As we continue our reflection on great players throughout Terrier history, it’s time to head back to the 1990’s. Trying to create a team for 1990-99 is tough for me as I didn’t see these games in person. I have gone to the record books and have chatted with former broadcaster Ryan Simpson to get a clearer picture of the top players.
The decade started strong for Portage with a league title in 1990. After that they finished first in their division in ’94 but never made it far in the playoffs.
The MJHL experienced some changes in the 90’s moving from 48 game seasons, to 56, 62 and eventually 64 for ’99. Despite only one team championship, the Terriers still had some elite players, two of which eventually went on to play in the NHL.
What criteria should be used to determine who is on the list? When creating a complete hockey team it is more than just total points. You need players who can play defence and who will come through when it matters the most. Some of the factors that have been considered are single season, career and playoff impact. I’ve also taken into consideration the age of the player at the time of their accomplishments and where their career has gone after leaving the Terriers.
J.P. Vigier (93-96) Junior Lessard (98-00) Adam Calder (92-95)
Al Patterson (89-92) Brent McMillan (90-93) Terry Harrison (95-99)
Derek Robertson (94-96) Curtis Grieve (90-93) Marcel Pruden (91-93)
Tim Skarperud (96-97) Drew McRae (90-94) Jessi Otis (96-98)
Laird Lidster (92-94) Arik Engbrect (95-97)
Tim Lindberg (97-99) Travis Johnson (94-97)
Cam Asham (90-92) Scott Patterson (89-93)
Kelly Funk (90-93)
Mike Temple (93-96)
The top line on the 90’s team is full of players who not only had a great impact while they were in Portage but had great success afterwards. J.P. Vigier played two full seasons with Terriers including one with 81 points. He went on to play 213 games in the NHL and can now be heard as a regular guest on TSN 1290. Junior Lessard also made it to the NHL playing 47 games with Dallas and Tamp Bay. While with the Terriers he posted 169 points in 120 games, tied the team record with 60 goals in a season, was named CJHL player of the year and league MVP. Portager Adam Calder completes the line with over 155 points in three seasons. While he didn’t quite make the NHL, he was the captain of UND and played a number of games in the AHL, ECHL and Europe.
The second line will provide plenty of offence. Al Patterson had 244 career points as a Terrier and is in the top ten on the all-time list. He was part of the league title in 1990, led the team in scoring for two seasons and was captain in his final year. Brent McMillan is only a few points back of Patterson on the all-time scoring list with 213 and won the MJHL rookie of the year award in 1991. Terry Harrison played three years with the club and finished his career with 218. He led MJHL in goals with 55 and the Terriers in points with 104 points in ’98-99. He went on to play 4 years of college hockey and have a brief stint in the AHL.
Derek Robertson was the MJHL rookie of the year in ‘95 and then led the team in scoring the next year. Curtis Grieve played three years for the dogs and had 175 points. He is in the top 25 on the all-time scoring list. Marcel Pruden played from ’91-93 and led the MJHL in scoring in his second season. He finished his career with 168 points.
A lot of guys could earn a spot on the final line. We are going with Tim Skarperud who only played one season with the Terriers but won the MJHL Hockey Ability and Sportsmanship award and was second on the team in scoring. Jessi Otis was an American born player who had two solid seasons with Portage and lead the team in scoring and the MJHL in assists his final year. Drew McRae finishes the line with four years in Portage and had 143 points.
Ryan McCormack (96-97) Played one season with Portage and lead the team in scoring with 101 points.
Russel Spence (98-01) played three seasons for his hometown Terriers at the end of the decade before being traded to OCN at the beginning of the Milenium. He was drafted in the 9th round of the NHL entry draft by the Phoenix Coyotes in 2002. He had 122 points in 152 games as a Terrier.
The top pairing for the all-decade team includes Laird Lidster and Arik Engbrect. These two stood out above the rest of the candidates. Lidster was named the MJHL’s top defenceman in his final year before going on to play four years in college and briefly minor pro. Engbrect played from ‘95-97 and had 92 points from the back end. He was named the MJHL’s top defenceman in ‘96-97 and went on to play four years at North Eastern University
Tim Lindberg could make a case to be on the top pairing. He made the MJHL All-Star team in ’98-99 and was a point per game player in his second year. He played two years at Northern Michigan before playing CIS in Canada. Travis Johnson will play alongside Lindberg on our second pairing. From Thunder Bay, Johnson had 90 points over three seasons and was a captain of the team. Ryan Simpson remembers him as a great player.
Former Terrier coach Bob Miller recommends Cam Asham to be on the third pairing for his longevity. Miller says “he logged a lot of ice time, and was defensively responsible despite not putting up big numbers. He was an iron man on the back end.” Who is better to judge a defenceman’s ability than the goaltender playing behind him. Former Terrier goalie Kelly Funk recommends Scott Patterson. “He was by far the best ‘d’ I had in front,” says Funk. “He was not pretty but made sure I saw the puck. Scott was underrated by coaches because he didn’t skate well, but boy in the last 2-minutes you hoped he was on the ice. He won the cup as a youngster in 1990 and played three more seasons. We called him a bulldog cause he never gave up.”
Jeff Staples (91-92): Recommended by Simpson for his great season as a 16-year-old. He only played one year with the Terriers before moving on to the WHL and eventually the AHL.
Tim Miller (94-99): Played four years with the Terriers, was a captain and a solid stay at home defenceman.
Vince Labossiere (93-96): Played three seasons with the Terriers before moving on to college.
Kelly funk played three years with the team to start the decade. He was the 91-92 team MVP and voted most popular player three years in a row. He was also the last goalie to win a playoff series in the 90’s. Funk rejoined the Terriers after his junior career was over as a goalie coach.
Mike Temple was a solid netminder recommended by both Ryan Simpson and Bob Miller. He played parts of three seasons and was named to the All-Star Game.
Jeremy Tucker (97-98): He played one season in Portage and led the MJHL in GAA.