedey Vaeth.
Only 31 seconds later, Tyson McConnell scored his 14th of the year after good work from his linemates Carter Loney and Tanner Mole freed up a puck in the Wolverines zone and McConnell was able to score short side to push the lead to 4-0.
More fireworks in the second period as Brendan Westbrook dropped the gloves with a Wolverines defender who took exception to a hard Westbrook hit along the boards and gave him a bit of a spear. Westbrook got the upper hand early in the tilt and didn't look back, landing a number of hard shots before his opponent hit the ice.
Both players wanted to continue but credit to the linesmen who fought to get control and did, keeping both players from doing anything else.
The period came to a spirited end with Steinbach in control.
With the assist on the McConnell goal, Loney, who was called up for the weekend from Rink Hockey Academy recorded his first MJHL point.
He wasn't done.
In the third period, while on another power play, Loney worked the puck around the boards and eventually it found the stick of Declan Graham who fired a hard, low shot towards the net that was deflected in by Loney. The goal made it 5-0 Steinbach and for Loney, it capped off a two-point night with his first career goal.
The goal chased out Wayway goalie Isaac Labelle who was pulled in favour of Nathan Raey.
Wayway was able to break up the shutout bid of Radomsky when a point shot was deflected in just over 7 minutes into the period.
Another goal 20 seconds later cut the lead to 5-2 but it did have a bit of controversy around it as it appeared a Wolverines forward ran into Radomsky, impeding the goalie's ability to make the save. There wasn't even a brief conversation as Radomsky tried to fight his case and the goal was allowed to stand.
The score would stay 5-2 as Steinbach notched their 17th win of the year.
Radomsky again proved to be the top goalie in the MJHL making 34 saves on the night. Steinbach was outshot 36-28
The power play finished 2-6 while the leagues best penalty kill was a perfect 6-6.
Wasn't Pretty But It Works
The Pistons were right back in action on Saturday night and although it wasn't their strongest game, they were able to put two more points in the bank with a 3-2 win.
Neither team really got off to a flying fast start but Steinbach did hold the edge in shots through the opening period, 15-9.
Brendan Martin remained on a hot streak as he wheeled out of the corner to score his 17th of the year. Another RHA call-up made an impact on the score sheet as Logan Danis collected his first career MJHL point with the lone assist on the goal.
Much like the night previous, Steinbach was dealt a blow when forward Tanner Mole was forced to leave the game with a lower-body injury. There's been no update since the game Saturday night.
Steinbach started the second period on a power play and they took advantage and again, it was Martin.
The 20-year-old from Thunder Bay wheeled around the net with the puck and buried a shot hit into the net that went off the water bottle and sent the puck straight out.
The referee, despite looking like he was in good position didn't signal a goal and neither did the goal judge behind the net.
Everyone else in the rink, including the Pistons bench and especially Martin himself knew the puck was in but the play was allowed to continue until a whistle.
Once the play finally did stop, the ref and the two linesmen got together and the linesman was the one that made the call that the puck was clearly in the net and awarded the goal to Martin. Fans were also shown several replays that clearly showed the puck was in the net, hit the water bottle and came screaming out.
Martin's 18th and arguably the strangest goal of the year was assisted by Troy Williams and Boedey Vaeth.
Neepawa didn't hang their heads and battled back to cut the lead in half less than three minutes after the Martin goal.
On another power play, it was a point shot from Curtis Ireland that deflected off a Native player in front and in for the Brandon native's second goal of the year and restored Steinbach's two-goal lead 3-1. Vaeth and Tristan Culleton picked up the assists on the eventual game-winning goal.
In the third, both teams opened things up a bit but the only goal belonged to Neepawa when they made it a 3-2 game near the midway point.
With under a minute to go and the goalie pulled for the extra attacker, Neepawa pressed to get the equalizer but a stellar save from Matt Radomksy held the fort for Steinbach and eventually they held on to a 3-2 win.
Radomsky finished the night with 25 saves improving his league-best wins record to 15, GAA of 2.11 and SV% .924 as the reigning MJHL goaltender of the month continues to shine.
