Win number one is in the books. The Portage Terriers sent their fans home happy after a 5-4 victory over the Virden Oil Capitals tonight in their first game at Stride Place.
While the Terriers did come out on top, it was a former Terrier who struck first. Less than three minutes into the game, Josh Lehto (Played one regular season game for Portage last season) was fed the puck along the wing in a 3-on-2 rush. He ripped a shot past Jayden Catellier to give Virden the early lead.
Portage was able to respond on an odd-man rush of their own. Gabriel Laflamme brought the puck into the offensive zone in a 2-on-1 and baited the defender before making the pass to Cam Bullinger. This created a short breakaway, where Bullinger elected to go to his backhand, but was denied. However, Bullinger stuck with it and tapped in his own rebound. The score remained 1-1 into the second frame.
Early in the second, Bryce Bryant had the puck at the point and made a quick pass to Lehto in the slot. He chipped the puck toward the net, looking for his second goal of the game, but Catellier made an impressive shoulder save.
With just over five minutes to go in the period, Portage had another 2-on-1 opportunity. This time it was Alyandro De Leon who entered the zone with the puck. He held onto it for an extra second before making the perfect pass to Slade Stanick at the back door for the tap-in. Terriers snatched their first lead of the game 2-1.
After a holding penalty from Terrier defenceman Nik Jones, Virden found themselves on the power play. Nolan Chastko fired a shot from the faceoff dot, and Catellier made the pad save. Unfortunately for the Dogs, Lehto was right there for the rebound and picked up his second goal of the contest.
Virden wasn't done there. Still in the second period, the Oil Capitals won an offensive zone faceoff, but the loose puck made its way to the slot. Naton Miller was the first to corral it, and he immediately put the puck on net and caught Catellier off guard. The puck found the back of the net, and the Oil Capitals held their second lead of the game, but it only lasted for a moment.
Ten seconds later, Grant Dardis glided from the blue line toward the net. He surveyed the landscape and made a centring pass, which was redirected into the back of the net by Parker Korman. Korman was the lone goal scorer in the Terriers' first game and is now the only player on the squad with a pair of goals this season.
3-3 was the score entering the final frame.
Laflamme put the Terriers in front three minutes into the third. He screened the goaltender and was able to find a rebound in front. He turned and fired, but was stopped. Laflamme was determined and fired again. This time, he was able to tickle the twine.
Bryce Bryant threw a backhand shot toward the net a couple of minutes later and put home his second of the season. This knotted the score at 4-4.
Third-year Terrier Brenden Holba was the man to seal the deal tonight. He skated into the offensive zone with a head of steam. The pass intended for Holba went off the boards before he picked it up in stride. Holba ripped a shot high glove side to make it 5-4, which ended up being the final score.
Slade Stanick had three points in the contest. He says it was great to get a bit of revenge against the team that knocked them out of the playoffs last year.
"That was in the back of our minds for everyone who returned," Stanick continues. "We wanted to get these two points, not only for some revenge, but also to prove to the fans that we have another shot at (The MJHL Championship) this year, and we're going to deliver."
The 20-year-old forward talks about the chemistry this team has already.
"It's hard going into a new year with only eight guys from the old team, but it happens. We have a great group of guys. Everybody is already super close, and clearly, that's showing on the ice."
The Terriers will look to begin their first win streak of the season on Thursday when they head to Steinbach for a meeting with the Pistons.
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