Considering the Neepawa Natives have been playing ‘playoff hockey’ for the past five weeks, it shouldn’t be shocking to anyone that they had gotten pretty good at it. But shock was likely what the Steinbach Pistons were feeling after falling 4-1 to Neepawa, in the first game of the best of seven series on Friday, Mar. 10.
The Natives came out quickly against the MJHL’s top team in the regular season, as Braeden Binda scored just over three minutes into the first. Later in the period, captain Reigan Buchanan scored on a power-play chance. That made it 2-0 for the visiting Natives going into the first intermission.
In the second period, the Natives found themselves dealing with penalties, with a 5:00 cross-checking major. While the Pistons had several good chances, they failed to take advantage. Immediately after killing off that penalty, Neepawa took after trip to the box. Fortunately, they were able to keep the Pistons at bay in that PK as well due to the impressive play of goaltender Tyler Gutenberg. Before the end of the second, the Natives converted on a power-play of their own with a Nick Schultze tally to make it 3-0 after two periods.
In the third, Neepawa looked to suppress any chance of a comeback quickly, as Buchanan scored another goal just 17 seconds into the period. Steinbach’s Danny Pion ruined the shutout bid late in the third, with an unassisted marker. That was not enough, however, as Neepawa earned the 4-1 victory. Gutenberg picked up the win and the first star of the game with his 32 save night.
Game two will be in Neepawa at the Yellowhead Centre on Sunday, Mar. 12. Opening face-off is set for 6:30 pm.