The top two teams in the MJHL met Friday night in Portage la Prairie for Game 1 of the Turnbull Cup, taking wildly different routes to get there.
The host Terriers, the defending MJHL and RBC Cup champs, swept both the Steelers and Winnipeg Blues to arrive at the league final. Meanwhile, the Pistons came into the contest following a gruelling seven-game series against Winkler Flyers, coming back from a 3-1 series deficit in the process.
Portage had not played since April 1, buy they were anything but rusty, scoring early and scoring four unanswered goals to end the game en route to a 5-1 victory and a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven final. As the game wore on, the Terriers really started to establish themselves over the Pistons, who were perhaps a little drained and fatigued after winning their Game 7 clash over the Winkler Flyers only two days earlier.
The Terriers didn’t waste any time getting the league final going, as Shawn Bowles walked out untouched from the corner to score 31 seconds into the game.
“We were ready to go to start the series, and they were maybe a little bit tired coming off the Game 7 game, and we expect them to be better for Game 2,” Terriers head coach and GM Blake Spiller told Portage’s CFRY.
Anthony Kapelke squared things eight minutes later, as the defenceman put home his first of the post-season with a seeing-eye point shot to tie the game 1-1.
But Portage would regain the lead soon after, as rookie sensation Nick Henry scored his ninth of the playoffs via the power-play.
The three goals came despite the two teams only combining for 11 shots – seven for the Pistons, and four for the Terriers.
Portage struck early again in the second period to stretch their lead to two goals. Brandon Stanley scored 1:09 into the period, and suddenly the home team was up 3-1. The Terriers also dominated the shots on goal in the middle frame, out-shooting the Pistons 11-6.
The Terriers put the game out of reach midway through the period, again going up high and short side to light the lamp. Adam Wowryk out-waited Pistons netminder Roman Bengert, and put it upstairs for the team’s fourth goal.
The goals kept coming for Portage in the third period. Michael Knaub took advantage of a defensive break down late in the period for a goal right through the five-hole to round out the scoring.
Bengert ended with 22 saves while taking the loss for the Pistons. Nathan Park was almost flawless in goal, making 16 saves to earn the win for the Terriers.
Braden Pettinger was in the building for Game 1, and was honoured and recognized in a pre-game ceremony. His No. 2 jersey was retired by the Terriers’ franchise in the ceremony. Pettinger was injured earlier in the season after going into the boards awkwardly, but was showing some range in motion in his arms during the ceremony according to the Portage CFRY radio play-by-play team, something which the fans were pleased to see.
Game 2 of this series goes Sunday in Steinbach. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m.
Former Portage Terriers netminder Jason Kasdorf made his NHL debut tonight in Buffalo, falling 4-1 to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Kasdorf was actually drafted by the Winnipeg Jets, and was shipped to Buffalo as a part of the Evander Kane deal.
An impressive crowd of 1,572 fans packed the Portage Credit Union Centre for Game 1.