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Oil Capitals edge Pistons in finals opener

Humboldt Broncos tragedy felt in Steinbach

By: Terry Frey

Posted: 04/7/2018 10:45 AM

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The Virden Oil Capitals beat the Steinbach Pistons 2-1 Friday night in Steinbach in the opening game of the MJHL finals.


The Virden Oil Capitals beat the Steinbach Pistons 2-1 Friday night in Steinbach in the opening game of the MJHL finals.


The Steinbach Pistons fell behind the eight-ball right off the bat Friday night in Steinbach as they fell 2-1 to the Virden Oil Capitals in the opening game of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League championship series.

The pennant-winning Pistons finished 17 points ahead of the second place Oil Capitals in the regular season standings, but playoff games, as they often are, tend to be the equalizer.

Scoreless in the first period in front of a huge crowd at the T.G. Smith Centre, the largest of the season at 1,263 spectators, Rylee Zimmer staked the Oil Capitals to a 1-0 lead midway through the second.

Virden went up 2-0 on a Hunter Cloutier marker five minutes into the third, but Pistons' defenceman Mark Taraschuk, with his fourth goal of the playoffs, narrowed the gap to 2-1 just 90 seconds later, but the Pistons could not get the equalizer.

Steinbach outshot Virden 38-30 as Riley McVeigh made 27 saves for the Caps while Matthew Thiessen stopped 28 for the Pistons.

Game two in the best of seven series goes Sunday at 7:30 p.m. at Virden, and then back to Steinbach for game three on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.

Friday night's game in Steinbach was being played as the unspeakable and horrific tragedy that has befallen the Humboldt Broncos hockey team was unfolding.

As the whole world now knows, 14 members of the Broncos were killed, and 14 injured in an accident involving their team bus as they were headed to Nipawin for a SJHL playoff game against the Hawks.

These MJHL teams and SJHL teams are inextricably linked, players are often traded from league to league and many of them know players and have played with or against players from Humboldt team. One such player was Mathieu Gomercic, the Winnipeg native who spent two seasons with the Pistons, and has played the past two years with the Broncos. He was injured but reportedly did not suffer life-threatening injuries.

Steinbach native Thomas Lenchyshyn, a former Piston himself, is now a mainstay on defence and an assistant captain of the Nipawin Hawks, who have been affected first hand by this tragedy as the Hawks were to host Humboldt in game five of the series Friday night.

Pistons' coach Paul Dyck said, "it is incredibly sad and tragic, we are devastated with the tragic news of the Humboldt Broncos."

MJHL Commissioner Kim Davis made this statement, "This is devastating news and we extend our deepest sympathy to the families of the Broncos. We are in shock, the hockey community is absolutley heartbroken."

Nipawin held a 3-1 series lead on the Broncos prior to Friday's tragedy. The winner of the series was to play the Estevan Bruins in the SJHL finals.

The winner of that series was subsequently set to play the winner of the Steinbach vs. Virden series, for the right to compete in the RBC Cup national national championship next month at Chilliwack, B.C.

It comes into question whether any of these games will be played, or should be played.    

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