The Winnipeg ICE’s week saw them have a weekend road trip out west

By Thomas Neufeld

The Winnipeg ICE’s week saw them have a weekend road trip out west, with a loss and win to show for their efforts. Coming off a tough week where they were shutout in both of their games and outscored by a total of 11-0, the ICE were eager to get back on the ice and get back in the win column.

Medicine Hat Tigers:

The ICE’s first game of their road trip came against the Medicine Hat Tigers on October 11th

. Returning goaltender, Jesse Makaj, was set to make his season debut in net for the ICE, after coming down with an illness before the season started. The game didn’t get off to the start Makaj and the ICE were hoping for, as the team was down 3-0 before the game reached its midpoint.

The ICE would get some momentum going in their favor when Jakin Smallwood scored his first of the season not long after the Tigers made it 3-1, followed by a Connor McClennon goal early in the third to draw the ICE within one. But the comeback was not meant to be, as Cole Sillinger scored to give the Tigers back their 2 goal lead, and Tyler Preziuso got a late empty net goal to seal a 5-2 Tigers win. Makaj stopped 27 of 31 shots in his season debut.

Swift Current Broncos:

The ICE’s next game would come the next night against the Swift Current Broncos in what turned out to be a wild game.

Rookie goalie Gage Alexander would be starting in net for the ICE. The ICE opened the scoring on Isaac Johnson’s third goal of the year to take the lead, just 46 seconds into the game.

It didn’t take the Broncos long to respond, as they tied the game up just 2 minutes later. Later in the period, the ICE experienced a tough minute, as the Broncos scored 3 goals in under a minute to take a 4-1 lead. Makaj came in to replace Alexander in net after the fourth goal, but the Broncos managed to extend their lead to 5-1 before the period was over.

Despite the large deficit, Makaj would not surrender another goal, and the ICE started a comeback. Two goals 33 seconds apart early in the second brought the ICE within 2, and another 2 goals under 2 minutes apart midway through the third, brought the game to an even 5-5 score. Overtime would be required, and eventually a shootout. Connor McClennon scored for the ICE in the shootout, and Makaj stopped all 3 shots that he faced, and the ICE came away with a thrilling 6-5 come from behind shootout win.

Week in review and a look ahead:

The comeback win has the ICE sitting in a playoff spot through their first 9 games, with a .500 record of 4-4-1.

Jesse Makaj’s first 2 games of the season in net for the ICE included exceptional play in the comeback win, and the team must be encouraged to have him back in net.

The ICE will play back to back games this Friday and Saturday; both against the Saskatoon Blades, whom they defeated earlier in the season in another wild game that saw the ICE win by a 7-6 score

What was to be a busy week for the Pistons with 4 games,

By Thomas Neufeld

What was to be a busy week for the Pistons with 4 games, had to be shortened to 2 games, as their October 11th and 12th games both had to be postponed due to the winter storm that hit Manitoba.

League best Terriers:

The Pistons first game of the week came at home against the undefeated Portage Terriers who entered the game with a perfect record of 8-0-0. This would be the two teams second meeting of the season, after Portage squeaked out a 4-3 overtime win back on September 25th in Portage.

The Pistons came out racing in this game, as 3 first period goals and an early marker in the second, gave the team a 4-0 lead that they would not relinquish. Matt Lenz would stop 20 of the 21 shots he faced, and the Pistons handed the Terriers’ their first loss of the season by a score of 5-1. Max Neill scored 2 powerplay goals for the Pistons in the win, while Carter Loney picked up 2 assists

Postponement and Winnipeg Blues:

The Pistons back to back home games against the Dauphin Kings and Swan Valley Stampeders were both forced to be postponed due to the winter storm that raged through Manitoba. This meant that the Pistons next game would be back on the road against the Winnipeg Blues.

This would be the Pistons and Blues first matchup of the season, and the first time Ty Naaykens, Codey Behun, and Dylan Cassie played against their former team, after a blockbuster trade in the summer brought them to the Pistons.

