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MJHL Final Series Tied at 2-2

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Facing the prospect of going down 3-1 in the MJHL final on home ice, the Swan Valley Stampeders came out with their best playoff performance – ever?
That might be debatable, but it’s hard to argue the Stamps were not ready to rock Saturday night. In front of a raucous crowd of 872, Swan Valley scored the first seven goals of the game en route to a 7-2 victory, evening the best-of-seven league final 2-2. The battle for the Turnbull Cup is now a best-of-three affair.
With a chance to take a stranglehold on the series, the Terriers were stunned to see Swan Valley score twice in the first and five more times in the second to take an incredible 7-0 lead just 31:25 into the contest. Portage would finally get on the board in the back half of the second period, but it was too little too late.
The dominating start was far more than Stamps bench boss Barry Wolff could have asked for. But the sustained effort was.
“It’s something we talked about,” said Wolff after the win. “It also happened in the NHL (Tampa Bay blowing a 3-0 lead to Columbus), so that was another reminder of that. We showed them some clips.
“There’s no team that’s going to quit, especially Portage,” he added. “We saw that tonight – even at 5-0, they kept pressing hard.”
Leading the charge for the Stamps was local product Josh Tripp, who recently was lauded yet another honour – chosen as the MJHL’s selection for the Canadian Junior Hockey League Player of the Year award. Tripp ended the game with a goal and three assists, as he put his offensive chops on display with the series on the line.
Campbell Balk also had himself a heck of a night. The now 21-year-old native of West Olive, Michigan, had a pair of goals – the second of which he was awarded a penalty shot while the Stamps were short-handed – to go along with one assist to help the Stamps to the win. He said there was not going to be any let up in this game.
“We were kind of disappointed in Game 2,” said Balk, who chased former Stamps netminder Ethan Peterson from between the pipes with the fifth goal of the game. “We let them back in that game, and coach talked about complacency. And with the lead, we really focused and wanted to play a full 60 minutes.”
Balk really helped put the Terriers away with his two straight goals in the second – the fifth and sixth in the game. But the American credits his teammates for putting him in a good position to convert on those chances.
“The team was moving the puck well and I got the first one on the power-play, and the second someone found me on a breakaway and I was able to get loose, and able to finish that one off on the penalty shot,” he said.
Bradly Goethals, Brian Harris, and Matthew Osadick with a pair of goals rounded out the scoring for the Stamps. Portage’s Caelan McPhee and Scott Mickoski scored late in the second period to cut the lead to 7-2. Neither team scored in the third period.
Being up by seven goals, the Stamps could have mailed it in for the final 30 minutes. But a blocked shot in the third period, which really stung Osadick, showcased Swan Valley’s determination to finish this game the right way. Osadick came back the next shift and helped keep Portage off the board the rest of the game, continuing his strong defensive play to secure the win.
Swan Valley was extremely opportunistic on their shots, as they scored on seven of 24 shots. Peterson made 12 saves on 17 shots in his half of the game, while Nathan Moore only made five saves on seven shots in his relief work. Merek Pipes stopped 32 shots for the win.
Special teams came alive for Swan Valley in this game. They went 3-for-7 with the man advantage, with two of those coming while Chase Brakel was off on a double minor for high sticking Lane Kirk. Portage went 1-for-7 while also allowing one short-handed goal against.
With the series now 2-2, Balk said the time is right for Swan Valley to win one on the road.
“It comes down to hard work – tonight we worked for 60 minutes, and that’s what it’s going to take for whoever comes out on top,” said Balk. “Especially in their barn, we need to get the puck in deep and we should be good.”
Terriers 3, Stampeders 2
It took five periods, but the Stamps finally lit the lamp in Portage in these playoffs. And while the opportunity was there to steal a win on the road, the Terriers protected their home ice advantage with a tight 3-2 victory last Wednesday.
Scott Mickoski put a dagger into the hearts of the Stampeder faithful by way of his second of the game with just 4:46 left in regulation to lift the Terriers to the win. He banged home a rebound on a power-play shot from the point that goalie Merek Pipes had no chance on.
Previous to that, the Stamps had tied the game with two third-period goals. Dane Hirst tied the game with his second of the post-season at the 7:57 mark, as he scored on a nifty wraparound. Prior to that Alexander Uryga got the Stamps on the board at the 4:43 mark of the third as he perfectly converted a pass from Bradly Goethals, after Tucker Scantlebury did a good job to rub out his man on the boards and keep the puck in the offensive zone.
Portage had staked themselves a 2-0 lead with two goals in the second – one from Mickoski, the other from Jay Buchholz.
Portage out shot Swan Valley greatly in this game, getting 37 shots on goal, compared to just 18 for the Stamps.
The Terrier’s power-play was also a big difference, as they finished 1-for-6, while the Stamps were 0-for-3.
Stamps stuff
Game 5 of this final series goes back in Portage tonight (April 16), with Game 6 slated for Swan Valley on Thursday night, 7:30 p.m. at the Centennial Arena. A seventh game, if required, would actually take place in Portage la Prairie next Monday night (April 22) … Swan Valley now has 13 goals on home ice in this final, and just two on the road. Portage has six goals on home ice, and seven on the road …. Bradly Goethals now leads the playoff scoring race with 21 points. Josh Tripp is tied with Portage’s Chase Brakel in second spot with 18.

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Derek Holtom
REPORTER
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