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Terriers look to close out Steelers at home

By Brian Oliver, The Graphic

Forward Turner Santin wrists a shot on net during Portage's Game 4 victory.

Forward Turner Santin wrists a shot on net during Portage's Game 4 victory.

The Terriers can punch their ticket to the semifinals on home ice.

With a win Monday night the Portage Terriers will not only advance to the next round of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League playoffs, but will have accomplished a feat the club hasn't matched since December 2016 – win three straight hockey games.

For a team that has been the epitome of inconsistency since a torrid start to the year, there's no better time to complete the trifecta.

“We believe we've improved on some things every game. That last game was our best of the series,” said Blake Spiller of his team's Game 5 victory. “There are still some areas to tidy up so I'm hoping we get off to a good start and continue to get better.”

After arguably stealing Game 1 from Selkirk in a triple overtime marathon, the Terriers have since set the pace for much of the series, yet only came away with a pair of wins in four outings. Portage blew a 3-1 lead late in the second period of Game 2 and came out flat in the first 10 minutes of Game 3 to find themselves in a 2-0 hole they couldn't dig out of.

The Terriers rebounded with a decisive 4-1 win in Game 4 before taking a 3-2 series lead via a 3-0 shutout victory Friday night in Selkirk. Portage will now look to send the Steelers packing from the MJHL postseason for the second straight year.

“I think we have a bit more confidence in our ability if we have everyone contributing,” added the head coach/GM ahead of Game 6. “We are aware Selkirk is a dangerous team so we will have to bring our best to get the job done.”

The Terrier offence – one that led the MJHL in goals scored in the regular season – is finally heating up, as it has struck seven times over the past two victories. 

The good news for Portage is that the offence is getting contributions from all through the lineup - with forwards Josh Martin, Ty Enns and Ty Barnstable leading the way with three goals apiece. The bad news: MJHL leading scorer and offensive dynamo Jeremey Leipsic has just four points and two of which were empty net goals.

“Things normally tighten up in the playoffs, but they have been solid defensively,” noted Spiller of the tight-checking Steeler defence.

With a win Monday night, the fifth seeded Terriers will have the opportunity to advance to the next round and avoid a Game 7 on the road in Selkirk. Doing so and the Terriers would join the Winkler Flyers and OCN Blizzard in the semis.

Game 6 between Portage and Selkirk is set for 7:30 p.m. Monday night at Stride Place in Portage.

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