By Derek Holtom
MJHL Web Correspondent
There are many similarities between this year’s Steinbach Pistons team and last year’s squad. And yet, many differences – making them a fearsome opponent to be sure.
Last season the Pistons locked down first place and looked poised for a long playoff run. However, they had their hands full in the opening round against an eighth-seeded Neepawa who were riding high after winning a final-game showdown to get into the playoffs. And then they ran into a Portage Terriers team on a collision course with destiny, and were upended in the second round by the fifth seed.
Fast forward to this year – the Pistons again finished first overall, and again looked poised for a long run. But this year, they seem almost business like in their approach to the game, and the results speak for themselves.
The Pistons are the first team into the second round of the MJHL playoffs after sweeping the Swan Valley Stampeders in four straight games, continuing a years-long dominance over the team. The Pistons only allowed one goal against in the first three games of the series, and then rallied from a 5-3 deficit to clinch the series in double overtime in Game 4.
Pistons head coach Paul Dyck said each team has their own identity, but does feel this year’s team is laser focused in their quest to win a league championship.
“This team is a little different than last year’s team,” said Dyck. “We discussed earlier in the year about the adversity we faced last season and how we dealt with it.
“We feel we needed to manage those situations better, and we have thanks to some really great leadership in that (dressing) room,” added the MJHL coach of the year. “I think this year’s team has real maturity, and I think they turn the page quickly from one night to the next.”
The Pistons appear to operating at maximum efficiency. They had 11 players with at least one goal in the opening four games, 19 players with at least one point, whole also enjoying a wealth of talent between the pipes.
Much like many minor hockey teams do, the Steinbach Pistons rotated through their two goaltenders during their four-game sweep over the Swan Valley Stampeders.
Both Matthew Radomsky and Matthew Thiessen were statistically among the top goaltenders in the MJHL this season, and played nearly the same about of games. So perhaps it wasn’t too shocking to see Steinbach head coach Paul Dyck utilize both netminders during the series.
“We used a rotation throughout most of the regular season, and we wanted to enter the playoffs that way,” said Dyck. “We wanted to give both boys the chance to get some experience. But we’re taking this series-by-series.
“Once we know who our second round opposition is, we’ll make a decision (on what goalie plays).”
If they do go with one netminder, Thiessen certainly made his case to get the nod – he didn’t allow a goal against in 120 minutes of action against the Stampeders, posting a 0.00 GAA and a perfect 1.00 save percentage.
But Radomsky has proven himself as well. He was in goal for the series-clincher, and kept the score close after the Stampeders jumped out to a second-period lead, allowing his team to come back and win it in overtime.