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The Carillon - ONLINE EDITION

ANAVET Cup begins Friday in Steinbach

By: Terry Frey

Posted: 04/26/2018 11:08 AM

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Darby Gula, hoisting the Turnbull Cup for the victorious Pistons last Saturday in Virden, the Steinbach product who was the highest scoring rearguard in the MJHL this season and was named the league's Top Defenceman, is again expected to play a key role as he leads his hometown Pistons into the ANAVET Cup this weekend against the SJHL's Nipawin Hawks.

TERRY FREY/ THE CARILLON Enlarge Image

Darby Gula, hoisting the Turnbull Cup for the victorious Pistons last Saturday in Virden, the Steinbach product who was the highest scoring rearguard in the MJHL this season and was named the league's Top Defenceman, is again expected to play a key role as he leads his hometown Pistons into the ANAVET Cup this weekend against the SJHL's Nipawin Hawks.

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They were the top two teams in their respective junior leagues all season, so it is perhaps fitting that the MJHL champion Steinbach Pistons and SJHL champion Nipawin Hawks will square off in the ANAVET Cup, beginning Friday and Saturday night in Steinbach.

The winner of the series advances to the RBC Cup National Junior ‘A’ Championship, being held May 12-20 at Chilliwack, B.C.

Ranked 3rd in the CJHL national rankings, the Pistons claimed their second MJHL championship with a thrilling 2-1 victory over the Virden Oil Capitals last Saturday at Virden, winning the series 4-2. The Pistons won their first championship in the 2012-13 season.

Nipawin, ranked 8th in the country, survived an epic seven-game series with the Estevan Bruins, winning the seventh and deciding game 2-1 Tuesday night at Nipawin.

Steinbach posted the best record in the MJHL during the regular season with a 48-2-2 record, 17 points ahead of the second place Oil Caps. Nipawin topped the SJHL with a record of 43-8-3-4.

It was quite the championship series for the Pistons on their way to capturing the Turnbull Cup.

Virden stunned the Pistons winning the first two games of the finals by narrow margins of 2-1 and 4-3. But the Pistons stormed back to win four straight by scores of 5-3, 4-0, 7-1 and then finally 2-1.

Of course in the backdrop of all these games over the past three weeks and going forward is the horrific tragedy that struck the Humboldt Broncos hockey team on April 6 as they travelled to Nipawin for game five of their semi-final series. Nipawin at the time led the series 3-1. After both leagues paused in tribute to the Broncos, play resumed in the MJHL, and in the SJHL, with the blessing of the Broncos, who lost 16 members of their organization, and many more suffered life-altering injuries.

Steinbach’s Thomas Lenchyshyn, a former Piston himself, is an assistant captain of the Nipawin Hawks as he returns to his hometown to take on the Pistons. His younger brother Jack Lenchyshyn also plays defence for the Pistons. And adding another dynamic into this series is the fact that Pistons’ captain Braden Purtill is billeted at the Lenchyshyn home.

After the opening two games of the best-of-seven series Friday and Saturday in Steinbach, with the puck drop at 7:30 p.m. on both nights, the series shifts to Nipawin next week for games Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.

If required, games six and seven of the series will be played May 7 & 8 in Steinbach.

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