STEINBACH -- In the minutes before the puck dropped on the sixth game of the MJHL's Addison Division final, the Steinbach Pistons stood on the ice, feet twitching to take on the Winnipeg Blues in front of almost 1,500 fans at TG Smith Centre.
"Ladies and gentlemen," the arena announcer intoned, and a swell of cheers went up in the stands. "The road to the Turnbull Cup continues."
And on Monday night, the Pistons revved their engines, and peeled straight down that road. By the time 60 minutes of hockey had passed, they had taken down the Blues 4-1 to become Addison Division champs, the last stop on the way to the MJHL championship final.
When the season started, they were convinced they could get there. But in the moment, with the victory music bumping in the room, it was still hard to believe. "I've been here for three years, and there's been a lot of lows, and this is a pretty unreal feeling," said Justin Augert, who scored two goals on the night. "A lot of hard work, and grinding at this one day at a time. To get to the finals, it's an amazing feeling."
This is how you set a tone: strike first, and strike fast. The Pistons did it only 14 seconds into the match, when winger Jonah Wasylak put the puck in the back of the Blues' net. Blueliner Gabe Minville and Hayden Goderis drew assists on that goal.
There would be more to come. Augert's first, a knocked-in puck at 13:13 of the first period, was the game-winner; almost 11 minutes later, he took a nifty pass from winger Nicholas Kobelka and fired it over Spriggs' shoulder for the Pistons' third marker. Linemate Justin Dalebozik picked up assists on both goals.
The final goal for Steinbach came halfway through the second, on a rocket shot from winger Myles Nykoluk.
The Pistons didn't score again. They didn't need to. True, the Blues had chances to get back in the game: they took 17 shots in the second, and seven more in the third, outshooting the Pistons heavily in the final two frames. They had a glorious chance in the second, when forward Kurt Keats scooped up the puck on a breakaway, but his shot sailed just over the net.
By the time Jared Morris finally broke through Pistons netminder Corey Koop, putting the Blues on the board with 11:18 to go in the third, it was too late. All that did was scutter Koop's shutout chance. "Story of my life," chuckled Koop, who turned away 28 shots. He praised his team for turning on a physical game. "When we do come and show up to the rink, there's nobody that can stop us."
Now, they have a little bit of time to rest, and prepare for the final battle ahead. Their opponent for that last test, though, is yet to be decided: on Monday, the OCN Blizzard beat the Dauphin Kings 3-2 to force a seventh game in the Sher-Wood Division final. The deciding game in that series is slated for Wednesday night in Dauphin.