After a gruelling 18-game journey through the Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL) playoffs, the Steinbach Pistons are going to the Centennial Cup for the first time since 2018.
“It was a grind,” says head coach Paul Dyck.
During the regular season, the Pistons were a strong team — they posted a record of 42-15-0-1 and had the league’s best power play at 24.1 per cent — but they weren’t quite good enough to take top spot and finished five points behind the Portage Terriers.
Travis Hensrud finished the season with 72 points, 35 goals and 37 assists, in 55 games. Ian Amsbaugh and Ty Paisley each scored 21 goals and had over 50 points. In goal, the Pistons were propelled by Dominik Wasik, who went 25-9 with a .924 save percentage and the second-best goals-against average at 2.22.
Steinbach’s second-place finish in the regular season meant they had to face off against the much-tougher Winkler Flyers in the first round of the playoffs — a series that turned into a seven-game slugfest.
“Characterizing it as a slugfest would be accurate, it was definitely the most physical set of games that we played this year,” says Dyck.
Steinbach lost the first game, which had more than 70 minutes worth of penalties, 5-4 in overtime but won the next three. Winkler rattled off two straight victories to keep the series alive and force Game 7. The two teams found themselves tied early in the third until Warren Clark scored his first of playoffs on the power play to put the Pistons ahead. Hensrud then sealed the deal with a short-handed empty-net goal to send Steinbach to the second round.
“I loved how this team bounced back and really believed in themselves despite the fact that they went through some adversity, which as a coach, I felt was very necessary for this group.”
The Pistons then went toe-to-toe with the Swan Valley Stampeders in the semifinals, a team located 560 kilometres north of Steinbach. Although Steinbach won in six games, every game except one was decided by a single goal and three of the first four went into nail-biting double overtime.
Steinbach then took care of the Virden Oil Capitals in five games to capture their third-ever Turnbull Cup. Ty Paisley was Steinbach’s playoff standout, leading the way with 11 goals and 18 assists. Kirk Mullen and captain Dawson Miliken also contributed significantly, with 20 and 16 points, respectively, while Wasik recorded four shutouts and posted a .921 save percentage over 18 games.
“We always felt like we were capable of winning,” says Dyck.
What’s that saying? “It’s the journey, not the destination.” Well, the Pistons would argue it’s both.
HOW THEY GOT TO PORTAGE
Manitoba Junior Hockey League
Quarterfinal: defeated Winkler 4-3 (4-5 OT, 3-2, 3-1, 3-7, 1-3, 4-2)
Semifinal: defeated Swan Valley 4-2 (5-4 2OT, 5-1, 3-2 2OT, 3-4 2OT, 2-3, 3-2)
MJHL championship: defeated Virden 4-1 (4-0, 3-0, 3-6, 5-3, 3-0)
Record (W-L-OTL-SOL): 42-15-0-1 (2nd in MJHL)
Goals for: 227 (2nd in MJHL)
Goals against: 139 (2nd in MJHL)
Power play: 58 for 241 (24.1% – 1st in MJHL)
Penalty killing: 197 of 243 (81.1% – 5th in MJHL)
Longest winning streak: 8 (Nov. 12-Dec. 6)
Top 3 scorers:
• Travis Hensrud – 35G 37A 72P (3rd in MJHL)
• Ian Amsbaugh – 21G 37A 58P (12th in MJHL)
• Ty Paisley – 21G 35A 56P (17th in MJHL)
Goals for: 58
Goals against: 45
Power play: 11 for 38 (28.9%)
Penalty killing: 39 of 44 (88.6%)
Top 3 scorers:
• Ty Paisley – 11G 18A 29P (1st in MJHL)
• Kirk Mullen – 6G 14A 20P (3rd in MJHL)
• Dawson Miliken – 9G 7A 16P (4th in MJHL)
NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY
2018 – Steinbach Pistons | 5th place | 0-0-2-2 | 10GF 16GA
Warren Clark – St. Cloud State University (2023-24)
Davis Fry – Mercyhurst University (2023-24)
Travis Hensrud – Northern Michigan University (2023-24)
Nick Mikan – University of St. Thomas (2023-24)
Ty Paisley – University of St. Thomas (2023-24)
Dominik Wasik – Air Force Academy (2023-24)
CJHL TOP 20 RANKINGS
Sept. 26 – 2nd
Oct. 9 – 9th
Oct. 16 – 11th
Oct. 24 – 5th
Oct. 31 –7th
Nov. 7 – 3rd
Nov. 14 – 7th
Nov. 21 – 7th
Nov. 28 – 6th
Dec. 5 – 5th
Dec. 12 – 6th
Dec. 19 – 6th
Jan. 9 – 10th
Jan. 16 – 9th
Jan. 23 – 9th
Jan. 30 – 13th
Feb. 6 – 14th
Feb. 13 – 16th
Feb. 20 – 15th
Feb. 27 – 11th
March 6 – 12th