Remembering 2022 in local sports


Advertise with us

From championship banners to hall of fame inductions, it was a great year to be a sports fan in the Steinbach area. Here’s a look back at the events to remember in 2022.


Kelvin Cech was named the Niverville Nighthawks first-ever head coach and general manager. The Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL) announced they would be expanding to the community in the summer of 2021. Cech brought no shortage of experience to the job, previously coaching the Winkler Flyers, winning MJHL coach of the year in 2020. Niverville board members cited his experience in the league as a key factor in hiring him ahead of nearly two dozen other candidates. At the time of his hiring, he was an assistant coach at the University of B.C.

When the Niverville club announced Cech’s hiring, they didn’t even have a name yet. Later in the month, they would officially become the Nighthawks. Board member Clarence Braun told The Carillon the Nighthawks nickname was favoured from the beginning. After narrowing the potential list of names down to 12, Nighthawks came out on top. Other names considered in the final five included Northstars, Threshers, Nitro and Clippers.

Ste Anne native Jacelyne Larocque was once again named to Canada’s women’s Olympic hockey team. The defender went on to play for Canada in her third Olympic Games later in the year, winning a gold medal to add to her ever-growing trophy case.


The Eastman Selects AAA male hockey team capped off an abbreviated 40-game regular season in style, finishing with a 31-6-3 record after defeating the Winnipeg Wild in a shootout in their final game of the season. Despite their outstanding record, the Selects finished third in the league standings, behind Brandon and the Wild. The COVID-19 pandemic forced changes to hockey seasons throughout the province, including the AAA 18U playoffs being postponed. The Selects would fall to the Wild in the league semi-final in March

Fans returned en masse to the T.G. Smith Centre Feb. 21, as the Pistons hosted 927 vaccinated fans to watch them dismantle the Selkirk Steelers 7-0. It was the largest crowd of the season, breaking the previous record by nearly 200. Attendance at sporting events was restricted across the globe as communities continued to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Pistons head coach Paul Dyck was happy to see fans back in the building, noting they brought “a tremendous amount of energy.”

A new ownership group took over the Steinbach Bowling Alley just before the institution hit its 60th birthday. Four local Filipino couples purchased Delux Bowl Feb. 16. Rommel Gallego is the president of the ownership group, and followed through on bringing Asian fusion food to the building for the summer. The alley had been owned by Charlie and Viera Jakubek, who owned and operated the bowling alley for nearly 40 years.


The Steinbach Pistons may have been the hottest hockey team on the planet as they entered the MJHL playoffs. They finished the regular season on a 15-game winning streak, capping off their season with a 4-1 victory over the Winnipeg Blues, with goaltender Will Hambley picking up his 28th win of the season.

It was a Hanover-Tache Junior Hockey League finals for the ages, as the Lorette Comets defeated the Springfield Xtreme 4-3 in the second overtime of a decisive game seventh game. The Comets looked to have the game locked up, jumping out to a 3-0 lead on home ice, but the Xtreme battled back, eventually tying the game when Nicolas Daymond scored with only 16 seconds left in the game. After 10 minutes of overtime solved nothing, the ice had to be flooded, and in the second overtime frame, Troy Beauchemin played the hero, sending the home fans into celebrations, and Comets players pouring onto the ice.


Another piece in the puzzle that was the Niverville Nighthawks fell into place as the expansion team unvieled their first logo. Ray Dowse headed up the search for a logo, working with Brooks Freeman Design in Virden alongside local company Excel Graphics. “We spent a lot of time looking online at different pictures of birds or hawks and various logos to try and come up with an appropriate look for our team,” Dowse told The Carillon after the unveiling.

After stumbling early on during their playoff run, the Steinbach Pistons were able to lock up a spot in the MJHL finals, defeating the Selkirk Steelers 4-1 and the Virden Oil Capitals 4-2. The Pistons, who swept the Steelers during the regular season, were favoured to sweep their first round series, but faced a feisty Selkirk squad, which won game two on home ice, and nearly stole game five. Steinbach was able to squeak out a 6-5 victory to lock up the series. The Oil Capitals also took a game off the Pistons early, and nearly won the first two, if not for a late-third period goal in game one from Langley Kruggel to tie the game for Steinbach. Heading into the fifth game of the series tied 2-2, the Pistons used home ice to take a series stranglehold, winning 8-2. After a marathon bus ride to Virden, the Pistons won the series in the Oil Capitals own building, winning 4-2 and setting up a showdown with the Dauphin Kings in the league finals.

