Game On Magazine September 2015 - Page 25

After easily winning the MJHL championship with 12 straight playoff wins, the Terriers finished second at the Western Canada Cup. Now, a team that has had pretty much the best season in Manitoba hockey history can celebrate a national title. When the Terriers wrapped up a near-perfect run to the MJHL’s Turnbull Trophy, there was not a team with a better record in organized hockey anywhere in the world. Portage finished the regular season in first place overall, 25 points ahead of second-place Steinbach, with a record of 53-3-4. Then, in the playoffs, the Terriers won 12 straight games to claim the title. On May 3, the Terriers beat the Melfort Mustangs 4-2 to finish second at the 2015 Western Canada Cup in Fort McMurray, Alta. Portage lost the Championship Game 4-3 in overtime to the B.C, Champion Penticton Vees. “We finished second in the Western Canadians, but we really learned a lot about ourselves and our opposition,” Spiller said. “We gained a lot of confidence in that event. And that tournament also gave us a lot of experience playing against elite teams from other provinces. We learned what we were up against. You can watch all the video you want, but it’s not the same as playing against a team.” The next weekend, the Terriers wrapped up the RBC Cup tournament by shutting down the only team to beat them during the week. In the second game of the round robin Carleton Place, the pre-tournament favorites, beat Portage 3-0 and remained the favorites heading into the championship game. But a relentless forecheck combined with great goaltending from Zac Robidoux – who made 26 saves – gave the Terriers a decisive, if not an upset, victory. Zack Waldvogel, Garick Gray, Dane Schioler and Tyler Jeanson all pitched in assists as Portage scored the game’s opening goal and never looked back. Portage led 1-0 after the first period on a breakaway goal by Valiquette, and were ahead 2-1 heading into the final period. In the third, the Terriers scored two power play goals – Boyd at 2:02 and Brad Bowles at 8:15 – and the game was pretty much in the bag. It was the second straight season in which the Canadians reached the national championship game and lost. Last season it was a 4-3 overtime loss to the Yorkton Terriers in Vernon, B.C. This season, the RBC Cup will be played in Lloydminster, Alta. while the Western Canada Cup will take place in Estevan, Sask. Spiller said his team “went about its business this season.” No doubt about that. In fact, in the end, Portage finished 74-6-4 in 2014-15. It was an incredible... no, a remarkable season and Manitoba’s Portage Terriers left no doubt that they were worthy national champions. Now comes the really hard part – repeating. “We lose a lot of players,” said Spiller bluntly. “We lose all nine 20-year-olds and we won’t be able to replace players like (Zack) Waldvogel, (Landon) Peel and (Tanner) Jago. We’ll also likely lose some other players to the Western Hockey League (Zac Robidoux, Brandon; Dean Stewart, Saskatoon and Mackenzie Dwyer, Seattle) and the USHL (Tyler Jeanson), but we’ve recruited some new guys and we’ll see what happens. I can tell you, repeating is not going to be easy.” n WE FINISHED SECOND IN THE WESTERN CANADIANS, BUT WE REALLY LEARNED A LOT ABOUT OURSELVES AND OUR OPPOSITION SEPTEMBER 2015 GAME ON 25