A three point performance from defensemen Skyler Thorsteinson, combined with a stellar night between the pipes from Tyler Gutenberg, provided the Neepawa Natives the spark they needed to secure a 5-1 win over the Steinbach Pistons on Friday, Mar. 17. The victory lifted the Natives into a 2-2 series tie with the Pistons in their best of seven MJHL quarter-final.
Neepawa jumped out to the early lead off a Bradley Marshall power-play goal just 3:27 into the first. Thorsteinson and Sam Stewart assisted on the effort. Later in the period, Ashton Anderson and Nick Schultze tallied goals, providing the Natives with a three goal advantage. Nolan Richards and Stewart assisted on the Anderson goal, while Marshall and Thorsteinson added to their stats on the Schultze’s effort. Braden Purtill scored for Steinbach just before the end of the first to make it 3-1 after 20 minutes of play.
Heading into the second period, the Pistons looked to put some early pressure on Gutenberg. The 20-year-old stood his ground, however, and was able to steer away any chances he faced. John McCammon scored the only goal of the middle frame, making it 4-1 for Neepawa heading into the third period.
In the final frame, Thorsteinson registered his first goal, but third point of the contest with 8:37 remaining in regulation, making the final score 5-1. Goaltender Tyler Gutenberg was outstanding for the Natives, making 37 saves. He was selected the third star of the game. Sam Stewart (three assist) received the second star, while Thorsteinson (1G - 2A) earned the first star. As of March 17th, Thorsteinson also led the league in playoff scoring (2G - 5A), while Reigan Buchanan was close behind in second (5G -1A). After the game, Thorsteinson said the efforts of his teammates are the real x-factor in his recent high level of play.
“[My teammates] are making me look pretty good out there. [Kruz] Listmayer has been good support on the ice and it’s been pretty easy to move the puck up the ice. The forwards have really been there for passes and have put away chances when they present themselves,” stated Thorsteinson. “We jumped on them early tonight and that’s what you have to do against a team like Steinbach. You can’t let them gather an early momentum.”
Coach Dustin Howden agreed and added that was exactly the type of game they need to play to stop a talented team like the Pistons.
“We have to get in their way and make things tough on them. Don’t let them play their style of hockey. I felt our guys did a pretty good job out there tonight. We got some timely goals that really helped us out as well,” stated Howden.
Neepawa and Steinbach return to the ice at the T.G. Smith Centre Saturday, Mar. 18, at 7:30 p.m. Game six in the series will be played on Monday, Mar. 20 at the Yellowhead Centre. Start time is set for 7:30 p.m. in Neepawa. If a seventh game is needed, it will be played on Wednesday, Mar. 22 in Steinbach.