By Derek Holtom
MJHL Web Correspondent
The Portage Terriers will not lock down the No. 1 seed this season as they have done the past two years. However, one thing has not changed – they prepare to end the post-season with the MJHL’s leading point man in their arsenal.
Jeremey Leipsic has been nothing short of spectacular in his first full season with the Terriers. The Winnipeg native, who played for a year and a half in the BCHL to start his junior career, is closing in on 100 points as the regular season winds down. After 57 games, he has 32 goals and 97 points. Terrier teammate Chase Brakel and Mackenzie Graham (Steinbach) round out the top three with 79 and 78 points, respectively.
“I don’t think there’s one thing I can put my finger on,” said Leipsic on his success this year. “I am just trying to bring my ‘A-game’ every game, and that’s worked for myself. And having a line mate like Chase (Brakel) for most of the year, I’ve been able to develop some chemistry with him, and that’s showed on the ice.”
The big reason for Leipsic’s lead atop the scoring race is his ability to get goal-scorers the puck. His 65 helpers are 19 better than Graham, who is also second in that category. Leipsic’s aforementioned line mate Brakel, not surprisingly, is tied for the lead as the top goal-scorer this year with 34. OCN’s George King is also sitting on 34 heading into the weekend.
“I’ve been a playmaker more than a goal-scorer most of my career,” said Leipsic. “I think my vision has always been one of my strengths, and I think that plays a big part in me getting a lot of assists.”
The 19-year-old Winnipeg native was part of Portage’s championship last year, and knows what it’s like to enter the post season as the favourite. That isn’t going to be the case this year – the Steinbach Pistons are the top seed, and the Terriers are likely to enter the playoffs as a strong No. 5 seed, depending on what they do with their games in hand, and how the three teams tied for second place – Winkler, Selkirk and OCN – fare down the stretch.
But the Terriers are hungry for a franchise first – a three-peat. And with the top scoring forward in the league, you never know what might happen in a playoff series.
“We’re quite a different team from last year – we have more younger-guys, especially on the back end,” said Leipsic. “We’re not the overwhelming favourites, but our coaching staff is going to have everyone ready come playoff time, so we’re looking forward to the challenge of being the underdog this year.”
As for next season, Leipsic has one year left of junior eligibility, and he said he plans on returning to the Terriers and continue working towards a NCAA scholarship – a goal he hopes he will be closer to after potentially winning the league scoring race and having a long and productive playoff run.
“I haven’t looked too far ahead, as I have one more year (of eligibility) left, but as far I know I’ll be back in Portage next year and earn myself a scholarship soon.”