The enthusiasm is spreading in a community that won its first and only Canadian junior A hockey championship 32 years ago.
“Portage is on fire right now,” said Portage Terriers’ general manager/coach Don MacGillivray.
Manitoba Junior Hockey League champion Portage added an ANAVET Cup championship to its list of accomplishments April 30 before 1,320 fans in Portage la Prairie.
“The crowd was the loudest I’ve heard,” said MacGillivray. “I don’t think anybody left until it was all over, including the medal presentations.
“Our guys were nervous at the start. They had to get over that.”
Portage defeated the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League champion Yorkton Terriers 4-2 in the best-of-seven series to qualify for the RBC Royal Bank Cup championship May 7-15 in Weyburn, Sask.
Jordan McIntyre, Steve Haddon and Bryan Bouchard contributed 20 points for Portage during the series. They were especially effective in a 4-3 comeback win in the third overtime April 28 before 2,110 fans in Yorkton.
“That line was back together and clicked again,” said MacGillivray.
“We had a big win in that game that gave us a lot of confidence.”
Haddon, 21, raised his totals to 51 goals and 108 points in 86 games overall with three goals and four assists against Yorkton.
“Steve was real good in game five,” said MacGillivray. “He was in on all four goals (with one goal and three assists after Yorkton opened a 3-0 lead in the first period).”
McIntyre, 19, led Portage with four goals and also had seven points against Yorkton. He has eight goals and 18 points in 24 playoff games.
“Jordan stepped up his game,” said MacGillivray, adding that Bouchard “was real good in the series.”
Bouchard, 20, chipped in with three goals and three assists against Yorkton. He has 10 goals and 20 points in 24 playoff games.
Veteran Andrew Jackman is another key to Portage’s success. Jackman, 20, has 40 goals and 98 points in 84 games overall.
“He had one goal in the ANAVET Cup and it was the series winner,” said MacGillivray.
Jackman was killing a penalty when he scored with two minutes and 26 seconds left in regulation time in a 3-2 win in the sixth game.
Colin Slobodian, 21, continued his strong playoff performance with four assists in the series. He has 11 assists and 19 points in 22 playoff games.
Defencemen Kip Workman and Felice Turano totalled three points each in the ANAVET Cup. Stan Yanchishyn and Kent Merriam were among the Portage players who delivered early in the series, each with one goal and one assist in home-ice wins.
Goalies Stan Gregorowich and Stefan Drew each won two games. Gregorowich played the first three games before Drew took over for the final three games.
“We’re comfortable with that scenario,” said MacGillivray. “We wouldn’t be in this situation today if it wasn’t for Gregorowich.”
Gregorowich was steady in the best-of-seven league final against the Selkirk Steelers as Drew received a much-needed break.
Drew, 20, stopped 90 of 97 shots in 230 minutes and 11 seconds against Yorkton. He has a 2.73 goals against average, five shutouts and a 40-20-4 won-lost-tied record in 3,849 minutes overall.
“Team defence is the key,” said MacGillivray. “The guys have made a commitment to team defence. That’s been our trademark all season.”
Portage is 16-7 in the playoffs to improve to 55-25-5 and one overtime loss in 86 games overall.
Captain Leif Thorkelson and Joey Patsack are defensive defencemen who combine with the forwards who are especially responsible defensively, such as Christopher Benias and Slobodian, to make the team defence strong.
Portage will play its first game at the national championship since 1973 on the opening night of the Royal Bank Cup, against the Weyburn Red Wings of the SJHL.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” said MacGillivray. “Hopefully we can make it into the semi-finals and see what happens.”
Please check the CJAHL web site atwww.cjahl.comfor all your Canadian junior A information.
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