Story Courtesy River Foster (Portageonline.com)
The Portage Terriers will have at least one more semi-final matchup at Stride Place. The Dogs dropped Game 3 to the Virden Oil Capitals 4-2 on home ice, giving the underdog hope. The Terriers now lead the best-of-seven series 2-1.
The first major scoring chance came early in the first as Gavin Klaassen scooped up the puck down low for Portage. He kept the puck on his backhand as he wrapped around the net and made a centering pass for Brenden Holba but the pad of Virden goalie Eric Reid kept the game scoreless.
The Oil Capitals ultimately were the ones to strike first, just under 13 minutes into the contest. Davis Chorney entered the offensive zone with the puck on the rush and fired a shot at Bailey Monteith. The initial save was made but the rebound went right to Nicholas Guberman, who cut down the wing and put it into the wide-open cage.
Exactly 40 seconds later, right as their power-play began, Brody Wilson had the puck beside the net and fed Ty Plaisier with a back-door pass. Just like that, it became 2-0 Virden.
With a little over a minute left in the first, Trevor Hunt made a slap pass from the point to Dean Gorchynski in tight. There was nothing but net in front of him, however, Gorchynski fanned on the shot and saw the puck roll through the crease but stay out. Virden went to the locker room up 2-0 after 20 minutes.
Halfway through the second period, the Terriers had the man advantage. Brandon McCartney ripped a shot from the point that was stopped by Reid’s shoulder but the puck bounced extremely high and stayed in the air for a few seconds. When it finally came down, the puck landed right in the Oil Capitals’ crease but Virden was able to corral it before the Terriers could tap it in.
Just as the power-play expired, Bray Rookes had the puck in a one-on-one rush against Matt McLeod. Rookes slid the puck around McLeod and moved from the right side of the ice to the left. He got to the slowly moving puck first and fired a shot, top shelf. 3-0 Oil Capitals.
Less than two minutes later, Portage was finally able to get on the board. Brock MacDonald took a shot on the rush that was saved by Reid but the rebound went right to Kian Calder, and he made no mistake. The team captain gave the Terriers some life as they now only trailed by two heading into the third.
Midway through the final frame, Noah Wagner was the first to get to the puck down low after Portage dumped the puck into the offensive zone. Wagner immediately sent the puck out in front, and Holba was there to put it home and trim the lead down to just one.
Unfortunately for the Terriers, this was as close as they’d come. Virden responded just three minutes later as Rookes scored his second of the game and deflated the energy from Stride Place. Portage had a few chances with the goalie pulled but the final score remained 4-2 Oil Capitals.
Defenceman Kian Calder says the team has to be better.
“Honestly, I don’t think we’ve brought a full effort at all these playoffs. There’s always one period we don’t play great, and we find a way in the second or third, or whatever,” Calder explains. “We just need to find a way to put together a full 60 minutes on Thursday. We’re still confident in the room after this loss but things need to change a bit.”
Calder adds it’s on each individual player to make sure they’re ready when the puck drops.
“Each guy does their own thing (before a game). I’m not forcing guys to change how they prepare. Maybe, as a team, we can come out and work harder in warm-ups. I don’t know,” Calder continues. “Overall, guys are going to have to figure it out. I think we’ll be alright, though. I’m pretty confident in our group.”
Game 4 between the Terriers and Oil Capitals will go down on Thursday in Virden, with Game 5 returning to Stride Place on Friday.
Tickets for Game 5 are on sale at this TICKET LINK
Tickets will also be available in person at Stride Place starting Wednesday morning at 8 am.