The Blues opened the scoring early in the first period, and held a 1-0 lead through 2 periods. Kyle Bettens tied the game for the Pistons at 8:38 of the third, and Jackson Kobelka, acquired from the Steelers earlier this season, gave the Pistons the lead at 14:09, with his first goal of the season. 57 seconds later, former Blues forward Codey Behun got what proved to be the game winning goal for the Pistons. The Blues came within one 35 seconds later, but another former Blues forward, Ty Naaykens, scored the insurance goal 33 seconds later, and the Pistons came away with the 4-2 win. Matt Lenz started in goal for the Pistons and stopped 18 of the 20 shots he faced.

Week in review and a look ahead:

The 2 wins for the Pistons this week have vaulted them into a tie for second place with the Waywayseecappo Wolverines, and three points back of the Portage Terriers for first place.

The 3 acquisitions from the Blues in the offseason have already been key contributors for the Pistons this year. Ty Naaykens has 3 goals and 6 points in 9 games, Dylan Cassie has 2 assists and 3 points in 10 games, and Codey Behun has 5 goals and 6 points through 10 games. Kyle Bettens and Carter Loney lead the team with 11 points each, while Matt Lenz has started 9 of the team’s 10 games, and owns a 7-1-1 record.

Through 10 games, the Pistons have a 7-2-1 record, adding up to 15 points.

The Pistons next game will be come on Friday the 18th at home against the Waywayseecappo Wolverines, in a game between 2 teams with identical records. It will be the 2 teams third matchup of the year, with each team picking up a win in the season series so far.

Blues play road games on 3 straight nights

BY Thomas Neufeld

Coming off a busy week that saw the Blues play road games on 3 straight nights, the team had 3 scheduled games this week; one on the road and two at home. However, the snowy and icy Manitoba weather, which cut out power to much of the province, forced the postponement of one of the team’s home games

Winkler Flyers

The Blues first game of the week came when the Blues traveled to Winkler on Tuesday. The Blues came out strong in this game, as the team scored the game’s first 2 goals before the midpoint of the first period. Brayden Foreman opened the scoring 37 seconds in, and rookie, Rhys Raeside scored his eighth goal of the season, at the 8:40 mark. Dante Giannuzzi was in the pipes for the Blues and stopped 21 of the 22 shots he faced in the first period, which allowed the Blues to enter the break with a 2-1 lead.

Braden Fischer got the Blues lead back to 2 by the midpoint of the second period, and though the Flyers kept pounding the Blues with shots, they only got 1 of their 16 shots by Giannuzzi in the second period. The third period saw Giannuzzi shut the door and stop all 16 shots, and Rhys Raeside potted an empty net goal to seal a 4-2 win for the Blues. Giannuzzi stopped 52 of 54 shots in the win.

Snow storm and Dauphin Kings

A powerful storm swept through Manitoba and forced the postponement of the Blues October 12th game against the Neepawa Natives. The weather did clear up enough to allow for the Blues October 13th home game against the Dauphin Kings to commence.

Entering the third period, the Blues were being outshot 21-14, and faced a 2-0 deficit. Jack Oleksiuk got the Blues on the board, with his third goal of the season on a powerplay marker, but the Kings were able to prevent the tying goal, and scored 2 late goals for a 4-1 victory. Cooper Hatfield got the start for the Blues, and stopped 28 of 32 shots in the loss.

Week in review and a look ahead

Despite the weather shortened week, Rhys Raeside and Mikol Sartor continued their exceptional play for the Blues, and goaltender Dante GIannuzzi had another strong game. Raeside and teammate Braden Fischer are still the league’s highest 2 scoring rookie forwards, with Raeside just 4 points back of the league scoring title. Meanwhile, Giannuzzi has seen his save percentage grow to a sparkling 0.930.

