The Carillon - ONLINE EDITION
By: Terry Frey
Posted: 06/1/2018 8:44 AM
Fans in these parts are still trying to catch their breath following this incredibly successful (and long) season put in by the Steinbach Pistons junior hockey club.
Playing hockey in the third week of May at the RBC Cup National Junior ‘A’ Hockey Championships was the goal the Pistons set for themselves when they first took to the ice early last September. They made it there, but came up short in their ultimate goal of winning the RBC Cup national championship.
The team has now dispersed for the summer following this celebrated season that saw them win the MJHL and ANAVET Cup titles, and work is already underway preparing for next season.
And in fact there is no rest for the weary, at least when it comes to Head Coach and GM Paul Dyck. The players, after a gruelling nine-month season, finally get a break. But for Dyck and his staff, the work continues to get ready for next season.
Dyck just returned from a scouting trip to the Toronto area, a trip in year’s past that has paid dividends such as with brothers Mackenzie and Declan Graham.
And coming up this weekend is the MJHL bantam age draft in Winnipeg, where the Pistons will garner the 11th and final pick. "I guess that’s what you get when you win a championship," said Dyck with a smile in an interview in a now quiet Pistons office Monday morning.
Still debriefing and reflecting on what happened at the RBC Cup National Junior ‘A’ Championship at Chilliwack, B.C., Dyck acknowledged that it was very disappointing for the team. Not just because they were the only one of the five teams that didn’t make the playoffs, but with the realization that they could have actually won the tournament, if they had made the semis and considering how close all the teams were.
Blowing two-goal leads in all of their first three games, losing all three by a single goal, two of them in overtime, was a tough pill to swallow.
But Dyck says, "The team just ran out of gas at the RBC Cup."
They were the last team to qualify for the RBC because of the delay in the ANAVET Cup series following the Humboldt Broncos bus tragedy. "We had the shortest turnaround of any team at the RBC Cup, the least amount of rest days, and this came after a tough, physical series against Nipawin with a lot of travel."
Ever since the Pistons won their first MJHL championship in the 2012-13 season, the Pistons have been an elite team in the MJHL every season, finally winning their second crown this season.
Expect a continuation of that next season.
One needs to only look at the line-up the Pistons had in game one of the season last September to what they had at the end of the season. Dyck is always improving his line-up, adding players that will improve the club right up until the deadlines. That, among many other factors, has been key to the club’s success over the past five years.
And although the club has a strong core of players returning next season, you also know that the Pistons’ retooling and reloading is an ongoing process.
Gone from next year’s team are some key players who are graduating from junior hockey: Drew Worrad, Braden Purtill, Mark Taraschuk, Bradley Schoonbaert, Mark Wilson and Luke Bellerose.
In addition, three standout players eligible to return next season, who have all made NCAA Division I commitments down the road, will probably not be back. Goaltender Matthew Thiessen along with forwards Riese Gaber and Austin Heidemann were all taken in the recent USHL draft and will likely play in the USHL next season. All three were also the top MJHL players selected in the USHL draft, a league where players often get one more year of seasoning before Division I college hockey.
Among the returning players next season are goaltender Matt Radomsky along with defenceman Jaret Lalli, Tristan Culleton and Declan Graham. Among the returning forwards are Brendan Martin, Jack Johnson, Brady Tatro, Will Koop, Easton Bennett and Tyson McConnell.
And Dyck says he is very pleased that his assistant coaches Graham Pollock and Joey Moggach will also be back with the team next season.
"Recruiting in the off-season is always difficult," says Dyck, "there is so much competition, but it helps that the Pistons name, the Pistons brand is becoming more recognizable as I talk to players."
"This season, making it all the way to the RBC Cup was such a tremendous and growing experience for our players, they will never forget it."
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