Steinbach's power play went 1-5 while the penalty kill was a perfect 2-2.
Head coach Paul Dyck was satisfied with the results and the way his team battled to get the four points over the weekend. "It was the objective coming into the weekend and (Saturday's) game maybe wasn't the most fan-friendly or entertaining, but we found a way to win. We weren't sharp early on and you're going to have nights like that. I think if you can find ways to win those games still, that's usually a good sign."
The team leader in goals is Brendan Martin and Dyck knew bringing him in last year that there were offensive possibilities and Martin's taking advantage. "We knew he had the ability. We've seen it in practice, we've seen it last year. He has sweet mitts. You think it's a broken play, he finds the puck and his hands are so quick, he knows what he wants to do with it in tight and it's been huge for us but it's really great for Marty."
Swiss Army Knife
With two injuries up front threw off the rhythm when it came to line combos 5 on 5 and on special teams but one player that really stood out because of his versatility was Boedey Vaeth. "He's someone I can rely on to really step in on different scenarios. With the injuries, we've double shifted him at times, had him on the left side, the right side and he can play up the middle. He's very, very valuable. He never says no. You give him a task and he's always up for it.
Welcome New Guys
After a busy flurry of roster moves late Thursday and into Friday resulted in two new players set to wear Pistons jerseys.
Trent Halfdanson arrived just prior to puck drop on Saturday night and could be in the lineup when Steinbach visits his former team the Winkler Flyers on Tuesday night in Winkler.
The other big pickup managed to get into the lineup on Saturday night in the form of 6'2 defender Dough Johnson. Johnson, acquired from the Flin Flon Bombers Thursday night, managed to get a flight into Manitoba late Friday night, arriving in Steinbach around midnight. He dawned the blue and white that night and the coach was pretty happy with how he looked. "Doug was playing with (Troy Williams) and considering those two haven't played together, I thought they were really good. We gave Doug a Coles-notes version of our structure prior to the game, looking forward to getting him in some practices. He comes as advertised though, a big body, moves pucks well, in your face type of game, taking away time and space. He's a veteran presence we were looking for and as he gets more comfortable, he'll become a bigger part of our dressing room."
Cause For Slight Concern
Steinbach didn't have a perfect two wins and one issue was the tempo and pace they played with from the third period Friday and into Saturday. Something the coach noticed and addressed after the game. "Friday's last ten minutes might have carried into today. We were very reactive today, hoping pucks would pop free in the offensive side and we were late defensively. I didn't particularly like our awareness and we came out a little sleepy it seems."
Radomsky and Bettens Represent
The Pistons will be without Matt Radomsky and Kyle Bettens for at least a few days as both players are off to Team Canada West try-out camp. Dyck's excited for both players and the opportunities that are in front of them during the week. "It's a great camp. The pace of play will be higher than either of them seen. Lots of shooters and guys who can really make plays. A great challenge for them, when you have 42 of the best players across Western Canada getting together and a lot of scouts and programs watching, it'll be a great learning experience for them."
A visit to Winkler where neither team has been in over a month. The Flyers were chased from their home barn after a malfunction with their ice treatment plant but looks like all is back to well and good.
Dyck knows that it doesn't matter where these two teams are in the standings, it'll be a good game in a hostile arena Tuesday night and Dyck wants to see his team come out and set the tone. "Each guy needs to prepare themselves for that. The message will be stern on being prepared. They're gonna be back in their rink and excited for that. Some roster changes on both teams might add fire. We need more urgency and awareness then we had over the weekend."
After Tuesday's road game, Steinbach returns home for a Friday night contest against the Winnipeg Blues which will be on MIX 96.7fm and SteinbachOnline.com with the pre-game show at 7:15 pm and the drop of the puck at 7:30 pm.
The MJHL's Showcase is set for December 10th, 11th and 12th. Steinbach will have two games. They play the Neepawa Natives at 4:00 pm on Monday then the Virden Oil Capitals on Wednesday at 7:00 pm.