After the Thanksgiving weekend, the Blues first game action will come against the Steinbach Pistons on Tuesday, before a road match-up against the Virden Oil Capitals on Saturday. The Blues sit in ninth place in the MJHL standings entering the week, with a record of 3-8-1, totalling to 7 points.

Winnipeg Ice were back home this week for back to back games, and hoping to build upon their strong start.

By Thomas Neufeld

After a strong first 5 games to the season that included a successful Saskatchewan road trip, the Winnipeg Ice were back home this week for back to back games, and hoping to build upon their strong start.

Edmonton Oil Kings

The Ice’s first game of their back to back homestand came against the Edmonton Oil Kings

The Oil Kings came out firing and scored the game’s first 3 goals within the first 10 minutes. Unfortunately for the Ice, the next 2 periods would see similar domination, as the Oil Kings scored 2 more goals in each period, on their way to a 7-0 win.

Despite the 7-0 shutout loss, the Ice did outshoot the Oil Kings, and surely had some takeaways they could build off going into their next game.

Vancouver Giants

The Vancouver Giants would be the Ice’s opponent on the back half of their back to back homestand.

The Giants came out strong and created a 2-0 lead just past the midway point of the first period. 16 year old Ice defenseman, Carson Lambos tried to get momentum on the Ice’s side when he and Alex Kannok Leipert sparred right after the Giants scored their second goal of the game. It would take the GIants a while to get their next goal, but one more goal in each of the next 2 periods gave them a 4-0 lead and victory.

Despite being shutout for the second consecutive game, the Ice did manage to outshoot their opponent for a second consecutive night.

Week in review and a look ahead

Despite the tough week for the Ice, they still sit third in their division and would qualify for the playoffs if the season ended today. Though they didn’t score in either game this week; managing to generate 40 and 33 shots does indicate the team is getting chances and that there is optimism for the offense of last week to return soon.

Goaltender Dean McNabb had been injured in last week’s Saskatchewan road trip and was unavailable for the back to back games, which gave rookies Gage Alexander and Will Gurski the task of guarding the net, as each started their second game of the season. McNabb could be returning from injury soon, and the team’s starting goalie from last year, Jesse Makaj, could also be returning soon.

Captain Peyton Krebs still has not been cleared from his Achilles injury, and the timetable for his return is unknown.

This week, the Ice will head out on a road trip and play back to back games on Friday and Saturday against the Medicine Hat Tigers and Swift Current Broncos.

The Pistons sit in 5th place in the MJHL through their first 8 games of the season, and own a record of 5-2-1.

By Thomas Neufeld

The Pistons sit in 5th place in the MJHL through their first 8 games of the season, and own a record of 5-2-1.

This week saw the team go on a road trip and play a pair of games; one against the Waywayseecappo Wolverines, and one against the Neepawa Natives.

Wolverines

The first game of the trip saw the Pistons try to defeat the Wolverines for the second straight game, after a come from behind win last week.

The game started well for the Pistons, as they opened the scoring 5:26 in when Zach Purcell scored his second goal of the season. The Wolverines would respond quickly with a power play goal, and took the lead a few minutes later. The second period saw no goals scored; with the shots even at 8 a piece. The third period was another low shot affair, but the Wolverines managed to score midway through the third to extend their lead to 2, and then added a late shorthanded goal to make it 4-1.

The Pistons did manage to score a goal on the power play with just over a minute to go, but there was no time for a comeback, as they fell to the Wolverines at a final score of 4-2.

Neepawa

The Pistons would have the chance to get back in the win column the next night against the Neepawa Natives, in their first match-up against each other of the season.

Neepawa outshot the Pistons in the first period, 16-10, but the Pistons managed to create a 1-0 lead through 20 minutes. Neepawa outshot the Pistons again in the second period, and had a 29 second stretch where they scored 2 goals and took a 2-1 lead, but the Pistons got the game back on even terms when Codey Behun scored his fourth goal of the season on a shorthanded marker.

