Portage Terriers are champions of the MJHL. Again. Before 1,700 frenzied fans at the PCU Centre, Terriers claimed the Turnbull Cup with a 5-1 victory over Steinbach Pistons.
Terriers claimed the best-of-seven series in five games.
It was the second consecutive MJHL championship for the Terriers and their sixth Turnbull title over the last 10 years (2016, 2015, 2012, 2011, 2009 and 2008). Terriers will now advance to the Crescent Point Energy Western Canada Cup later this month in Estevan. Two teams from the WCC will qualify to compete in the RBC Cup next month (May 14-22) in Lloydminster.
“This is an unbelievable feeling,” said Terriers’ captain Brad Bowles, 20. “This is what you work for all season. It’s awesome. We still have a lot of hockey to play. But tonight is fantastic. We were expected to do nothing, but we came out and won a championship. Unbelievable.
“Our rookies were a huge factor for us this year and tonight. I knew when we were up 4-0, I started thinking championship.”
Terriers’ GM/Head Coach Blake Spiller said this year’s championship run was less stressful than last year’s championship.
“It seemed there a bit more pressure last year, hosting the RBC last year,” Spiller told CFRY-Radio. “It seemed like a very long season. This season didn’t seem so long without that pressure (hosting the RBC).
“Anytime you can win a championship at any level of hockey is awesome. We had a young group of guys, who really matured as the year went on. That’s incredible. We played a solid game tonight after losing on Sunday. I’m really proud of our guys. It’s always tough to repeat. You have to have things go your way and obviously we had a lot going our way this year.”
A highlight of this season was an incredible 31-game winning streak. Consider there were only four returnees from last year’s championship squad: Brad and Shawn Bowles, Dean Stewart and Brett Orr.
“This is an unbelievable feeling,” said Braydon MacDonald, 20. “This is a perfect ending to my MJHL career. I just can’t describe the feeling.”
Terrier netminder Nathan Park was once again outstanding, turning aside 20 of 21 shots. Tyler Anderson managed to snap the shutout midway through the third period.
“This never gets old,” said Park. “We stuck to our game plan. We have a real well-rounded good team. That was the key to success. We still have things to do and stay focused on our plan.”
For one Terrier, the win was extra special. Rookie Nick Henry is a native of Portage and admitted the crowd’s energy was motivating.
“I can’t believe how great this feels,” said Henry, who was named the MJHL rookie of the year. “The crowd was fantastic.”
Rookie Chase Brakel, who hails from Winnipeg, said his first championship in the MJHL was amazing. He also scored a key goal after the Pistons pulled their goaltender.
“They put the pressure on the end,” said Brakel. “It was a bit nerve wracking, but scoring the goal was the icing on the cake. I’ve gained a lot of confidence throughout the year.”
Terriers rebounded nicely from a 6-2 loss in Steinbach last Sunday, holding period leads of 1-0 and 3-0 after 40 minutes. Brakel scored a pair for the Terriers, with singles going to MacDonald, Adam Wowryk and Brandon Stanley scored for the Terriers.
EXTRA POINTS: The playoff MVP was presented to Terrier captain Brad Bowles, who recorded 24 points (7-17The last team to win back-to-back RBC Cups was Vernon Vipers (2009, 2010). Three stars were Park, Brakel and Stanley, respectively.