By Derek Holtom
History was made at the T.G. Smith Centre in Steinbach Monday night, as the Steinbach Pistons defeated the Nipawin Hawks 2-1 winning the ANAVET Cup best-of-seven series 4-2.
Bradley Schoonbaert had the golden goal for the Pistons, as his third of the series with 13:23 left in the third period would end up being the difference. The Hawks pressed frantically for the tying goal as the minutes ticked away, getting some point-blank chances late with their netminder on the bench. But Pistons netminder Matthew Thiessen was up to the task.
This marks the first-ever ANAVET Cup victory for the Pistons franchise, including when they were the Southeast Blades, making this a true landmark evening for this franchise.
It was also memorable as the Pistons became the first team to win the ANAVET Cup since it had been retired a few years earlier. The MJHL and SJHL champions rekindled the interprovincial championship following five years of using the Western Canada Cup (along with representatives from the BCHL and AJHL) to determine who would advance to the RBC Cup. Steinbach and Nipawin played an emotional series in the wake of the tragedy which befell the Humboldt Broncos, with each team holding a lead in the series at various times.
But the Pistons were able to win two of three games in Nipawin, giving them two chances to finish off the series on home ice. They would only require one though, delighting the 1,023 fans who showed up to cheer on their team.
The Pistons opened the scoring in the opening period as Brady Tatro scored his second goal of the series just 2:52 into the period. Nipawin scored the equalizer in the middle frame as Wayde Johannesson – a natives of Arnes, Man. – slipped one past Steinbach netminder Matthew Thiessen at the 14:10 mark of the second period.
Both netminders were outstanding in this game. Thiessen finished the game with 22 saves, while Nipawin’s Declan Hobbs stopped 25 shots.
The Pistons now advance to the RBC Cup, which takes place May 12 to 21 in Chilliwack, B.C.
NOTES - This marks the first ANAVET Cup championship for the MJHL since 2011 when the Portage Terriers defeated the La Ronge Ice Wolves. Drew Worrad led the Pistons in scoring in the ANAVET Cup with nine points. He was also named the ANAVET Cup MVP. Nipawin’s Brandon Arnold led all scorers with 11 points – but the next top five scorers were all from Steinbach. The Pistons won their last three series in six games, and won all four series-clinching games by a one-goal margin.