Pistons goalie Matt Lenz had faced 28 shots through 2 periods, and would stop the last 9 he faced in the third, as his teammates scored two goals to propel the Pistons to a 4-2 win. Similar to Neepawa’s 2 goals in 29 seconds earlier, the Piston’s had a dominant 61 seconds in the third period where they scored 2 goals to create the 2 goal margin of victory

Week in review and a look ahead

Matt Lenz started both games for the Piston’s this week, and has started 7 of the team’s 8 games to this point. Kyle Bettens leads the team in scoring with 3 goals and 5 assists.

The Pistons have had just one home game through their first 8 games, but next week will see them play 3 games at home, and only one on the road. The team will play against league best Portage Terriers for the second time this season, and face the Swan Valley Stampeders, Dauphin Kings, and Winnipeg Blues for their first time this season.

In other news, it was announced that Steinbach city council has given unanimous support for a $42.5 million project that will include a new home for the Pistons to play in.

Winnipeg Blues have played the most of any MJHL team to this point

The Winnipeg Blues have played the most of any MJHL team to this point, competing in 10 games and compiling a record of 2-7-1, which places them 8th in the league standings.

MJHL Showcase

The Blues first 2 games of the week took place on back to back days in the MJHL showcase, which saw them in matches against the Waywayseecappo Wolverines and Swan Valley Stampeders.

Waywayseecappo pulled out to a 4-0 lead, but as we saw last week, the Blues are a resilient bunch, and battled back to within one goal, before the Wolverines added two empty netters. Mikol Sartor scored twice, and Rhys Raeside added a goal and 2 assists in their comeback bid. Cooper Hatfield got the start for the Blues, and stopped 27 of 31 shots in the loss.

The match with the Stampeders featured a fast paced third period, with 5 goals being scored, and the Stamps coming away with a 4-2 win. The Stamps entered the third with a 1-0 lead, and with 30 shots already targeted at Blues starting goalie, Dante Giannuzzi. The Blues tied it up early on a Josiah Vanderhooft tally, but Swan Valley responded quickly and restored their one goal lead, 18 seconds later. Swan Valley would add another goal a few minutes later, only to see the Blues get within one, when Rhys Raeside scored 2 minutes later. The Stamps however continued to fire shots at Giannuzzi, and managed to get another goal late in the third to seal their 4-2 win. Giannuzzi was named the game’s first star, stopping 45 of 49 shots.

Road Trip

The Blues headed on a road trip that would see them play games on 3 consecutive nights, with 2 of the games coming against the OCN Blizzard, and 1 in another match-up with the Swan Valley Stampeders.

The first game against the Blizzard saw the Blues open up the scoring on a power play goal by Josiah Vanderhooft, but the lead didn’t last long, as the Blizzard tied the game up under a minute later. Despite being outshot in the second period, the Blues managed to create a multi-goal lead on goals by Rhys Raeside and Matt Hill, 20 seconds apart. The 3-1 lead they built would be how the game ended, as Cooper Hatfield shut the door, and the Blues picked up their second win of the season.

The Blues would have an opportunity for back-to-back wins against the Blizzard, but the Blizzard turned in a strong performance that saw them fire 50 shots at Blues goaltender Dante Giannuzzi. Rookie Matthew McLeod scored a shorthanded goal for the Blues to tie the game at one in the first period, but the Blizzard would score the game’s next 4 goals, on their way to a 5-1 victory. Despite being outshot 46-20 through 2 periods, the Blues did manage a strong third period, in which they outshot the Blizzard 18-5.

The Swan Valley Stampeders would be the last match-up of the 3 day road trip, in a game that required extra time. It was late in the third when Rhys Raeside scored to give the Blues the 3-2 lead, but Swan Valley scored 82 seconds later to tie the game up, and then scored in overtime to pick up the OT win. Three times the Blues held a one goal lead, but each time the Stampeders managed to tie the game. Josiah Vanderhooft, Jack Oleksiuk, and Rhys Raeside scored for the Blues in the loss, while Hatfield stopped 43 of 47 shots.

