Despite falling 3-2 in a shootout to the Niverville Nighthawks, the Portage Terriers clinched first place in the standings on Wednesday night. The Terriers played a tight contest against the team that they will meet in the first round of the playoffs.
Portage had plenty of opportunities to open the scoring in the first period, but they were unable to beat former Terrier goalie Chris Fines. The Nighthawks gave Portage four straight power plays but shut the door each time. They would actually take advantage when Brett Tataryn scored shorthanded to open the scoring. 1-0 Niverville after 1.
Portage responded midway through the second period with two goals less than a minute apart. Bryden Kiesman scored on a nice deke, and Ryan Botterill scored his league leading 45th goal of the season. Ty Kennett beat Terrier goalie Bailey Monteith six minutes later to tie the game. 2-2 after 2.
The third period was a nail biter for Terrier fans, knowing that a single point clinched a playoff spot. Portage was able to hang on to force overtime, which solved nothing. The Terriers sent out three defencemen in the shootout and none of them were able to score: Kian Calder, Brandon McCartney and Tayem Gislason. The Nighthawks third shooter, Braden Panzer beat Monteith for the win.
Portage finished the night 0/5 on the power play and outshot Niverville 40-37. The Terriers will now close out the regular season on Friday in Steinbach. The first round of the playoffs will be a best of 7 series with the Nighthawks, starting with game 1 on Mar. 24 at 7:30 pm at Stride Place. More details to come.