It was a wild weekend for the Steinbach Pistons as they battled back against both the Virden Oil Capitals and the Neepawa Natives to push their winning streak to six games.
It was a gutsy third period comeback and fighting through adversity that propelled Steinbach to a thrilling 4-3 overtime win over Virden on a crazy Friday night that had a couple good fights and a little controversy along the way into extra time.
Steinbach has had it's hands full with the hard working Oil Capitals during the regular season and were shutout at home the last time the two teams met.
In the first, both teams had some good chances but the goalies were standing tall.
A breakdown in the d-zone resulted in Virden cashing in to open the scoring with under 8 minutes to go.
Steinbach held the edge in shots 14-9 but trailed 1-0.
It was much the same in the second as the pace picked up but Steinbach was kept, for the most part, to the outside and could only get a cycle going for a short while.
The Oil Caps expanded their lead early in the second as a Virden defender slipped into the zone and walked in sliding the puck home for a 2-0 lead.
Late in the second period, Pistons forward Caleb Paisley and Virden defender Brock Shwaluk dropped the gloves for a spirited tilt.
Paisley held his own against the more experience Shwaluk. After the fight stopped due to a Shwaluk take down, it seemed to spark the Pistons bench and despite being down 2-0, the Pistons looked to carry a bit of a spark into the locker room.
Comeback Season Part 1
The Pistons started to push back in the third, looking to catch a break to get themselves back in the game.
They got on the board when a Troy Williams wrister from the point took a hop, skip and a jump in front of the Virden goalie and made its way into the back of the net for the 20-year-olds 7th of the year. Max Neil picked up the lone assist on the goal.
Cleland Makes His Mark
With the crowd still buzzing after the Pistons cut the lead, defender Cleland stepped up and made a massive hit along the boards and crushed the Oil Caps forward.
Cleland's massive hit had the fans right amped up and when a Virden teammate came in to stand up for his crunched teammate, Cleland was ready.
Gloves flew off and when the dust settled it was the second fight of the night, this time featuring Cleland and Kolten Kanaski. Both players got their shots in and they were broken up and the crowd was at a fever pitch as Virden was assessed the extra minor penalty sending Steinbach to the power-play, looking to tie the game.
Comeback Part 2
The Pistons used their man advantage and blew the roof off the TG Smith Centre when Brendan Martin, who was parked in the high slot, tipped home a point shot that knotted up the game 2-2.
Nico Labossiere won a loose puck battle along the boards then fired the pass cross ice to Boedey Vaeth who put the perfect slap-pass towards the net for Martin to tip in for his 30th of the year.
With the crowd in a frenzy after a pair of goals to tie the game, Steinbach had all the momentum and pushed the Oil Caps back on their heels.
Virden came back and had the puck in the offensive zone. The forward slipped around the net and found a forward crashing through the slot. As the shot got away, Radomsky was able to stop a big chunk of it but not all of it and it trickled towards the goal line. It looked like Radomsky had reached back just in time to keep the puck from fully going over the line.
However, the referee called it a goal.
Radomsky and the Pistons were insistent, believing that the puck hadn't gone over the line.
When the replay went up on the big screen at the TG Smith, it was confirmed that the puck never did fully cross the line.
But, the call was made and could not be overturned. So it was a good goal.
Steinbach regained their composure and went to work looking to tie the game again.
Trailing again after coming back from two goals down, Steinbach used what got them back into the game the first time and that was working the puck back to the point and get traffic in front.
Doug Johnson fed the puck back to Williams who fired a shot towards the goal just as forward Jack Kilroy was cutting towards the net. Kilroy just got a stick on the shot and deflected the puck into the net for his 5th of the year and the crowd exploded as the game was all tied up 3-3.
Steinbach completed the comeback when Brendan Martin scored his second of the game and 31st of the year less than a minute into the extra frame.
Martin walked around the Oil Caps defender and slid a pass to Riley Vautour who had a shot blocked and the loose puck went up in the air. Martin tracked it, knocked it down and then hammered a shot home to send Steinbach fans home happy.
Matt Radomsky battled all night long, including after the third goal, he made a great left pad save before having his helmet knocked off. Radomsky collected his league leading 24th win of the year making 28 saves on the night.
The power play came up huge in the third and finished 1-4 while the penalty kill was again spectacular going 6-6.
Shootout Saturday Night
After a big emotional win at home on Friday, the Pistons headed off to Neepawa where they edged out a 3-2 shootout win over the Natives.
The Pistons came out firing in the opening period, directing a lot of shots towards the net and held the puck for long stretches but it was the Natives that converted on a 3 on 2 rush that opened the scoring with just over 8 minutes remaining.
More shots for Steinbach followed the Neepawa goal but they were unable to find the back of the net in the opening 20, despite out-shooting Neepawa 17-9, Steinbach trailed 1-0.
The game was tied on a pretty Easton Bennett goal early in the second period.
Good work down low fished the puck out of the corner. Nico Labossiere and Kyle Bettens teamed up to gather the loose puck and found a streaked Easton Bennett coming in from the point. Bennett made a nice more around the Natives forward who came out to challenge then buried a perfect wrist shot high blocker side for his 9th of the year, knotting up the game 1-1.
After Steinbach took a double minor for spearing, Neepawa went to work on the power play and quickly scored to regain their lead 2-1.
The Pistons penalty kill and goalie Matt Lenz held the fort the rest of the period and Steinbach needed to find a little more comeback magic as they went into the third down a goal.
"I Meant To Do That"
Shots were coming from all directions and all angels as Steinbach pushed to get the game tied up again. Neepawa was doing a good job closing down the neutral zone and the blue line, making it difficult for Steinbach to get any speed into Neepawa's zone.
After taking a stretch pass from Bettens, Bennett was able to break into the Neepawa zone and looked to make a pretty little drop pass to Labossiere.
The only problem was Labossiere wasn't there.
Bennett used the "fake" drop pass to freeze everyone in the rink, except for his teammate Labossiere who cruised towards the net. Bennett hit him with a perfect pass and Labossiere made a slick forehand to backhand move and tucked in his 5th of the year to tie the game 2-2.
After the game, Bennett was all smiles. "Why is everyone asking me if I meant to drop that pass? Of course I did," he said with the trademark Bennett smile. "Actually, whatever. It through everybody off. I bet everyone in the rink was thrown off. It worked."
For a second straight night, the Pistons were off to overtime.
A Goalies Best Friend Is....
Neepawa came close to ending the game in overtime as they broke in on a rush. Matt Lenz came out to challenge and took away the angle. The shot still found it's way towards the net and clanked right off the cross bar and then out of play.
Lenz would thank the crossbar again later on.
After overtime solved nothing, the two teams headed to the shootout.
Steinbach took the advantage when Kyle Bettens scored a beauty to give them a 1-0 lead in the breakaway challenge.
Neepawa came in and looked to have Lenz beat high glove but again, rattled it off the crossbar and the puck stayed out.
After failing to seal the deal with their own shot, the Pistons pinned their hopes on winning on the pads of Lenz which he used to make a big save and give Steinbach the extra point in a 3-2 shootout win.
The winning streak was extended to six games in the process.
The power play was 0-4 while the penalty kill was again solid finishing 1-6.
Steinbach heavily out shot Neepawa 44-29.
Steinbach is back at home Tuesday night for a makeup game vs the Selkirk Steelers.
A road trip awaits for the Pistons as they will have back to back games vs the Dauphin Kings on Friday and Saturday night. Both games will be on Mix 96 and SteinbachOnline.com with the pre-game show Friday starting at 7:15 pm.