St Malo’s Maxime Collette followed up winning a Capital Region Junior Hockey League scoring title by winning another league scoring title in his final year of junior. Suiting up for the Dryden Ice Dogs of the Superior International Junior Hockey League, Collette scored 45 goals in 43 games. Collette’s scoring power led him to being named league MVP, earning a shout out from Nashville Predators assistant coach and fellow St Malo native Dan Lambert.


The Steinbach Pistons came up one game short of an MJHL championship. It was a heartbreaking loss as the Pistons and Dauphin Kings battled in a seven-game classic, losing the championship in a 2-1 thriller in front of nearly 1,500 Steinbach fans at the T.G. Smith Centre. Steinbach was stonewalled by playoff MVP Carson Cherepak, who made 34 saves in the decisive game. Travis Hensrud had a chance to tie the game on a breakaway with a minute left in the game, but Cherepak was able to make the save and seal the victory. Dauphin head coach Doug Hedley was especially happy to win the championship, as it was his first despite trips in three previous seasons. “These were two evenly matched teams,” Hedley said. “This is a difficult building to play in, but we just continued to push until we got that goal in the third.”

There was a change in The Carillon’s sports section the week after the Pistons’ loss in the MJHL finals. That week marked the final one for long-time sports editor Terry Frey, and the first one for new sports editor Cassidy Dankochik. Frey’s retirement plans were pushed back as the Pistons battled for the MJHL championship. Dankochik became only the third sports editor in The Carillon’s history, after Wes Keating, who still writes for the paper, and Frey. Frey had planned to list his thanks to friends in the community in his final column for the paper, but decided against it, noting “there would be just too manyu people to list, there would be those inadvertently left out.”

The COVID-19 pandemic continued to wreck havoc on local sports, as Steinbach went another year without a team in the top division of the Manitoba Major Soccer League. The 10 team league wasn’t just down the Hanover Kickers, as the Winnipeg Soccer Academy and Ital-Inter couldn’t field teams in 2023. Their spot in the top division has been held over for 2023. Hanover Soccer Club technical director Norm Anderson said player turnover meant the club couldn’t field a competitive team against the best teams in the province. In 2022, only six games were played in the premier division. “When we reconvened this spring to start training, we found ourselves with a very short crew,” Anderson said.

Three Eastman Selects players were drafted in the Western Hockey League’s 2022 Bantam Draft. Owen Martin was drafted 27th overall by the Spokane Chiefs, Reece Gualt was selected in the fifth round by the Red Deer Rebels and Tyndall’s Remy Hlady was taken in the eighth round by the Everett Silvertips. Martin and Gault are from Oakbank.


It was anything but a smooth start to the baseball season in Mantioba, as wet, cold weather wrecked havoc on the first few weeks of the season. This was no more evident than with the Manitoba Junior Baseball League’s (MJBL) Carillon Sultans, who went two weeks into their season schedule without completing a single game. When they finally were able to hit the field for their season opener, the game was further postponed when the teams were tied 11-11 after it became too dark to continue. As rain-outs continued throughout the season, teams were forced to play abbreviated double-headers to try and make up as many games as possible.

Both local MJHL franchises went extremely forward-heavy in the league’s annual draft. It was the first year the MJHL drafted U16 players instead of the usual U15 age group. The Nighthawks drafted eight forwards in their 10 picks, with the Pistons drafting seven forwards in their eight picks. The Nighthawks drafted close-to-home for their inaugural draft pick, selecting Lorette defenseman Avery Laliberte from Lorette. Two other Eastman players were selected by the local clubs, with Steinbach selecting Lorette’s Luc Degangne in the fifth round and Niverville picking La Broqurie’s Calem Normandeau in the seventh.

It was a devastating finish to the Manitoba Marathon for Steffan Reimer. Just before the half-way mark of the race, the Blumenort runner found himself leading the entire marathon, but with temperatures soaring, race officials decided to cancel the full marathon. After running a few more minutes, Reimer said he decided to stop the race after seeing official timers being taken down. “I’m not going to to say that they should have let it keep going. It’s just dissappointing they had to call it half-way through, while there was still a race,” Reimer said after the race, noting he was happy the decision wasn’t in his hands.


Longtime coach Don Dulder was inducted into the Manitoba Volleyball Hall of Fame. Dulder, who currently coaches the Canadian Mennonite University Blazers, made his name building the Niverville High School Volleyball to the AAAA level, the highest in the province. Niverville was only an AA school, but made the leap, even earning spots in the provincial semi-finals despite their small size and lack of previous pedigree. “We did some amazing things in Niverville and I think only the volleyball community recognized that,” Dulder said.

