From the moment their season started Sept. 19, the Portage Terriers had one singular goal – to play May 17 in the RBC Cup championship game on home ice at
the PCU Centre.
That goal has been reached; the Terriers will finish the most memorable season in franchise history on Sunday night when they face the Carleton Place
Canadians in the final game of the 2014-15 season.
One more victory will make Portage the seventh host team to win Canada’s National Junior A Championship, and the first since the Weyburn Red Wings claimed
the national title in 2005.
“It’s pretty surreal right now,” Terriers forward Zack Waldvogel said after the semifinal win. “This was the plan, to play well all year and give us a
chance at the national title. To be in that game (Sunday), it’s great for us ... we just gotta keep our emotions in check, and make sure we come out
The Terriers simply dominated the Manitoba Junior Hockey League during the regular season, fashioning a 53-3-4 record, finishing with a massive 25-point
lead over second-place Steinbach and sitting atop the CJHL national rankings in each of the final 14 polls of the season.
How did they do it? Just about every way imaginable.
Offence and defence? The Terriers topped the MJHL in goals for (285) and goals against (120), giving them a whopping +165 goal differential. They scored 54
more goals than any other team, and allowed 30 less.
Special teams? Portage finished with the second-best power play at 22.85%, just barely behind league-leading Steinbach at 22.86%, and its 88.6% success
rate on the penalty kill was easily the MJHL’s best.
Consistency? It opened the season with a 14-game winning streak from Sept. 19-Oct. 19, added another 14-game run from Nov. 1-28, and won 13 in a row from
Dec. 20-Feb. 7.
So yes, the Terriers were good. Historically good, in fact.
Portage finished with the third-most wins in a season in MJHL history, behind only the 56 and 54 wins by the OCN Blizzard juggernaut in 2001-02 and
2002-03, respectively, and its 110 points trailed only the 2001-02 Blizzard’s 115 for most ever.
The Terriers set a trio of new league marks, for fewest regulation losses (three), fewest total losses (seven) and winning percentage (.917) – all three
records were previously held by the 2001-02 Blizzard.
The dominance continued once the playoffs began. Portage romped through the MJHL postseason without losing a game, playing just 9:44 over the absolute
minimum they had to, sweeping Waywayseecappo, Virden and Steinbach to win the league title.
Included in the first two rounds was a remarkable streak of 307 minutes and three seconds without allowing a goal, from the dying seconds of Game 1 against
Waywayseecappo to early in Game 3 against Virden.
“It’s always a good thing to be the last team standing at the end,” Terriers head coach Blake Spiller told CFRY Radio after Portage clinched the league title. “I’m really proud of my team. We have a great group of guys on this team. To go undefeated in the
playoffs is great.”
The road back home continued with a trip to Fort McMurray, Alta., for the Western Canada Cup, where the Terriers dropped a surprising 3-1 decision in their
opener to the host Oil Barons, who hadn’t played a game in 40 days after an opening-round loss in the Alberta Junior Hockey League playoffs.
But Portage recovered to score wins over the Melfort Mustangs (6-3), Penticton Vees (3-2) and Spruce Grove Saints (4-2) to finish atop the preliminary
round standings and set up a second showdown with the BCHL champion Vees, this time with a regional championship on the line.
A back-and-forth 60 minutes failed to produce a winner, with Waldvogel tying the game on a Terriers power play with just 57 seconds left in the third
But it would be the Vees hoisting the Western Canada Cup after an overtime winner from Connor Chartier, ending Portage’s hopes of becoming the first host
team to win league, regional and national titles since the Halifax Oland Exports in 2002.
Back on home ice, the Terriers faced a familiar foe to open the RBC Cup, beating Penticton 3-2, and, after a shutout loss to Carleton Place, topped the Soo
Thunderbirds and Melfort to clinch first place in the round robin and set up a semifinal against the Mustangs.
Portage was in control almost right from the first drop of the puck, holding the SJHL champions to just 13 shots on goal in a convincing 6-1 win that sent
the Terriers into the final.
Will home-ice advantage be a factor on Sunday night? The Terriers are a remarkable 36-3-1 as the host team this year, and will have what will be a
standing-room-only-plus-more crowd behind it as it tries for the franchise’s second national title; Portage won the 1973 Centennial Cup when the final was
a best-of-seven series between East and West champions.
HOW THEY GOT TO PORTAGE LA PRAIRIE
Manitoba Junior Hockey League
Quarter-final: defeated Waywayseecappo 4-0 (7-1, 9-0, 8-0, 7-0)
Semifinal: defeated Virden 4-0 (1-0, 4-0, 4-2, 4-3 OT)
MJHL championship: defeated Steinbach 4-0 (7-1, 3-2, 4-2, 4-3)
Western Canada Cup
Round robin: second place – 3-1 (lost to Fort McMurray 3-1, defeated Melfort 6-3, defeated Penticton 3-2, defeated Spruce Grove 4-2)
Championship: lost to Penticton 4-3 OT
Second-place game: defeated Melfort 4-2
Record: 53-3-4 (1st in MJHL)
Goals for: 285 (1st in MJHL)
Goals against: 120 (1st in MJHL)
Power play: 61 for 267 (22.9% - 2nd in MJHL)
Penalty killing: 98 of 130 (24.6% - 2nd in MJHL)
Longest winning streak: 14 (Sept.19-Oct. 19; Nov. 1-28)
Top 3 scorers:
Zack Waldvogel – 28G 50A 78P (1st in MJHL)
Brad Bowles – 25G 46A 71P (3rd in MJHL)
Shawn Bowles – 25G 39A 64P (5th in MJHL)
Goals for: 83
Goals against: 30
Power play: 15 for 68 (22.1%)
Penalty killing: 61 of 67 (91.1%)
Top 3 scorers:
Jordyn Boyd – 8G 14A 22P
Brad Bowles – 5G 17A 22P
Zack Waldvogel – 10G 11A 21P
NATIONAL JUNIOR A CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY
2012 – Portage Terriers | fifth place | 1-3 | 9GF 15GA
2011 – Portage Terriers | fifth place | 1-3 | 12GF 17GA
2005 – Portage Terriers | fifth place | 1-3 | 11GF 18GA
1973 – Portage Terriers | national champions | 4-1 | 22GF 16GA
PLAYERS TO WATCH
good size … hard to handle down low … very good on the cycle … great puck protection … loves to funnel pucks to the net … wears down opponents in the
defensive zone … good skater … smart player
big, physical forward … great speed … very good on the forecheck … likes to punish defencemen … great puck protection down low … good vision … hard,
accurate shot … strong on his skates
smooth skating defenceman … high hockey IQ …uses skating and puck skills to escape pressure … very good transition … tremendous vision … elite passing
ability … likes to join the rush … responsible