Today the Portage la Prairie Major Junior Hockey League Terriers are in a strange city a 1,000 km from home preparing for what will be a once in a lifetime tournament for many, but on May 7 they were in the bosom of their fans, at home in Stride Place being sent off in style with an old fashioned pep rally.
The Terriers were in their home barn signing autographs and accepting well wishes from their dedicated fans.
The reality of where they have come in their young hockey careers is setting in: this is the big show, so far.
The ANAVET Cup winning Portage Terriers will be hosted by the Brooks Bandits of the Alberta Junior Hockey League, in the final RBC tournament and compete with the Prince George Spruce Kings of the BCHL, the Ontario Junior Hockey League Oakville Blades and the Ottawa Jr. Senators of the Central Canada Hockey League when the Canadian Junior Hockey League’s national championship tournament gets underway May 11 in Brooks, Alta.
Only the Portage la Prairie Terriers (2015) and the Brooks Bandits (2013) have previously won the Royal Bank Cup, Canada’s National Junior A Championship in this showdown.
The Ottawa Junior Senators finished second in the CCHL with an impressive 43-16-0-3 record and downed the Princeville Titan 9-2 in the Fred Page Cup final to advance to the national championship.
Prince George finished the season with a 39-13-1-5 record and eliminated the host Brooks Bandits, who won 57 times and lost just three regulation contests during its 60-game regular season, four games to two to claim the Doyle Cup and advance to the national championship.
The Blades were the top team in the OJHL thanks to a 44-5-2-4 regular season record. Oakville blanked the Hearst Lumberjacks 2-0 in the Dudley Hewitt Cup final.
National championship preliminary round schedule is as follow:
Saturday, May 11
2 p.m. Ottawa vs. Portage
7 p.m. Oakville vs. Brooks
Sunday, May 12
2 p.m. Prince George vs. Oakville
7 p.m. Brooks vs. Portage
Monday, May 13
7 p.m. Prince George vs. Ottawa
Tuesday, May 14
2 p.m. Portage vs. Oakville
7 p.m. Ottawa vs. Brooks
Wednesday, May 15
7 p.m. Portage vs. Prince George
Thursday, May 16
2 p.m. Oakville vs. Ottawa
7 p.m. Brooks vs. Prince George
*All games are in MDT
PORTAGE FANS HONOUR THEIR CHAMPIONS
Portage la Prairie Terriers
Photos credited to Heather Jordan, Portage Terriers
A fan rally was recently held in Portage where fans were able to meet their favourite Terrier and wish them luck as they head off to the national Junior A championship in Brooks, AB.
Terriers will participate in a five-team round-robin: Ottawa Jr. Senators, Oakville (Ont.) Blades, Prince George (B.C.) Spruce Kings and Brooks (Alta.) Bandits to capture their first Canadian title since 2015. The trip to the 2019 national championship will be the first of two consecutive trips to the championship as the Portage Terrier organization will host the 2020 championship.
Terrier veteran forward Chase Brakel is looking forward to participating in this year’s championship as he winds down his junior A career.
“I’m super excited. It’s something I’ve never been a part of before,” Brakel told Jason Bell of the Winnipeg Free Press. “I’ve been to the Western Canada Cup a couple of times and played Brooks before, but we’ve never been all the way (to the nationals). I haven’t played the eastern teams, but these are the last five team’s standings in the country, so you know everyone’s going to be good.
“The success we’ve already had is great, but something no one on this team has done before is win a national championship. So, I think we’re all itching to get it done.”
The Terriers open the tournament Saturday afternoon against the Senators, who won the East region after dumping the top-seeded Princeville (Que.) Titan on the weekend. Prince George represents the Pacific region, Oakville represents the Central regions and Brooks has a berth as the host team.
Brakel started the year at NCAA Division I Cornell University but returned to Portage early in the new year, firing nine goals in the final 21 games of the regular season and adding eight goals and 14 assists in 15 MJHL playoffs games as the squad swept both the Waywayseecappo Wolverines and Virden Oil Capitals before edging the Swan Valley Stampeders 4-3 in the best-of-seven final.
The Winnipeg product was also named the ANAVET Cup most valuable player following the Terriers’ 7-3 win over the Battlefords North Stars of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League in the clinching game of the best-of-seven interprovincial series, with a berth to the nationals on the line.
Brakel said this year’s Terrier squad has great chemistry.
“We’re all really close. It’s a great atmosphere and that’s had so much to do with our success,” said the 5-11, 180-pound winger, who plays on a forward unit with team captain and centre Ty Barnstable and Orca Wiesblatt. “The key for our whole run has been our depth. Some of the teams we’ve played in the playoffs were relying on just a couple of lines, whereas we really play all four lines, our defensive pairings get a lot of work and both goalies played a role in helping us win. That’s the key to our success.”