Pistons cap off T.G. Smith Centre with Turnbull Cup victory
The Steinbach Pistons authored a perfect end to the T.G. Smith Centre, winning their third Turnbull Cup on home ice over the Virden Oil Capitals April 30.
Their 3-0 victory would be the final action inside the aging building, which is due to be replaced by fall of 2024. Over 1,300 people packed into the old barn to watch Steinbach clinch the title.
It was a true home ice advantage for the Pistons, as they posted a home record of 7-3 in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL) playoffs, including three wins in the finals.
“A lot of teams in Steinbach have won this year, so we felt a little pressure to hoist another trophy,” long-time head coach and general manager Paul Dyck said after the game, his voice hoarse from celebrating.
“I’ve spent many, many years in this building, and I can’t think of a better way for it to end. You just couldn’t write a better script.”
The Oil Capitals undoing in game five came across a short stretch of the first period. With the game still scoreless, Virden took five penalties in four minutes of game time, giving up powerplay goals to Travis Hensrud and Ty Paisley.
Hensrud’s tally showed great patience from the forward, as he took the puck along the half-wall, started in towards the faceoff dot looking for his shot, before circling back around to get a better angle.
“We were just looking for a lot of shots off the flanks, and I just got an opening and ripped it home,” Hensrud said.
“The far side was wide open, there was a good screen by (Nik) Mikan, and I just took advantage of it.”
Hensrud is one of a few players who came up one game short of an MJHL championship last season, as the Pistons lost in a game seven on home ice to Dauphin.
“It was a bitter taste from last year,” he said.
“We didn’t want that to happen again. We just fought together. All the guys bought in.”
Paisley’s goal was especially heartbreaking for the Caps, as Davis Chorney and Bray Rookes took minor penalties during the same sequence while their team was already down a man. A heroic effort to kill off the two-plus minutes of the ensuing five-on-three was all for naught, as Paisley doubled the Steinbach lead after all but one penalty had expired.
“We knew we had to get a powerplay goal with all the powerplays we had,” Paisley said.
“Our powerplay hasn’t been great throughout the finals, but we stuck with it.”
The homegrown forward lead the MJHL in scoring throughout the playoffs, and was nearly automatic from the slot, scoring 11 goals and 18 assists across 18 games. As the post-season rolled on, the 2004-born forward was able to find more space to unleash his dangerous shot. Paisley’s goal in the first period came from a similar spot to Hensrud’s, as he walked into a strong wrister from just above the right faceoff dot.
“(I) learned how to play the more physical side of the game, play more defensive,” Paisley said when asked how he grew through the playoffs.
“My linemates, Dawson (Milliken) and Kirk (Mullen) were unbelievable, so that helped a lot as well.”
Those two goals were the only cushion Steinbach starter Dominik Wasik needed. Across three home games in the finals, Wasik was perfect, not allowing a single goal on 83 shots.
Wasik said staying in the present moment was key for him during the finals. It was a textbook performance from the Colorado goaltender, who did a masterful job controlling rebounds throughout the playoffs, limiting Virden’s ability to generate extended chances.
Wasik started all 18 games for Steinbach in the playoffs, including all games on back-to-back days, while posting a league-leading 2.35 goals against average and 0.921 save percentage.
“The (quarterfinal) series against Winkler, all they were doing was looking for rebounds, and crashing the net, and I think we really grew, and I grew, controlling rebounds and second opportunities,” Wasik said.
Milliken earned playoff most valuable player honours, but Dyck noted he was one of many who could have walked away with the honour.
“(Milliken) pulled us into a lot of battles when we were not going as a group,” Dyck said.
“He’s certainly deserving of it, but (Dominik Wasik) was also deserving of it, he was just there for us every game. To have three shutouts in a series is crazy to think about.”
Steinbach forward Leo Chambers had to leave the game with a broken collarbone, but was able to return to celebrate the championship with his teammates on the ice.
While players were concerned for Chambers, Dyck said they did a good job of focusing on the task at hand, relying on the medical staff to take care of their fallen teammate.
Despite playing with 11 forwards, every Steinbach player saw multiple shifts in the third period, as Dyck rolled four lines, relying on the team’s defensive depth to carry them forward. Dyck said he loved how the team played in the third period.
“We asked our guys to all be Selke trophy winners, to play like Patrice Bergeron,” he said, referring to the award given to the NHL’s top defensive forward.
“We got it from everybody… (I’m) just really, really proud of how everyone bought in.”
The Pistons only gave up six shots in the final frame.
Steinbach will join the host Portage Terriers as MJHL teams at the Centennial Cup, which will begin May 11. The national junior A championship includes 10 teams from across the country.