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National Junior A Championship Team Preview: Portage Terriers

Terriers in Brooks after claiming MJHL’s Turnbull Trophy &
ANAVET West Region crowns

CALGARY, Alta. – The culmination of the Canadian Junior Hockey League’s 2018-19 campaign will be completed in Brooks, Alta., as the Brooks Bandits (AJHL) host the Canadian National Junior A Championship, May 11-19, at Centennial Regional Arena.

Here’s a look at the West Region representative, the Portage Terriers of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.

HEAD COACH: Blake Spiller

HOW THEY ARRIVED: The 2018-19 season was yet another banner year for perennial MJHL power Portage.

The Terriers once again finished atop of their 11-team league standings going 46-11-2-1 overall after 60 games.

This marked the fifth time in the past decade that Portage finished in first place in Manitoba.

They also ended up in second once and third overall on three occasions in that span.

With the No. 1 seed in the MJHL playoffs, the Terriers met the Waywayseecappo Wolverines in Round 1 and skated to a four-game sweep.

It was much the same in Round 2 as they went on to dispose of the Virden Oil Capitals in another match-up that went the minimum four outings.

Heading to the Turnbull Trophy finals against the second-seeded Swan Valley Stampeders, Portage would get all they could handle there.

After falling behind 3-2 in the best-of-seven affair, the Terriers rallied for a Game 6 win on the road before coming home and edging Swan Valley 3-2 in overtime in Game 7 to cap off the series that went the distance.

ANAVET CUP: Heading into the ANAVET Cup final with the champions of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, the Battlefords North Stars, Portage was one step closer to earning their way into the NJAC.

After a booking conflict in Battlefords, the first two contests in this best-of-seven affair were moved to Portage to kick things off.

Despite giving up home ice, the North Stars rallied from an early two-goal deficit to take the opener by a 3-2 count.

Another tight one the following night saw overtime required, before the Terriers rebounded with a 3-2 triumph of their own.

Heading to North Battleford, Sask., for the next three contests, road-savvy Portage reeled off a trio of victories by scores of 5-3, 7-5 and 7-3 to punch their ticket to Brooks.

FORWARDS: Despite not having a single skater finish among the Top 8in MJHL scoring during the course of the regular season, the Terriers used a well-balanced offensive attack to get the job done.

Hometown Portage la Prairie product Joey Moffatt topped the squad in scoring with 56 points on 26 tallies and 30 assists.

Moffatt was among a group of eight with 40 or more points during the campaign, including Reilly Funk and Ty Barnstable, who collected 53 and 51 respectively.

Chase Barkel stepped up in the playoffs and led the club offensively with 22 points on eight markers and 14 helpers to finish second overall in MJHL numbers. Scott Mickoski followed with 16 points while rookie Jay Bucholz and rearguard Sam Huston had 13 apiece.

In the ANAVET Cup, Orca Wiesblatt led the way with six points while Mickoski, Brakel and Reece Henry has a half dozen each.

DEFENCE: Helping anchor the back-end was MJHL Rookie of the Year Owen Murray as the defenceman scored nine times and dished out 32 assists along the way. Next was fellow blueliner Caelan McPhee, who produced 40 points while Morgan Poirier had 29.

Besides’ Huston’s 13 points, Murray and Cody Thompson chipped in with seven apiece from the point. Murray had five more in the ANAVET Cup.

GOALTENDERS: The Terriers’ netminding duo of Ethan Peterson and Nathan Moore combined for 42 wins with Petersen finished third in the MJHL in goals-against average at 2.24 while Moore, who tied for eighth in save percentage at .916, was fourth at 2.38.

Peterson saw the majority of work in goal in the playoffs as he went 9-3 in 12 appearances with a 2.32 average and a .913 save mark. He also went 3-0 in a trio of ANAVET Cup starts while Moore was 1-1.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Portage was first in the power play in the MJHL at 25% and fifth on the penalty kill at 84.1%. They were fourth in the playoffs at 21.2% and the same on the P.K. at 79.4% while collecting a total of 11 shorthanded goals overall.

TERRIERS TIDBITS: The Terriers and Portage la Prairie, Man., will host next year’s National Junior A Championship. … The 50th NJAC will be held May 9-17, 2020 at the 1,675-seat Stride Place. …2019 marks the Terriers sixth all-time appearance at the national Jr. A event. … They have won the Canadian championship twice, winning it all in 1973 and well as in 2015 when they previously hosted the NJAC. … Portage’s other visits to the event came in 2005, 2011 and 2012. … Terriers’ bench boss and general manager Blake Spiller is a finalist for the Darcy Haugan/Mark Cross Memorial Award, emblematic of CJHL Coach of the Year, presented by the NHL Coaches’ Association. … Portage led the MJHL in goals scored with 277 and gave up the second-fewest at 150.

With files from: Brian Smiley, Media Relations Officer (MJHL); Jason La Rose, Manager, Content Services (Hockey Canada); Spencer Sharkey, Coordinator, Communications (Hockey Canada)