Week in review and a look ahead

It was a busy week for the Blues, in which they played in 5 games. They entered the week with a 1-4-0 record, and finished it with a 2-7-1 record. Rhys Raeside and Mikol Sartor each have 10 points on the season, which places them in a tie for fourth in the overall league scoring race. Raeside is the league’s highest scoring rookie forward, with rookie teammate Braden Fisher being one point back of him.

The MJHL’s monthly awards for September were released this week, and Braden Fisher was named the league’s rookie of the month; a month in which he registered 3 goals and 4 assists in 6 games. He also was named the league’s second star of the week, for September 24-29th. He and Raeside should have a chance at October’s rookie of the month award. Meanwhile, Sartor was an honorable mention for the player of the month award.

This week will see the Blues have a road game against the Winkler Flyers, before they start a three game homestand against three of the league’s best teams; the Portage Terriers, the Virden Oil Capitals, and the Waywayseecappo Wolverines

Steinbach Pistons own a record of 4-1-1, placing them in fifth place with 9 points;

By Thomas Neufeld

Through their first 6 games of the season, the Steinbach Pistons own a record of 4-1-1, placing them in fifth place with 9 points; 3 back of the first place and undefeated, Portage Terriers.

Back-to-Back

The Pistons started the season with tight back-to-back games against the Winkler Flyers, in which they were victorious on both occasions. In their first game of the season and in front of their home fans, last year’s team rookie of the year, Kyle Bettens, scored a goal and an assist, and returning goaltender, Matt Lenz, stopped 27 shots, in leading the team to an opening night 3-2 win.

The next night would see the team travel to Winkler for a rematch. Bettens scored another goal, and Lenz was a rock in net, stopping 37 of 38 shots in a 3-1 win.

Extra Time

The Pistons next 2 games would both require extra time, one resulting in a loss, and another in a win. First up was the Portage Terriers. A back and forth first period saw the Pistons up 3-1, but the Terriers tied the game up in the second, and took the game 4-3 in OT.

The Virden Oil Capitals were next up, and this time the game required not only overtime, but also a shootout. Ty Naaykens scored a goal and an assist to go along with a goal in the shootout, and Matt Lenz, in his fourth consecutive start, made 28 saves in the win.

MJHL Showcase

The Pistons next 2 games would take place in the MJHL showcase on back-to-back days against the Selkirk Steelers and Waywayseecappo Wolverines.

In their game against the Steelers, the Steelers scored the game’s first 4 goals, on their way to a 4-1 win. Niklas Anderson made his first start of the season, and stopped 26 shots in the loss.

The matchup against the Wolverines got off to a tough start, as the Pistons found themselves in another multi-goal deficit; down 3-0 after one period, but the team scored the next 3 goal goals to force overtime, before Codey Behun scored the overtime winner.

One Week Down

It was a busy first 10 days to the season for the Pistons, but they have a strong record to show for it. Kyle Bettens is the team’s scoring leader with 3 goals and 3 assists, and Matt Lenz owns a 2.32 GAA through 5 starts.

Next on the schedule for the Pistons is a two-game road trip that will start with a rematch against the Wolverines, and end with a matchup against the Neepawa Natives

Winnipeg Blues saw their first week of the 2019-20 season come and go with a record of 1-4-0

By Thomas Neufeld

The Winnipeg Blues saw their first week of the 2019-20 season come and go with a record of 1-4-0, which places them in a tie for seventh in the MJHL standings through September 29th.

The 2019-20 season is the Blues’ first season under new ownership, in their new building, and with their new look roster that includes 10 rookies.

