Matt Radomsky made 28 saves for his 6th shutout of the year and Riley Vautour was the only player to find the back of the net in Steinbach's 1-0 win over the Neepawa Natives on Wednesday night.
Whistle Here, Whistle There
The first period saw both teams put shots towards the net but neither team could find the score sheet.
Steinbach had the first good chance early in the period as a shot from distance was stopped but the rebound was free and Brendan Martin crashed the net and looked like he was going to hammer the puck into the open net but he just swung over top and the Neepawa goalie was able to freeze the puck.
Perhaps the best chance of the period for Neepawa came from the Natives who broke down the right side and got off a wrister that clanked off the top of the crossbar and over the net.
There were many stops due to off-sides, icings and goalies covering the puck to stop play.
Steinbach had the edge in shots 13-12 after twenty minutes of play.
Second Score Break
The Pistons picked up the pace in the second period and started to tilt the ice and take over.
After a scrum along the boards, Nico Labossiere helped free up the puck to Brendan Martin who heard a holler from Riley Vautour who was open at the top of the far circle. Martin got the pass over and Vautour hammered it home for his 11th of the year, giving Steinbach a 1-0 lead.
Radomsky's stiffest test of the period came after Neepawa was able to get the loose puck behind the net before firing it into the slot to a streaking forward who got a lot on the shot but Radomsky kicked out the left pad and made the save.
More shots came from the Pistons as they went into the break up a goal, leading in shots 29-19.
Both teams continued to try and find offence and while Steinbach carried the play through most of the final period, Neepawa did push towards the end, forcing Radomsky to come up with a couple of key saves. The best part of Radomsky's game came in the rebound control.
The buzzer sounded and the Pistons came away with a solid 1-0 win, their second consecutive shutout as a team.
It was a different kind of game from what the Pistons have played of late, Head Coach Paul Dyck spoke about his team after the game. "I thought we were just okay in all areas tonight. We did enough, I thought. We didn't generate a lot, we defended well for the most part and at the end they made a push. A bit of a Wednesday night, mid-February game, that's what it looked like."
Dyck made a trade to get Riley Vautour at the trade deadline and he's fit right in since coming to Steinbach and the coach has been very impressed and says there's room for the 20-year-old to grow. "Riley brings a lot of energy, plays with a lot of pace. He can really shoot the puck. When he arrives, you want to try hard, move the puck and distribute more then you need to. He's got a great shot and we've been encouraging him to use it more and we hope he does. The shot tonight, it was on the tape and a rocket off, the goalie didn't have a chance."
First Time In A Long Time
It doesn't happen much now a days but for the first time in quite some time, the Steinbach Pistons didn't take a single penalty.
Zero. Zip. Nada.
No minors, no majors, not a thing.
Dyck chuckled after the game when it was brought up and responded with a laugh, "well, we've discussed it and maybe it's starting to sink in too" the coach said jokingly. "We've been on the wrong side of the PK/PP ratio most of the year year. We've killed 34 more penalties then we've had power plays. The last two games we've been on the plus side, so it's baby steps."
On Wednesday night it was Matt Radomsky with the shutout. Saturday night belong to Matt Lenz as he collected the goose-egg. Both goalies have been shining this season and it's something that Dyck is obviously happy about. "Both goalies give us an opportunity to win. It's nice to have the room show equal confidence in both goaltenders so we're pretty grateful for that."
Lesson's Learned, Message Received
Earlier in the year, Dyck spoke about how his team needed to learn to win games in different ways. On Wednesday, it looked like a team that took those lessons to heart. The veteran coach noticed it as well and is proud of his team for applying what they've learned this year. "These were games where early in the year we'd get frustrated. It be 1-0 after two and we'd want it to be 4-0 or 5-0 but they just didn't go in. The bench is staying much more positive now through those games and it's okay to win 1-0. Mature hockey teams, there's nights where you just don't have it and you have to be okay with it. It's an area we've grown in.
The Champs Are In
The defending MJHL Champions officially clinched a playoff spot with the win on Wednesday night, something Dyck and company wanted to get done as soon as possible. "I think it always feels good to get the "X" beside your name. It hasn't been a primary point of focus but it's nice to get it out of the way.
A big game Friday night at home vs the Virden Oil Capitals, a team that caught Steinbach the last time they were in the TG Smith Centre and always play Steinbach tough.
Then the Pistons head on the road to Neepawa for the final time this year. The game will be on MIX 96 and SteinbachOnline.com with the pre-game show at 7:15 pm and puck drop 7:30 pm.