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Pistons and Nipawin Hawks to battle for ANAVET Cup

By Derek Holtom

What was old is new again, as the champions from the Manitoba Junior Hockey League and the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League prepare to face each other in the best-of-seven ANAVET Cup – the first one contested since they switched to the Western Canada Cup format in 2013.

It will be the Nipawin Hawks versus the Steinbach Pistons – north versus south, west versus east. And to the winner goes the opportunity to advance to the RBC Cup and compete for a national championship. The best-of-seven series opens Friday (April 27) in Steinbach. Game 2 goes Saturday (April 28) before heading back to Nipawin for three games.

Here’s a breakdown of the two teams involved in this series:

Steinbach Pistons

How did they get here? Swept the Swan Valley Stampeders 4-0, defeated the Winnipeg Blues 4-2, won the MJHL championship over the Virden Oil Capitals 4-2.

The Pistons have 17 players with at least one goal in the post season, as they have truly spread the scoring around this spring. The highest goal-scoring total on the team is just six goals – a mark shared by Drew Worrad, Bradley Schoonbaert and Braden Purtill. Three more have five goals, and an additional three have four apiece. That makes the Pistons a hard team to shut down, as they are getting scoring from all lines as well as the blue line.

In terms of overall points, playoff MOP Worrad led the team with 18 points, followed by Schoonbaert with 17 and Mark Taraschuk with 16. The team has seven players with at least 10 points.
Defensively, the Pistons are on top of their game. The finished off the Oil Capitals in part by shutting down their potent offense – Steinbach only allowed two goals in the final three games. Netminder Matthew Thiessen continues to play like a seasoned veteran, as he finished the post season with 10 wins in 14 starts, four via shutout, while posting a 1.60 GAA and a .944 save percentage.
Steinbach’s power-play enters the post season operating at 18.2 per cent, or basically one goal in every five chances. Their penalty kill is really working well, as they managed to kill off 89.2 per cent of the chances against them.

Nipawin Hawks

How did they get here? Defeated the Flin Flon Bombers 4-1, advanced past the Humboldt Broncos (the series was called after the horrific bus crash with the Hawks leading the series 3-1), and edged the Estevan Bruins 4-3, winning Game 7 Tuesday night at home by a close 2-1 margin.

The Hawks played the same amount of games as the Pistons in the post season, scoring 11 less goals (49), while allowing 10 more against (39). They Hawks were involved a many one-goal games, winning the final game of each series by that one-goal margin.
Offensively they are led by right winger Brandan Arnold, a Dodsland, Sask., product who scored 10 goals and added 11 assists. Defenseman Josh McDougall from Prince Albert, Sask., was second in team scoring with six goals and 14 helpers.

The Hawks also got nine goals from Melfort, Sask., native Logan Casavant, but after that the goal-scoring drops off. Just going by playoff statistics, the Hawks do not spread their scoring out as much as the Pistons, but of course the sample size isn’t that extensive.
In goal, the Hawks have used Saskatoon native Declan Hobbs throughout the playoffs, and he finished with an 11-5 record, a 2.10 GAA and a .929 save percentage.

On special teams, the Hawks are scoring 20.7 per cent of the time, while their penalty kill is operating at 80 per cent efficiency.

Both the Hawks and the Pistons finished in first place in the regular season, and both came out on top in the post-season. Two titans are set to clash. Only one will move on. This should be a classic.

 

NIPAWIN HAWKS vs STEINBACH PISTONS

April 27

Nipawin Hawks

at

Steinbach Pistons

7:30 pm

April 28

Nipawin Hawks

at

Steinbach Pistons

7:30 pm

May 1

Steinbach Pistons

at

Nipawin Hawks

7:30 pm

May 2

Steinbach Pistons

at

Nipawin Hawks

7:30 pm

May 4

Steinbach Pistons

at

Nipawin Hawks (if necess)

7:30 pm

May 7

Nipawin Hawks

at

Steinbach Pistons (if necess)

7:30 pm

May 8

Nipawin Hawks

at

Steinbach Pistons (if necess)

7:30 pm