Portage Terriers 2 game series

The team’s season got underway on the road against the strong Portage Terriers on September, 20th. The Terriers came out flying and peppered Blues goalie Cooper Hatfield with 29 shots through the first 40 minutes of action. The Blues were down 3-0 entering the third period, but Hatfield shut the door and the Blues started a comeback bid that saw them come within one goal of the Terriers, when Rhys Raeside scored a power play goal with just over 2 minutes to go in the game. The Blues pulled their goalie in an effort to get the tying goal, but the Terriers iced the game with an empty netter, bringing the final to 4-2 for the Terriers.

The Blues wouldn’t have to wait long to get another chance to take down the Terriers, as their next game, and first game in their new home, took place two days later at the RINK Training Centre against the same Terriers.

The Blues opened the scoring 4:49 into the game on a goal by rookie defenseman, Duncan Jowett, but the lead was short lived, as the Terriers responded less than 40 seconds later, and peppered Hatfield with 29 shots through 2 periods for the second game in a row; taking a 3-1 lead into the second intermission. The Terriers stayed on the attack and scored early in the third, on their way to another 4-2 win over the Blues. Hatfield faced over 40 shots for the second game in a row.

Season’s first win

The Blues’ next chance to pick up their first win would come 2 days later at home against the Neepawa Natives. The Natives took an early 2-0 lead, but the Blues closed the deficit to one before the period ended on Josiah Vanderhooft’s first goal of the season. The second period proved to be a back and forth affair, as the Natives extended their lead to 2 goals on 2 occasions, only to have the Blues score a goal not long after both times; bringing the score after 2 periods to 4-3 Neepawa. Braden Fischer scored early in the third for the Blues to draw the game even, and late in the third, Josiah Vanderhooft scored his third goal of the game, which proved to be the game winner. Hatfield made 28 saves for the Blues in the 5-4 win, Vanderhooft led the team with the hat-trick, and assistant captain Mikol Sartor tallied 3 assists in the winning effort.

Flyers win 5-2

The Blues’ final game of their 3 game homestand would come against the Winkler Flyers, who led the Blues by a 4-0 score after 2 periods, on their way to a 5-2 win. The Blues had scored back-to-back goals to start the third period in hopes of making a comeback, but they could never get another shot past Flyers’ goaltender, Dorrin Luding, and the Flyers finished the game with an empty netter. Hatfield started his fourth consecutive game for the Blues, and stopped 28 of 32 shots in the loss.

Back on the road

The Blues final game of the week would take place the following night, on the road against the Selkirk Steelers. Dante Gianuzzi would get the start for the Blues, fresh off training camp with the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks. It would be a busy first period for Gianuzzi, as the Steelers fired 22 shots at him, and led 3-1 by period end. The score would stay the same until late in the second when the Steelers extended their lead to 4-1. The Blues scored 2 goals in the third, but could not get the tying goal, and dropped this game 4-1. Gianuzzi’s first game with the Blues saw him stop 44 of 48 shots in the loss.

Week in review

The Blues’ 1-4-0 record wouldn’t be what the team was hoping for, but they have already proved to be a resilient bunch that will push for a comeback. Down by at least 2 goals in every game, they managed to come back within one goal of their opponent in each game except against the Flyers, where down 4-0, they still scored successive goals to come within 2 of the Flyers.

A week into the season, Hatfield and Gianuzzi seem to be a dependable tandem, giving the Blues a chance to compete every night. They have faced a lot of shots through the first 5 games, and it will be interesting to see how games are dispersed between the 2 of them going forward.

Through September 29th, assistant captain Mikol Sartor is tied for first in league scoring, with 1 goal and 6 assists, while Josiah Vanderhooft and Braden Fischer are tied for second in team scoring, with each having tallied 3 goals and 2 assists.