The Niverville Force and Hanover Sting faced off for a match inside of IG Field in Winnipeg, the home of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Valour FC. It was the first regular season Manitoba Major Soccer League match played in a new initiative by Valour FC to bring local fans into the stadium. Teams from the league can apply to face off before a Valour game on the biggest soccer stage in Manitoba. The Force would come out on top in the battle of second division clubs, winning 2-1. The result was indicitive of each team’s season, as the Force put together a solid year, remaining in the second division after debuting and earning promotion last year, with the Sting dropping down to the third division after a disastrous season

The NHL entry draft had a distinctly Eastman flair to it in 2022, as two area defensemen were selected in the first round. Denton Mateychuk was picked 12th overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets and Owen Pickering was picked 21st by the Pittsburgh Penguins. Not only did the two play for the same Eastman Selects U15 team, but they also are cousins. Mateychuk, who hails from Dominion City, was a high-profile prospect for a long time, racking up points throughout his career, including when he briefly suited up for the Steinbach Pistons in 2020 before heading to the WHL. Pickering was a late-riser, but now stands 6’5, six inches taller than his cousin. His standout draft season with Swift Current Broncos and imposing figure made him a solid selection for the Penguins.

In a season decimated by inclement weather, the Carillon Sultans MJBL team couldn’t get past a juggernaut. They fell to the Elmwood Giants 2-1 in their semi-final series. Pushing Elmwood to the brink of elimination was a successful result for any team in the league this season, as the Giants decimated nearly every team in their path en-route to winning the championship. Across play in Manitoba, Elmwood only lost four games in 2022, with two coming at the hands of the Sultans. The Giants went on to sweep the St James A’s in the league finals. “I was very proud of the guys,” team manager Bryan Gerbrandt said after getting eliminated. “The (Elmwood) coaches told me after the game, ‘wow, you’ve got a team with a lot of fight.’”


As 370 Team Manitoba athletes entered the stadium for the opening ceremonies of the Canada Summer Games Aug. 6 in Niagra, they were lead by Erika Vermette. The Morris volleyball player was named as Team Manitoba’s flag-bearer earlier in the year. Vermette was named to the beach volleyball team, but spends her regular season playing for the University of B.C. in hard-court volleyball. Vermette was one of 23 athletes from the region which participated at the games.

It was a season to remember for the Carillon Sultans 18U AAA team, and it nearly ended in disaster early on. The team needed extra innings to squeak past Pembina Hills to even qualify for the top tier of provincials, doing so thanks to a heroic performance from Cebric Lagasse. Lagasse not only pitched a complete game, but drove in the winning run to send the Sultans to provincials. At provincials, the team found its groove, going undefeated including three ‘mercy’ victories. Lagasse had the hot hand in the finals as well, pitching another complete game in the provincial final against Winnipeg South. Despite falling behind 2-1 in the fourth inning, the Sultans went on to win 4-2. Catcher Cody Gunderson played nearly a perfect game behind the plate, throwing out multiple steal attempts, and tagging out a runner at home base. At nationals in Fort MacMurray, the Sultans battled, but came up short in a crucial matchup against Saskatchewan to miss the playoffs.


After months of intense preparation, the Niverville Nighthawks finally dropped the puck for thier historic first season in the MJHL. Fans needed to wait a little longer for the first action inside the Community Resource and Recreation Centre, as the Zamboni was out of commission to start the year. Brendan Bottem scored the first goal in Niverville Nighthawks history a day before in Steinbach, as the two local teams kicked off their rivalry with a pair of home games. Despite their status as an expansion franchise, Niverville has put up a solid season so far in the MJHL. They finished the season comfortably in fourth place in the league’s east division, sitting behind the top teams of the league in Steinbach, Winkler and Portage.

Despite losing the provincial final, it was an historic season for the Eastman Warriors rugby team. Over the past decade, the Warriors program had never beaten the two traditional Manitoba rugby powerhouse clubs in the Winnipeg Assassins and Manitoba Wombats. Despite that auspicious history, the Warriors were able to go 4-0 against those teams, bolstered by roster additions including players from the Bahamas. With a semi-final victory over the Winnipeg Wasps the squad earned a spot in the provincial premier league final for the first time. Their storybook season ended on a sour note, as Eastman came up short against a battle-hardened Wombats squad in the final, losing 53-43. While Warriors head coach Eric Laflamme lamented missed opportunities and sloppy play after the match, Wombats players were quick to praise the program for rising to provide a third quality side in Manitoba rugby. “The development in that club the past few years is definitely something to keep an eye on,” Wombats player Simon Cretes said. “Those guys, they’re a force.”


With the puck dropping on another Hanover-Tache Junior Hockey League season, the league welcomed back the Landmark Blues to the fold. The team had been planning a return in previous years, but COVID-19 put a stop to that. Instead, the team made their return to junior hockey during the 2022/2023 season. Blues coach Matt Piett said the team is hoping to bring playoff hockey back to Landmark this season as well.

