After dispatching the OCN Blizzard in five games in the opening round of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League Playoffs, the Winkler Flyers are on to the Semi-Finals where they will face off against their old Addison Division rivals, the Steinbach Pistons.
Advancing to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since the 2010-2011 season, the Flyers played a near perfect brand of hockey against the Blizzard, out scoring OCN 16-8 in the five games. Special Teams, scoring depth and a strong defensive commitment were key for the Flyers in Round One.
The Pistons also made quick work of the Swan Valley Stampeders in their Quarter-Final series, sweeping them in four games. Steinbach won the first two games at home by a combined score of 13-3, but had a slightly more difficult time on the road, winning game’s three and four in overtime.
Steinbach (45-10-5) finished the MJHL regular season in second place, just five points ahead of the third place Winkler Flyers (42-13-5). That edge gives the Pistons home ice advantage in this seven game series. It is also the first time that the Flyers and Pistons have ever met in the MJHL Playoffs. The two franchises have met before, when the Flyers lost out to the then Southeast Blades in the Quarter-Finals back in 2003.
Much like round one, Special Teams and scoring depth will be a big story line. The Flyers did not allow a single power-play goal against OCN and lead the playoffs with a penalty-kill rating of 100%. The Pistons on the other hand have the best power-play among playoff teams at just over 37%. In terms of depth, both the Flyers and Pistons had all but five of players who participated in round one record at least one point.
This series is expected to be a mirror image of their six game season series which saw both teams win three games. Both teams were exceptionally good at home this season, with Winkler going 22-5-3 at home, while the Pistons were 24-3-3 at home. However, against each other, it was the road team getting the win more often than not with both clubs only winning just one of their three home games.
Statistically, the Flyers and the Pistons are very similar in every category. Winkler finished the regular season with the second most goals scored in the MJHL with 260, while the Pistons were third at 251. The Pistons had the MJHL’s best power-play at 27.51%, while the Flyers were second at 26.88%. Winkler also had the league’s second best penalty-kill at 85.86%. Not only did the Flyers have a stellar penalty-kill, they also led the MJHL with nine short-handed goals scored this season (three in the playoffs), with forward Tristan Keck being responsible for six of those.
Offensively, six of the top 13 point generators in the MJHL this season came from either Winkler or Steinbach. Defensive stats and goaltending stats for both clubs were also near the top of the 11 team league.
The crowds for both teams will also be a large factor in this series, due in large part to the rivalry between the two teams and the two communities in general. The passion for Junior Hockey in both Winkler and Steinbach is some of the best you will find in Manitoba, especially with a berth into the Manitoba Junior Hockey League Final on the line.
Whichever team is able to stay disciplined and keep their emotions in check will surely have an advantage in this series. The physicality of Winkler’s series against OCN has also proved that the Flyers can play a variety of different styles. The Flyers rely heavily on their speed and skill to generate offense. And with their responsible veteran defensemen and goaltending, that combination has proved successful so far. The Pistons are a slightly bigger team than Winkler, but share many of the same attributes. This series should prove to be a very entertaining one for the fans and a very memorable one for all parties involved.
Here is the full schedule for the best of seven series.
Game One: Thursday, March 24th @ Steinbach, 7:30pm
Game Two: Saturday, March 26th @ Winkler, 8:00pm
Game Three: Tuesday, March 29th @ Steinbach, 7:30pm
Game Four: Friday, April1st @ Winkler, 7:30pm
Game Five: Sunday, April 3rd @ Steinbach, 7:30pm (if necessary)
Game Six: Tuesday, April 5th @ Winkler, 7:30pm (if necessary)
Game Seven: Wednesday, April 6th @ Steinbach, 7:30pm (if necessary)
Advance tickets for all Flyers playoff home games are available at the Winkler Coop Gas Bar or at the Arena prior to the game. All road games and home games can also be heard live on Country 88.9FM and online at www.pembinavalleyonline.com
Take a closer look at the six games the Flyers have played against the Pistons this season. Compare the two teams by clicking on the following links.
Game 1 @ Steinbach, Sep 25 – Flyers 5-2 – Shots 47-32 Pistons / PP 2-5 PK 4-5 / Larochelle W Wik L
Pistons home opener. Zak Hicks scored twice in the 1st and Winkler led 2-0 after one. Tyler Penner relied for Steinbach in the 2nd and Winkler took a 2-1 lead into the third. Keck, Gall x2 scored in the 3rd and Winkler led 5-1. Petkau added another for Steinbach with 30 sec left but Winkler had officially spoiled the Pistons home opener with a 5-2 win.
Game 2 @ Winkler, Sep 26 – Pistons 6-2 – Shots 32-30 Flyers / PP 2-6 PK 1-3 / Larochelle L Bengert W
Flyers home opener. Steinbach scored twice in the first 3:16 to take an early 2-0 lead on the Flyers. Gall and Whyte both scored PP goals later in the period and the game was tied 2-2. However, Steinbach scored twice more in the first and led 4-2 after 20 minutes. With Winkler trying to get back into the game, Denis Bosc tacked on 2 more in the third to spoil the Flyers home opener 6-2.
Game 3 @ Winkler, Oct 6 – Pistons 4-3 OT – Shots 38-29 Flyers / PP 2-6 PK 2-4 / Larochelle L Wik W
Trailing 1-0 after the 1st period, Mansbridge and Jubenvill scored in the second to give Winkler a 2-1 lead after 40 minutes. The Pistons scored the next two goals and led 3-2 with 6 mins to go. Scott Gall forced OT with a PP goal with just 40 sec left. However, the Pistons got a PP of their own and scored 1:52 into OT to get the 4-3 win.
Game 4 @ Steinbach, Oct 16 – Pistons 3-1 – Shots 37-27 Pistons / PP 0-3 PK 2-3 / Larochelle L Wik W
Coltyn Bates gave Winkler a 1-0 lead just over 7 minutes into the game. However, Steinbach tied it before the end of the period. The Pistons took a 2-1 lead on the PP in the second and added another in the third to win the game 3-1.
Game 5 @ Steinbach, Nov 7 – Flyers 3-2 SO – Shots 35-32 Pistons / PP 1-4 PK 3-4 / Slipp W Wik L
Leading the game 1-0 after the first, Steinbach took a 2-0 lead with a PP goal, 9:09 into the 2nd. Tristan Keck replied with a PP goal for Winkler 4 minutes later to cut the Pistons lead to 2-1 after the second. Keck scored again with 8:26 left in regulation to tie the game 2-2. After a thrilling OT where the Flyers nearly won the game, Jordy Williamson scored the shootout winner to give the Flyers the 3-2 win.
Game 6 @ Winkler, Dec 1 – Flyers 3-1 – Shots 37-35 Pistons / PP 0-1 PK 1-1 / Slipp W Bengert L
Dan Taillefer opened the scoring for the Pistons late in the 1st period and they took that 1-0 lead into the third. Cam Whyte tied the game early in the 3rd and Jordan Wall scored the eventual game winner with 8:26 left in the game. Keck added an empty netter with 16 seconds left and the Flyers finished off the Pistons 3-1.