Week to come

The Blues’ schedule from September 30th through October 6th will see them play another 5 games, among which 2 games will be part of the 2019 MJHL showcase on Monday and Tuesday. The MJHL showcase will see them play games against the Waywayseecappo Wolverines, who are tied for first in the league with 8 points, and the Swan Valley Stampeders, who have 6 points on the season. The Blues will then head out on a road trip and play on 3 consecutive nights; on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, with 2 games against the OCN Blizzard, who own a 1-2-0 record, and then play their second game of the week against the Swan Valley Stampeders.

This will be another busy week for the Blues, and they no doubt hope to build off their resilient week one play, and manage to turn those close games into more wins. It will be exciting to see where their record stands this time next week.

The Steinbach Pistons started their 2018-19 season with the raising of their Turnull and Anavet Cup banners

By Thomas Neufeld

The Steinbach Pistons started their 2018-19 season with the raising of their Turnull and Anavet Cup banners, which they won in the 17-18 season as the MJHL champion and as the winner of a best of 7 showdown with the SJHL champion, Nipawin Hawks. The Pistons had their sights set on another title, and were a contender to repeat as league champion right out of the gate, in a season that saw them make it all the way to the semi-finals.

10 players from the 2017-18 championship team were back with the Pistons in their quest to repeat. Amongst their ranks were returning forwards Brendan Martin and Tyson McConnell, defenseman Declan Graham, and goaltender Matt Radomsky. New players were also brought in, including goaltender Matt Lenz, defenseman Troy Williams, and forwards Tanner Mole and Kyle Bettens

All players proved key in the Pistons’ quest to repeat as champions, and many ended up among the team’s award winners at the end of the season.

Brendan Martin finished first on the team in scoring with 31 goals and 27 assists, followed closely by 2018-19 team captain, Tyson McConnell, with 20 goals and 27 assists.

The leading point man on defense was new acquisition Troy Williams, who scored 8 goals to go with 36 assists, to finish fourth in league scoring among defensemen.

Tanner Mole joined Martin and McConnell in the “20 goal club”, with 20 goals and 11 assists, while rookie Kyle Bettens scored 10 goals and 19 assists on his way to being named the team’s rookie of the year.

The Pistons allowed the fewest goals across the entire league in 2018-19, with Matt Radomsky leading the league in wins with 27, in shutouts with 6, and in goals against average at 2.06, in 40 games.

The Pistons gave their fans much to cheer about over the season, posting a record of 24-6-0 in their regular season home games, on their way to finishing third in the overall league standings with a final record of 39-17-4, adding up to 82 points.

They were ready for a tough round one matchup against the sixth ranked Winnipeg Blues. The Pistons took the first 3 games of the best-of-seven series, and were one win from advancing to the semi-finals, before the Blues won the next 2 games. Game 6 turned out to be a long one, as both teams battled into double overtime, where Piston forward Jack Kilroy scored the OT and series winner; sending the Pistons to a semi-final matchup against the number 2 ranked Swan Valley Stampeders.

Steinbach took game one but soon found themselves facing elimination, down 3 games to one. They forced a game six, but the series comeback would fall short, as the Stampeders squeaked out a 5-3 win in game 6; ending the Pistons’ strong 2018-19 campaign in front of nearly 1000 Steinbach fans at T.G. Smith Arena.

With the season over and with some players aging out of junior hockey, Head Coach and GM Paul Dyck pulled off a blockbuster trade, with the team’s first round matchup, Winnipeg South Blues, in a deal that included 10 players in total. The Pistons acquired forwards Ty Naakens and Codey Behun, and defenseman Dylan Cassie in the deal. Naaykens and Behun finished second and third on their team in scoring, with 40 and 39 points, while Cassie was the team’s highest scoring defensemen, tallying 30 points. Naaykens will enter his second full season in the MJHL, Behun his third, while Cassie will be entering his last season of junior eligibility.

