The Winkler Flyers comeback effort fell just short on Friday night, losing 6-4 to the visiting Steinbach Pistons in their final home game of the MJHL preseason. Despite trailing by as much as 4-0 in the second period, the Orange and Black made it a one goal game in the third before the Pistons finished it off with an empty net goal in the final minute.
Playing against each other for the first of four straight games between preseason and regular season, the Flyers and Pistons had a spirited affair in front of a good sized crowd at the Winkler Rec Complex. It was a fairly even opening 20 minutes but the Pistons would find the back of the net twice and led 2-0 heading into the break.
Steinbach added two more goals in the first twelve minutes of the second and Winkler found themselves in a 4-0 hole. The Flyers started to climb out of that hole with just over six and a half minutes left in the period when Griffin Leonard and Brody Moffatt assisted on Mitch Thiessen’s first of the post season to cut the visitors’ lead to 4-1. Unfortunately for Winkler, the Pistons got that one right back to regain their four goal cushion.
The Flyers made a game of it with two quick goals in the final three minutes of the second as Brody Moffatt scored a nice goal to make it 4-2 and Bryce Krauter scored his third of the exhibition season to make it a two goal game after 40 minutes.
The third period was a physical, back and forth and entertaining 20 minutes of hockey and it started with a spirited tilt between Cameron Critch of the Flyers and Max Neill of the Pistons. In the minutes to follow, the Flyers generated significant pressure in the attacking zone and with 6:42 gone in the period, newcomer Michael Heller sent the puck behind the Steinbach net to Matty Harrold who snuck a shot under the blocker of goaltender Danton Belluk to get the Flyers all the way to within a goal.
The rest of the game was testy and hard hitting, and before the Flyers could get the equalizer, Steinbach sealed the game with an empty net goal to make the final 6-4 for the road team.
Dylan Meilun played the first two periods in goal for Winkler and made 18 saves on the 23 shots he faced. Winkler native Malachi Klassen stopped all 12 shots he faced in just under 20 minutes of play. The Pistons outshot Winkler 36-28 overall. Winkler went 0-for-3 on the power-play and 4-for-5 on the penalty-kill.
The Flyers, who are now 3-2 in preseason play will take on the Pistons in Steinbach on Saturday night in their exhibition finale. Puck drop at the TG Smith Centre is 7:30pm. The same two teams will meet again next weekend to begin the regular season.