With just nine games left in the MJHL regular season, the Portage Terriers are hitting their stride. The Dogs have won their last five games and are coming off back-to-back shutout victories.
Portage's own Ryan Botterill hit a benchmark last game, becoming the first Terrier to score 35 goals in a season since the 2015-16 season (Brad Bowles had 45).
"That feels good," says Botterill. "As a team, we need to keep winning. That's the main goal right now. We need to win a lot and get ready for the playoffs and Centennial Cup."
The former Manitoba U18 AAA Hockey League MVP is second in the MJHL in goals and sixth in points with 55. Botterill has been great all season but ramped up the scoring since the start of 2023, with 21 of his 35 goals coming in February and January (19-game span).
Ryan Botterill 🎩 🎩 🎩— #theMJ (@mjhlhockey) February 9, 2023
What a snipe here from Botterill last night who scored a hat-trick for the @PortageTerriers and now has 29 on the season. pic.twitter.com/CFeuSimHRg
He needs just five goals over the next nine games to hit the illustrious 40-goal marker. While Botterill is proud of the season he's had, he's not too surprised by the success.
"That was my goal from the start of the year. That's what I wanted to do," Botterill explains. "I'm pretty happy right now. I want to push for 40 but also keep winning."
Botterill's next two opportunities to add to his goal total will come in the form of back-to-back games against the Neepawa Titans. The first of the pair goes down tonight at Stride Place, and the forward says if the Terriers stick to their strengths, they'll be in a great position.
"We have to play our game the way we know we can. Stay hard on the forecheck and not change our game at all just because we're playing back-to-back," Botterill continues. "We'll get rested after the first game and then come back at it the next day."
The Terriers are in first place in the MJHL standings with 76 points and have a four-point lead over the Steinbach Pistons for that top spot. Portage is 15-4 in 2023 and has won seven of their eight contests this month. Botterill believes they're playing their best hockey of the season right now.
"I feel like we're playing pretty good right now, almost at the top of our game. We have a couple more notches to get to, and then we'll be good, I think."
Tonight's matchup between the Terriers and Titans is set for 7:30 at Stride Place.