The MJHL regular season opens on Friday (Sept. 25). Memories of last season include, the Portage Terriers ending a 40-year drought when they captured the RBC Cup – the national championship for junior A hockey – on home ice last May.
The Terriers put together a season for the ages – only three regular season regulation losses, 53 regular season victories, an MJHL championship and of course the national title.
Hosting an RBC Cup and actually winning the national title isn’t as easy as it sounds – the last team to do the trick was the SJHL’s Weyburn Red Wings back in 2005. Head Coach/General Manager Blake Spiller knew it wouldn’t be easy to win it all. And now, a few months later, he can look back at that championship run and talk about how things fell into place.
“We gave ourselves a plan we tried to stick to,” said Spiller. “We wanted to recruit a core group of guys and then add some pieces as we went on. I think for the most part we were able to stick to what we wanted to do.”
Spiller did say there were some transactions they looked at, but those didn’t work out. Hindsight being what it is, the Terriers were obviously successful even without those other deals being completed. And with 11 players with 40 or more points on their roster last year, they were as deep and balanced a team as has been iced in recent years in the MJHL.
Spiller also mentioned they were a bit lucky on some nights, winning some games they maybe shouldn’t have. But over the course of a 60 game season, it was clear to anyone watching the MJHL that the Terriers were a team on a mission.
“And we were able to stay healthy for the most part, which I think was a key for us,” noted Spiller. Of those 11 players with 40 or more points, the majority of them played in at least 55 of 60 regular season games, including leading scorer Zack Waldvogel, who played in all 60 games.
And while the Terriers were aware of the 40-year national title drought in the MJHL, it certainly wasn’t their driving factor last season.
“We knew what had happened in the past, but we just wanted to make sure we were as prepared as possible when the puck dropped at the RBC Cup,” noted Spiller.
Click here to listen to Blake Spiller discuss the upcoming season with radio personality Jeff Dyck