Terriers sweep home-and-home series with Blues
Portage Terrier forward James McIsaac celebrates following his second shorthanded goal of the game during Portage's 6-2 victory over Winnipeg Sunday evening at Stride Place. (Brian Oliver/The Graphic)
The Dogs are off and running.
James McIsaac had a pair of shorthanded markers and Jeremey Leipsic added three helpers as the Portage Terriers cruised to a 6-2 win over the Winnipeg Blues Sunday night at Stride Place in Portage la Prairie to put the finishing touches on a decisive two-game series sweep to open the 2017/18 Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL) regular season.
After falling behind mid way through the first, rookie forward Reilly Funk scored his first as a Terrier to even the score in a period where Portage had a significant shot advantage. Off-season acquisition Daniel McKitrick got the Terriers their first lead of the game early in the second thanks to some sustained pressure in Winnipeg territory. McKitrick picked up a loose puck behind the Blues goal and managed to tuck in a wrap around before Winnipeg netminder Jacob Gnidziejko could get his bearings straight.
McKitrick struck again just 24 seconds later, jumping on the puck during a mad scramble in the Blues' crease and roofing it over Gnidziejko's glove hand to put the Dogs up a pair.
“Even though we have quite a few returning guys, we've still got some guys that are trying to find their spots and trying to get some chemistry,” noted Blake Spiller, head coach/GM of the Terriers.
The Blues had a chance to get back in the game thanks to some undisciplined play by defenceman Cody Thompson, but it was the Terriers who would do the damage. McIsaac stripped the puck off of a Blues defender behind the Winnipeg goal and barely managed to sneak it through an unsuspecting Gnidziejko's five-hole.
McIsaac was a thorn in the side of the Winnipeg powerplay unit all night, as the Terrier forward connected with Ryan Sokoloski on a penalty kill early in the third to perfectly execute a 2-on-1 rush to put the Terriers up 5-1. Soon after Sokoloski redirected home a Leipsic pass to put Portage up five and end Gnidziejko's night early.
The Blues managed to beat Terrier netminder Brock Aiken in the dying moments of the game, but the returning Terrier put forth two strong efforts to open the year and has answered the call when tested.
“Aiken has been solid both games, that's what we're looking for out of him and he responded,” added Spiller. “I thought he was real good, especially in game one. Both goalies played real well early and we got that (goal) with about six minutes left in the second period (to get on the board).”
Aiken backstopped the Terriers to a 4-0 victory Friday night in Winnipeg during the season opener, turning aside all 23 shots that came his way. Aiken stopped 23 of 25 Sunday night to pick up his second win of the year, while Gnidziejko got dinged for six goals against on 24 shots in the losing effort.
The Dogs improve to 2-0-0 on the year and welcome the Steinbach Pistons to town Wednesday evening. Puck drop set for 7:30 p.m.
O captain! My captain!
The Terriers named veteran forward Chase Brakel as the team's captain ahead of Friday's season opener. The 18-year-old, Winnipeg-native returns for his third season with Portage, tallying 130 points in 118 games played over the past two seasons. Forwards Jeremey Leipsic, Ty Barnstable and defenceman Mackenzie Dwyer were selected as alternate captains.