For the second year in a row, an MJHL team has won the ANAVET Cup. Portage Terriers turned the trick, defeating Battleford North Stars 7-3 Thursday night at Battleford.
Terriers won the best of seven series 4-1. GM/Head Coach Blake Spiller credited the success at the ANAVET to the club’s thrilling Game 7 overtime win over Swan Valley in the MJHL final.
“Playing in big games really prepares players for pressure games,” he said. “It’s very rare to win a league championship in overtime, in a Game 7. That series was so tight, it showed some of our guys how to play under pressure.
“(Moore) really played well for us. I thought we started out a bit sloppy. But he kept us in the game. It’s always nice to win your league but this really tops it off. Our team just keeps playing regardless of the score.
“I don’t think a lot of people gave us a chance, especially after we lost the first game. Our backend has been so solid, and our goaltending. You need all those things going if you’re going to win.”
Terriers, who last won the ANAVET in 2011, now advance to the national junior A championship later this month in Brooks, AB. This will be the first of two consecutive trips to the national championship as the Terriers will be hosting the 2020 national junior A championship.
“We were determined to get it over tonight,” said rookie Terrier defenceman Owen Murray. “They gave us a great series, but we got the job done. It’s unbelievable to think we’re going to the national championship. No one really expected us to do this. They thought it was a rebuilding year for us.”
“We knew we had a tough series and they kept coming out of us. We’ve got two cups now and we’re off to the national championship.,” said Terriers’ Reilly Funk.
The ANAVET Cup was revived after a four-year absence when the Western Canada Cup tournament was held. Two teams from the WCC advanced to the national championship.
Terriers came out strong in ANAVET Game 5, holding period leads of 3-1 and 6-2. Orca Wiesblatt and Caelan McPhee led the MJHL champs with a pair of powerplay goals. Joey Moffatt, Jay Bucholz, Ocean Wiesblatt and Chase Brakel rounded out the Portage scoring. Nathan Moore got the win in the Portage net.
EXTRA SHOTS: Steinbach Pistons won the ANAVET Cup last year defeating Nipawin Hawks. Terriers last appearance in the ANAVET Cup was in 2012, losing to Humboldt Broncos. Terrier veteran Chase Brakel was named the ANAVET Cup MVP. The trophy was presented by former Selkirk Steelers’ coach George Dorman, who led the club to the 1973-74 Centennial Cup which was awarded to the top team in Junior A hockey. Terriers participated in three consecutive Western Canada Cup (2015-2017).