Could the Manitoba Junior Hockey League have a Cinderella team in back-to-back seasons? The Winnipeg Blues are certainly making a case for the glass
Tuesday night at MTS Iceplex Channing Bresciani had the winning goal and two assists as the Winnipeg Blues beat the defending champion Steinbach Pistons 4-2 to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven Addison Division final.
Meanwhile, also on Tuesday, Dylan Butler scored twice and Jared Morris had a goal and an assist as the Dauphin Kings beat the Virden Oil Capitals 4-1 to take a 2-0 lead in the Sher-Wood Division final. Coincidentally, both Bytler and Morris are former members of the Blues.
Unless Steinbach and Virden can make some quick adjustments, it would appear the Blues and Dauphin are on a collision course for the MJHL’s Turnbull Cup final. And that would be almost as remarkable as the Pistons going from last in 2011-12 to first in 2012-13. After all, the Blues had to get past Winkler in the best-of-three “Series of Death,” and then beat overall regular season champion Selkirk, just to get a shot at the Pistons.
It has been an amazing spring for coach Don MacGillivray and the Blues.
“Nobody in Canada would have given us a chance to beat Selkirk in that last series,” said MacGillivray candidly. “Right from the first game of that series, the guys believed they were good enough to beat Selkirk, and that confidence has carried over to this series.
“We have nine or 10 guys back from last season. They have experience, but it hasn’t always been a good experience. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing. It has given our veterans a great deal of incentive.”
On Tuesday night, the veteran Bresciani was the star, but other members of the Blues stepped up. Mitch Hansen, Garret Browning and rookie sensation Jackson Keane scored the other goals for Winnipeg. Suede Omeasso and Colin Baudry scored for Steinbach. Game 3 in the series goes THursday night in Steinbach.
“We had a tough first series and we just made it through in seven games,” said Steinbach head coach and GM Paul Dyck. “I think that series took a lot out of our guys. But we’re OK. The best part is, it’s almost April and we’re still playing hockey. We’re still going to the rink everyday. We’ll be ready in front of our own fans on Thursday.”
MacGillivray, meanwhile, remains optimistic about the way his Blues have been playing this spring. Especially his special teams. The Blues scored two power play goals against Steinbach on Tuesday night and kept the Pistons off the board in two power-play chances.
“Special teams have been very important to us throughout the playoffs,” MacGillivray said. “Our power play was very good against Selkirk. There is no question we won that last series because of our special teams. They’ve played very well in this series, too.”
This year’s Turnbull Cup champion won’t have far to go to play in the 2014 Western Canada Cup. It’s in Dauphin from April 26-May 4.