Story Courtesy River Foster (Portageonline.com)
The Portage Terriers are feeling validated after defeating the MJHL Champions in their Centennial Cup opener. Portage came away with a 4-2 victory over the Steinbach Pistons tonight.
The Terriers came out of the gate with guns blazing. It took the MJHL’s leading-scorer Ryan Botterill less than five minutes to get his first goal of the tournament. He got the puck just above the faceoff dot on the rush and made no mistake.
Less than two minutes later, a new addition to the Terriers made an immediate impact. Rory Neill picked up the puck at the side of the net in the offensive zone and tried to tuck in between Dominick Wasik’s pad and the post. He was stopped instantly but he stuck with it and was able to jam the puck across the red line. 2-0 Portage.
Neill wasn’t done there, as later in the frame, Austin Peters put the puck on net off the rush. His shot was saved but the rebound went right to Neill, who was cutting down the lane and tapped the puck in the wide-open cage. This goal made it 3-0 Terriers after 20 minutes.
Steinbach was able to get on the board midway through the second. Ty Paisley scooped up the puck after a tie-up on the faceoff and fired it top shelf to beat Bailey Monteith. The Pistons put on heavy pressure throughout the frame, outshooting Portage 16-6, but thanks to a few outstanding saves from Monteith, the Dogs held the 3-1 lead after two periods.
Travis Hensrud made it 3-2 halfway through the third, putting Terriers and Pistons’ fans on the edge of their seat for the final ten minutes of action. While both teams had solid chances, it was Terrier captain Kian Calder who scored the final goal of the game. The Portager fired a one-timer past Wasik on the power-play to virtually seal the deal.
Steinbach had a few late scoring chances but Monteith stood tall, and the Terriers notched their first win since April 14. Goaltender Bailey Monteith says his routine helped him stay focused and make 36 saves tonight.
“I just wanted to have as calm of a mindset as I could. I found I was having a good couple of weeks at practice, so I just tried to go in with the same mindset as I did in practice,” Monteith explains. “I even had the same pre-game meal as I do for practice, a banana and a couple of bagels. As a team, we came out flying. I’m really proud of them. They got me a lead, and that’s all I needed. They did the rest.”
The Terriers are the only team in the tournament who didn’t win their league champions. However, now beating the champions of their own league, Monteith believes the loss in the MJHL playoffs against Virden may have been a blessing in disguise.
“I think we had, maybe, a stress off of our shoulders a little bit. In the playoffs, we were gripping our sticks a little bit too tight,” Monteith continues. “I noticed that the first practice when we came back, it was great. The energy was back like it was September again. As unfortunate as it was that we lost, I think it’s helped us, at least in game one so far.”
The Terriers will look to stay undefeated in round-robin play tomorrow night when they take on the Kam River Fighting Walleye at 7:30.