With their record-setting regular season done, the Portage Terriers are off on the Road to the RBC Cup.
The 2015 RBC Cup hosts simply dominated the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, 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 Portage 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. 22, added another 14-game run from Nov. 1-Dec. 5, 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.
Not surprisingly, Portage players led the way in almost every individual category; the Terriers’ top line of Zack Waldvogel (28-50—78), Brad Bowles (36-46—71) and Shawn Bowles (25-39—64) finished first, third and fifth, respectively, in MJHL scoring.
Portage captain Tanner Jago (17-36—53) – the MJHL Defenceman of the Year – led the league’s blue-liners in scoring, and goaltender Justin Laforest was No. 1 in wins (31) and goals-against average (2.13).
So what’s next?
The Terriers open the MJHL quarter-finals this week against the Waywayseecappo Wolverines, the first step towards what the Terriers hope is a front door berth to Canada’s National Junior A Championship.
Portage is looking to become the first team since the 2002 Halifax Oland Exports, and just the third in the RBC Cup era (since 1996) to win league, regional and national championships as the RBC Cup host team.