It was closer than they would've liked but the Portage Terriers are starting off another playoff series in the driver's seat. The Dogs defeated the Virden Oil Capitals 4-3 in double overtime to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven affair.
The action began early in the first period as Austin Peters entered the offensive zone along the boards. Just as he passed the blue line, Peters cut toward the slot. He made a pass ahead once he got there to Mike Stubbs, who had two chances in tight but couldn't break the seal.
Near the midway point in the first, Ethan Guthrie held the puck in the offensive zone while Virden was on the power-play. Guthrie sent the puck down into the corner, where it was quickly sent out to the high slot for Trevor Hunt. He fired but Jayden Catellier made the big glove save to keep the game scoreless.
A few minutes later, Noah Wagner won the faceoff ahead in the offensive zone. The puck was then loose right in front of Oil Capitals' goalie Owen LaRocque, and while Wagner had his stick tied up by a defender, Gavin Klaassen was there to put it home. Klaassen scored the opening goal in his first game back since being taken off on a stretcher in Game 1 of the first round.
With just 30 seconds left in the period, after holding Virden in their own end for over a minute, Bryden Kiesman scooped the puck out of a jam. He found Brock MacDonald in the slot alone and made no mistake. This sent the Terriers to the locker room with a 2-0 lead.
It took less than a minute in the second period for the Terriers to extend their lead to three goals. Wagner had the puck down low and made a quick backhand pass out in front for Matt McLeod, who ripped it past LaRocque.
It was still early in the period when Virden struck back. Dean Gorchynski picked up his league-leading eighth assist of the playoffs when he found Roux Bazin on the back door for the tap-in. The Treherne native now has four goals in the postseason.
Halfway through the frame, Slade Stanick received the puck in stride behind the Oil Capitals' defence. Stanick had the puck on his backhand on the breakaway and switched over to his forehand near the goalie's crease, and tried to tuck it in but was absolutely robbed by the pad of LaRocque.
There was exactly a minute left in the period when Ty Plaisier threw the puck on net from the point. It found its way around a few bodies and somehow beat Catellier, giving the Oil Capitals some momentum heading into the third.
The Terriers had chances to extend the lead in the third. Virden cleared the puck to the neutral zone and made a quick line change, however, this created a breakaway chance for Ryan Botterill. The Portager fired a shot short-side but it rang off the post. The rebound went to the other side of the net, and Botterill was able to corral it but was denied on the second chance.
Virden tied the game with less than three minutes left in regulation as former Terrier Josh Lehto ripped a one-timer into the back of the net during 4-on-4 play. The last few minutes of the game solved nothing, so the contest proceeded to overtime.
In the opening minute of the extra frame, Brenden Holba ran into Catellier, and both of them fell into the net. The whistle wasn't blown, so Virden quickly looked to capitalize. The Portage defence gave Catellier just enough time to get up but he made two critical saves without his stick to keep the game going.
It took nearly 23 minutes of extra time before a goal was scored but it was Brandon McCartney who sent the Terrier fans home happy.
"I don't really even know how it went in either," says McCartney. "I just got a pass on the point from Scherrzy (Parker Scherr). I tried to get it on net and hoped there was traffic in front. Luckily enough, it went off one of their guys, at least, that's what the boys were saying. It was a little bit lucky but I guess that's how you score in the playoffs."
McCartney's goal sealed the deal for Portage as they picked up the 4-3 victory and now have a 1-0 lead in the second-round series.
McCartney only had six goals the entire regular season. He says it's a great feeling to get a timely one like this.
"I pride myself on passing first, so it's nice to shoot it once in a while. I guess you can look at what happens when I shoot. It's nice."
The Terriers will have Saturday to rest before they return to the ice for Game 2 on Easter Sunday in Virden.