Both second round matchups have a couple games under their belts. Let’s look at what’s happened so far.
(1) Portage Terriers vs (4) Virden Oil Capitals
Terriers lead series 2-0
A thrilling double overtime game followed up by a more convincing win has put the Terriers in the driver’s seat but a scrappy Oil Caps team is not ready to just fold up shop just yet.
In game one, the Terriers jumped out to a lead but slowly watched the Oil Caps mount a comeback capped by a late third period goal. Both teams battled up and down the ice through overtime. Portage was able to secure the win using the old adage, any shot in overtime is a good shot. They seemed to learn you can’t give the Oil Caps an inch or they’ll take a mile. A more economical effort in game two had them flex their offensive muscles while playing sound defense. A more complete game was what they were looking for and it’s what they got.
Brandon McCartney has been an absolute stud. He scored the game 1 double overtime winner and followed it up with a three-assist night in game 2. He’s now up to 7 helpers which is tied for 3rd in the MJHL playoffs.
Being within a shot of a win on the road is a nice sentiment but it’s not enough this time of year and Virden knows that. They came out with something to prove in game one and hung in on game two through most of the night. The score looks worse given the two empty netters allowed but the Oil Caps know there is still a lot of time left in this series. Virden pushed hard on the road and they’ll need to do it again. They’ve gotten some key goals but need their big guns to find a way to score against the tough defense they’re facing. The power play is an area where they will look to be more productive while the penalty kill has been rock solid through the first two games.
Roux Bazin continues to find his name on the scoresheet for the Oil Caps. He picked up a goal and added an assist in game one. He’s done a lot but will need to do more if Virden wants to extend the series.
(2) Steinbach Pistons vs (3) Swan Valley Stampeders
Pistons lead series 2-0
Steinbach protected home ice with a double overtime nail-biter in game one was followed up by a more one-sided affair in game two but neither team is thinking past an important game 3 as the series shifts to Swan Valley.
After giving up the first goal, the Pistons turned things up and dominated through the first period of game one, coming out with a two-goal lead only to watch it slowly slip away. They overcomplicated their game which the Stamps were more than happy to take advantage of and come within minutes of taking that first game. Steinbach battled back to come out on top and seemed to have learned an important lesson about how dangerous Swan Valley can be if you let them. A very sound, determined effort in game 2 gives the Pistons confidence heading into games 3 and 4 away from home.
Ty Paisley has gotten better every game for Steinbach this post-season. While he continues to work on his defensive game, the 18-year-old has put up an impressive 14 points with 10 of those points being assists.
Having game one slip away is something the Stamps won’t dwell on but they won’t forget it either. The key players expected to make noise have done that in this series. They pack a serious offensive punch and can score in many ways. While game 2 got away from them late, the offence will look to build on the positives and with home ice advantage for two games, work the matchups they want. As the series goes on, the dedication to details becomes more and more important. Expect the home crowd to give them a boost as they look to claw their way back into the series.
Justin Keck is an incredible goal scorer. His pure shot is lethal from anywhere on the ice. His pinpoint accuracy and breakaway speed had helped him earn 11 points so far, this post-season. He plays in all situations and can be dangerous, even shorthanded.