At playoff time, nothing beats a great goaltender.
Corey Koop, who was outstanding for the entire playoff run, made 26 saves to get another win on Wednesday night as the Steinbach Pistons beat the Dauphin Kings 3-2 to win the sixth and deciding game of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s Turnbull Trophy Championship Series. More than 1,400 crammed into the tiny T.G. Smith Centre in Stienbach to watch the Pistons earn themselves a spot in the Western Canada Cup.
With the Game 6 victory, the Pistons claimed their first MJHL Championship with a 4-2 series win. It was the first time the franchise had ever reached the playoffs.
Trent Genyk scored the game’s first two goals while Myles Nykoluk tallied the eventual winner at 8:24 of the third period. Guillaume Naud and Jesse Sinatynski scored the Dauphin goals.
However, Koop was the story throughout the championship series. The 20-year-old goaltender from Squamish, B.C., who arrived in Winkler last season and started the 2012-13 campaign in Neepawa, was acquired by Steinbach at the deadline and did everything a goaltender could possibly do to carry a team to a championship and was named the playoff MVP. He finished the year with a 3.11 goals against average and a brilliant .921 save percentage and in 19 games in the playoffs, his goals against average was 2.46 and his save percentage was .924.
“There isn’t a team more deserving than us,” Koop told AM 1250 Radio. “This is a remarkable feeling.”
His mom, Colleen, was back in Squamish listening to the games on the internet. She almost didn’t get through the overtime win in Dauphin in Game 5 when he son made 49 saves.
“He wants to win so badly,” Colleen said before last night’s game. “He’s so driven. The shots on Monday night, it made my stomach turn. How does the puck stay out?”
It stays out because he son, who wants a shot at U.S. college career, plays so well.
“The Pistons’ inspiring championship run quickly erased years of frustration for a franchise which began, based in Winnipeg, as the Southeast Thunderbirds,” said MJHL public relations director Brian Smiley. “The franchise then re-located to Sagkeeng as the Southeast Blades, who lost an MJHL final against OCN Blizzard.”
This was the first time the Pistons have ever played in the post-season and it was a remarkable accomplishment. Last season, the club not only failed to make the playoffs, it had only 13 wins.
“This is an amazing transformation for us,” Pistons’ Head Coach/GM Paul Dyck told 1250 AM. “It started in the summer. We have an amazing group committed to our team. We preserved through a lot of ups and down. It wasn’t an easy road we took. There is so much character in our group, no quit in this group….it’s an amazing group.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” Dyck told AM-1250 Radio. “The fans have been waiting for this. And being at home it’s very special to everyone.”
Dyck was especially pleased for his captain Kyle Rous. Rous has been with the team since the days when they were owned by Mel Sonnenberg and called the Beausejour Blades. Rous was overwhelmed, relieved and almost shocked by the outcome.
“This is absolutely unreal,” said Rous. “All the support we’ve gotten…it’s completely changed this whole team. This is very, very amazing.”
Pistons now advance to the inaugural Western Canada Cup in Nanaimo (April 26-May 5). The WCC winner and runner-up will then advance to the RBC Cup in Summerside, PEI. Joining host Nanaimo will be SJHL rep Yorkton Terriers. Both the AJHL and BCJHL reps have yet to be determined.