BROOKS, ALTA – The Portage Terriers’ successful season has come to an end in Brooks, Alberta. The MJHL/ANAVET Cup champions lost 5-4 to Oakville Blades, eliminating the Terriers from playoff action in the national Junior A championship. Terriers were winless in three games.
Portage GM/Head Coach Blake Spiller said he was proud of his club, but wished the team had fared a bit better at the national junior A championship. He did emphasize that this years’ experience will pay off for his younger players next season when Portage hosts the 50th edition of the national championship next spring at Stride Place. There was one high point for the Terrier organization when Spiller was named the inaugural recipient of the Darcy Haugan/Mark Cross Memorial Award, which is emblematic of CJHL Coach of the Year.
The honour, to be presented annually by the CJHL and NHLCA, is in memory of Humboldt Broncos (SJHL) head coach Darcy Haugan and assistant Mark Cross, who were among those who sadly lost their lives following the tragic events of April 6, 2018.
This was the third time Spiller has won the CJHL Coach of the Year award.
Meanwhile, younger players such as Owen Murray, 16, can only look forward to next season and another trip to the national Junior A championship. The sting of this year’s tournament should be a huge motivator for the 2019-20 season.
“You feel for the guys who have been here for many years and are on their way out,” Murray told the Winnipeg Free Press. “Just not being able to get it done for them really sucks. It just didn’t work out for us.”
Meanwhile, Murray is excited about what the future holds for a Terrier club which finished first in the MJHL this past season.
Terrier captain Ty Barnstable, 21, is one of those graduating players who should look back fondly on his days in Portage. “It’s a little empty feeling,” said the native of Regina. “We put our best effort toward at the national tournament. It would have been really special to win this for the (six) graduating players.”