Intermediate senior hockey also returned to the region this year. As the Carillon Senior Hockey League was unable to play in the 2021/2022 season, three teams from the senior loop decided to leave, applying for and being granted entrance to the South East Manitoba Hockey League. The league, one of the oldest in Manitoba, now boasts 10 teams, including former Carillon league teams Ste Anne and Red River. The Ile des Chenes North Stars were set to return to intermediate senior play in 2021, but with COVID-19, postponed their debut to 2022. The three Carillon teams are thriving in the South East league to start the year, as all are in the top five of the standings to end 2022.

The Steinbach Pistons announced they won’t be playing their 2023/2024 season in the T.G. Smith Centre. After the initial estimates for the planned South East Event Centre came in way above budget, construction plans for Steinbach’s new arena had to be changed, meaning the bigger ice surface in the centre will now be out of commission during hockey season. The Pistons have yet to announce where they will be playing next season.


Olympic volleyball setter Michelle-Sawatzky Koop was inducted into the Mantioba Sports Hall of Fame. The Steinbach volleyball standout reached the heights of Canadian volleyball, leading the Canadian women’s program to their first ever victory at the Olympics in 1994. In addition to her international acclaim, Sawatzky-Koop also racked up the hardware as a member of the Manitoba Bisons, winning multiple national championships. It was a change of role for Sawatzky-Koop at the induction ceremony, as she usually emcees the event. This year, she was inducted as an honoured member. She currently is an assistant coach for the Bisons.

Steinbach legends continued to rack up honours, as T.G. Smith was posthumously inducted into the Manitoba Baseball Hall of Fame. Smith may be more well-known these days for hockey, as the Steinbach arena bears his name, but he was instrumental in Steinbach’s development in baseball. After an injury caused his leg to be partially amputated, the avid sports-player turned into an avid sports-organizer, founding the Steinbach little league in 1955. In Wes Keating’s profile of Smith, he noted the banker faced an uphill battle in Steinbach to convince the population to support youth sports, continuing to advocate for them even as proposed arenas were voted down twice. “If our young people have somewhere to go in the evenings, where they meet children within their own age groups, where good, clean competition is fostered on an equal basis, then surely the father and the mother would be greatly relieved of the frequent worries they must encounter under present conditions,” Smith wrote in a newspaper editorial in 1947.

The Providence Pilots didn’t let an international border stop them from conquering an American national championship. The women’s soccer team travelled to Florida, and came back with the National Christian Colleges Athletic Association (NCCAA) second division championship. Ava Temple was named NCCAA player of the year, with coach Tory Walker earning coach of the year honours. The Pilots play a combination schedule, splitting time between the Mantioba Colleges Athletic Conference and the NCCAA. Despite coming up short in Mantioba, that didn’t stop the Pilots from winning the NCCAA north division, and sweeping their way to a national title, defeating the top ranked Great Lakes Christian College Crusaders 2-0 in the finals. Both goals came off set-pieces hit by Laurianne Chiasson, with Temple and Jordan Briggs converting for the Pilots.


It was a volleyball season to remember for the Steinbach Regional Secondary School Sabres. Both the varsity boys and girls teams were able to earn spots at AAAA provincials, winning the South Central Athletic Conference on home court in front of a raucous crowd. But it would be the boys team which would find their way to provincial glory, taking home the championship banner after a five-set thriller against the St Paul’s Crusaders inside the University of Mantioba. Steinbach was able to win the first two sets of the championship match, and even lead the third set 24-22 before St Paul’s battled back to win the next two. The Crusaders earned a match point of their own, before a Nik Reimer kill put Steinbach on the front foot. Reimer, who failed to serve out the match in the third set, delivered in the fifth, with a pinpoint ace to setup match point, which Boston Thiessen cleverly converted for the victory, prompting the many Steinbach fans in attendance to rush the court. “The Steinbach support was electric,” head coach Joe Thiessen said after the match. “I’d say we absolutely dominated in the stands today.” Hudson Rempel was named the tournament’s most valuable player.

Ty Paisley is living the Junior A hockey dream. Not only is the forward playing for his hometown Steinbach Pistons, he is thriving, earning accolade after accolade. After winning the team’s most improved player award for the 2021/2022 sesason, he’s continued to pick up awards, earning multiple player of the week honours from the MJHL this season. In December, his biggest honour yet came, as Paisley donned the maple leaf of Canada at the World Junior A Challenge. Paisley was the only player from the MJHL named to the Team Canada West roster.

Report Error Submit a Tip


Advertise With Us