Shown in picture: Kevin Saurette, Director of Operations, MJHL and Paul Dyck, Head Coach and GM, Steinbach Pistons
By Derek Holtom
MJHL Web Correspondent
The Steinbach Pistons have been the model of consistency in the past few years. They have iced extremely competitive teams, and enjoy long, deep runs in the post-season. In fact, they just secured first place overall with an impressive record of 49-10-1 after 60 games.
The past two years, though, they have not been able to bring home the one prize all teams covet. The Portage Terriers iced even stronger teams, one built to win a national championship. So despite the Pistons being an extremely strong team, they bowed out in the league final both years.
This season, though, it’s the Pistons who will enter the post-season as the No. 1 seed and a strong favourite to win the Turnbull Cup. For GM/Head Coach Paul Dyck, this is the exact position they wanted to be in.
The Pistons open up against Neepawa in Steinbach. (The full playoff schedule can be seen on the MJHL website.)
“I think the majority of the teams in the league had the goal to finish first overall,” said Dyck, who was recently named the MJHL’s coach of the year winner.
“And there’s no question the guys put in a lot of work over the course of the winter. That said, we only have one goal ahead of us, and we still have a lot of work ahead of us.”
The Pistons’ bench boss does not feel his team is at risk for any sort of let down. He also knows how to keep his team motivated, learning valuable lessons when they won their first league championship in 2013.
Finishing second the past two years has only made the team hungrier for success, and they are eager to begin their march to their first league championship since the 2012-13 season.
“We are trying to focus on the task at hand each game,” said Dyck. “We know we have to work hard each night for the two points, and know nothing is going to be given to us. And when we clinched, we didn’t have a huge celebration – it was rewarding, but the guys understand there is work to do before we achieve our ultimate goal.”
And that road is going to be a challenging one this year, especially as teams go deeper in the post-season. There has not been this much parity in the MJHL in some time.
Seeds two through five – Winkler, OCN, Selkirk and Portage – are extremely close to one another in the standings and not that far back of the Pistons. Even Virden and Winnipeg will not be an easy first-round opponent. And the eighth seed, Neepawa, will be in full-playoff mode, having had to win its last game of the season to secure the last playoff spot.
“Every game is tough it seems this year,” said Dyck. “There are a lot of games, where if you look at the standings, they seem like they would be an easy team but that isn’t the case. A lot of teams feel like they are in contention, so the playoffs will be very interesting.”
The Pistons, though, are hoping to use their veteran experience – and past playoff setbacks – as motivation to fulfill their ultimate prize.
“We have a pretty good group of guys, and the experience we can draw on from last year in the finals, and what it takes to be a champion, will be something that is very valuable for us,” said Dyck. “Losing left a sour taste in our mouths, and the veterans wanted to come back this year and be on the other side of it.”