With star goalie Matt Radomsky set to play division 1 in 2019-20 after committing to play for Holy Cross during the 18-19 season, Matt Lenz will take on the team’s role of starting goalie, in his final season of junior eligibility, and hopes to build off his strong season as Radomsky’s backup. Among returning players, Tanner Mole and Declan Graham will be back with the team for their final season of junior eligibility, along with game 6 OT hero Jack Kilroy, while team rookie of the year forward, Kyle Bettens, will be back for his second full season with the club.

The Pistons’ have been a program of excellence and a top team and perennial contender in the league for 7 straight years, appearing in the league finals 4 times, and winning the championship twice, in that span. They have a strong core of returning players and players acquired this off season, to go with their strong foundation as an organization that is clearly working. You can expect them to be challenging for the league title again this year

The Winnipeg Blues 2018-19 season saw strong play on the ice and a change of ownership off of it

By Thomas Neufeld

The Winnipeg Blues 2018-19 season saw strong play on the ice and a change of ownership off of it, making for an interesting dynamic as the team enters the 2019-20 season.

The Blues started off the 2018-19 season on a decent stretch, with defenseman Michael Ladyman having a noticeably strong start that saw him sign an agreement to play with the Spokane Chiefs of the WHL, within a month of the season starting.

Goaltender Jeremy Link played strong in his final year of junior eligibility, playing in 48 games in which he picked up 26 wins and sported a league best 0.931 save percentage. The team was led offensively by forward Braeden Binda, who scored 20 goals and 42 points. Dylan Cassie led the team in scoring on defense, tallying 7 goals and 30 points.

The team finished the season with a 31-22-7 record, adding up to 69 points, and ranking them 6th in league standings. This record secured them a first round playoff match up against the high powered Steinbach Pistons.

The Blues dropped the first 3 games of the series and faced elimination, but battled back by winning the next 2 games, with game 6 being back home at the MTS Iceplex, where they would have the chance to tie the series. The game was a long one that stretched into double overtime, where the Pistons scored the winning goal; ending the Blues season.

It was a tough ending to the season, but another strong year for the team; marking an eighth consecutive season the team had made the playoffs.

With the season now over, an off season of change would take place for the Winnipeg Blues, as new ownership officially took over.

During the season, the Winnipeg Blues had been sold to a Winnipeg group known as “50 Below Sports & Entertainment.” This ownership group is the same group that purchased the WHL’s Kootenay Ice, and has relocated the team to Winnipeg for start of the 2019-20 season to play as the Winnipeg Ice. With the Blues 2018-19 season over and the sale agreement finalized, the changes ownership had in mind could now be put in place. The Blues would relocate from the Iceplex to Oak Bluff, Manitoba where they would train, practice, and play games at the state of the art, “Rink Training Centre.”

With the sale and new ownership in place, there would be management changes in the months to follow. Taras McEwen was named the team’s new general manager in May, and Gord Burnett named head coach in early July. By the end of July, Nick Fuher was announced as assistant coach, and the supporting staff and skill coaches were also announced. GM McEwen and head coach Burnett have each spent multiple seasons working with the WHL’s Kootenay (now Winnipeg) Ice, and McEwen will continue to work in his roles with Ice, in addition to his responsibilities with the Blues.

The change in ownership did also lend to a change in the roster, as the Blues made a number of moves that will see the team open the 2019-20 season with a new look roster and a new program. Among the players that look to make the transition with the team into the 2019-20 season are forwards Brayden Foreman and Mikol Sartor, and defenseman Joseph Kraus. Each of the 3 players will be entering their second full seasons with the Blues. Foreman led the group in points, scoring 7 goals and 34 points, Sartor scored 6 points in the Blues’ first round playoff matchup and had 7 goals and 18 points during the regular season, and defenseman Kraus picked up 2 assists in 42 games.

To go along with the new look roster, the team will be sporting new jerseys, after a new design was released during the offseason.

There has been a lot of change for the Blues in the last year with the change in ownership and management and direction of the program, but there is no question it will be exciting to see this new look team and their program hitting the ice this season. Expect a young, exciting, and competitive team.