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Pistons steal Kings' crown

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STEINBACH — Of the two goals Steinbach Pistons forward Trent Genyk scored on Wednesday night, the first was quick and greasy, whacked in from a scramble of sticks in blue paint just 50 seconds into the game.

Genyk’s second first-period goal, though, was oh-so-pretty, a slick snap over Dauphin Kings goalie Jeremy Pominville’s left shoulder. That’s what memory records, anyway. History records this: Those two markers came when it mattered most. They put the Pistons en route to clinching Game 6 of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League final.

All it took was one more goal, a third-period shot by Myles Nykoluk, to allow the Pistons to claim their first Turnbull Cup. The score, when the final buzzer sounded, stood at 3-2. The soldout crowd jammed shoulder to shoulder at TG Smith Centre went absolutely nuts.

Steinbach won the best-of-seven series 4-2.

"I don’t have words to express this," Genyk said, out on the ice surrounded by his teammates, the cup, and exuberantly thrown sticks and gloves. "Coming into this year, our goal was to make .500 and get in the playoffs. To come this far and win it all is just an unreal feeling."

Lord, after past seasons spent struggling to escape the basement of the MJHL’s Addison Division, the Pistons wanted this so much.

It took just under nine minutes for the Pistons to go up 2-0 and the Kings, who came into the MJHL playoffs favoured as a power, struggled to answer.

The visitors didn’t hit the scoreboard until 15 minutes into the second period, when a shot by Guillaume Naud finally beat Pistons goaltender Corey Koop.

Still, it was never going to be easy. The teams’ last two meetings ended in tense 4-3 overtime victories for the Pistons. This game threatened to go the same, when a goal by Kings forward Jesse Sinatynski in the dying minutes of the third narrowed Steinbach’s lead to one. But the Pistons held on.

In the end, Koop — who was named the top MJHL goaltender — turned away 28 shots. It’s the 20-year-old’s last year in the league, and it wrapped up the right way.

"I wish I wasn’t saying goodbye this year," Koop said, as family and friends flocked to the ice to congratulate the team. "I’d like nothing more than to be able to play another year or two here. We have the best fans in the league."

For those fans, there could be more yet to celebrate. After a week to rest and recuperate, the Pistons will head to Nanaimo for the Canadian Junior Hockey League Western Championship later this month.

Only one season into a new management team for the Pistons, to go from struggling to sniff playoffs to taking the whole thing — it’s an incredible turnaround, and one the community of Steinbach was starving for.

"Being from Steinbach, this is very special," said Pistons head coach Paul Dyck, who said the team’s success exceeded his wildest dreams for the new management’s first year. "We’ve been waiting for a championship in this community for awhile... I’m so proud of our group. There’s so much character in our room."

melissa.martin@freepress.mb.ca

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