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A Season to Remember

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It literally couldn’t be any closer. The seventh and deciding game in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League Championship had it all – outstanding goaltending, dramatic scoring, gritty determination, and to top it all off, overtime.
And with a championship on the line the Portage Terriers were able to shake off blowing the lead in the dying seconds of the third period to prevail with a thrilling 3-2 victory, bringing Swan Valley’s dream season to a gut-wrenching end.
Just after Bradly Goethals almost scored his fourth overtime winner of these playoffs on a breakaway, Portage came down the ice off the ensuing faceoff where Reece Henry scored the golden goal, lifting the Terriers to yet another league championship, denying the Stampeders their first-ever Turnbull Cup trophy.
The game only went into overtime thanks to the heroics of Matthew Osadick, who scored the unlikeliest of goals with seven seconds left on the clock. Down a man and playing five-on-five with an empty net, Osadick somehow found himself alone in the slot and out-lasted Portage netminder Nathan Moore to score his second of the game and send it into overtime.
To lose after tying the game so dramatically left the Stampeders – and their many fans who made the trip to Portage la Prairie to cheer them on – struggling for words to describe their feelings. But head coach Barry Wolff shook off the heartbreak of the loss to praise the team he has coached since joining the Stamps in late September.
“I’m just real proud of the team – they’re true warriors,” said Wolff after the Game 7 heartbreak. “All year long they got better every day. They continued to come from behind, and win games.”
Portage opened up the scoring 8:18 into the game, as Sam Huston scored his seventh of the post-season on a sharp shot coming off a player rush.
The Terriers had all the pressure early in the second as they started the middle frame with a lengthy five-on-three power play. An errant high stick by Goethals put him in the sin bin for four minutes to start the second, but the Stamps were able to weather the storm and soon after Matthew Osadick tied the game with his 10th of the playoffs.
But the Terriers regained the lead just two minutes later on another shot off the rush. Chase Brakel’s eighth left the hometown team with a 2-1 lead after 40 minutes.
Moore was nothing short of brilliant after being inserted in goal by Terriers head coach Blake Spiller in Game 6. He won two straight, allowing only two goals against in each. On Monday night, he stopped 25 shots – none bigger than the overtime breakaway against Goethals.
In the other end, Pipes had nothing to hang his head in shame about. He made 21 saves in a gutsy Game 7 effort.
The Stamps enjoyed the power-play advantage for most of this series, but not in this game. Still, they ended up scoring once on two chances, and also scored a short-handed goal on one of Portage’s five chances. The Terriers didn’t score a power-play goal.
The Stampeder faithful who made the trip to Portage made sure to let the players know how proud they were of the effort, and Wolff said that support means the world to this team.
“To the community – thanks,” he said. “Thank you so much for all the energy and support. We are your team!”
Terriers 5, Stampeders 2 (EN)
Minutes away from a storybook victory on home ice, the Stampeders and their absolutely sold out crowd instead left the arena knowing a seventh and deciding game would be required to determine the MJHL champion.
You had to know the Terriers were going to bring as much pressure as they could early on, with their season on the line. And bring it they did, out-shooting the Stamps 19-10 in the opening 20 minutes. But Swan Valley headed to their dressing room with the more important stat – a 1-0 lead. Bradly Goethals, who has scored so many important goals in these playoffs, opened up the scoring just 3:20 into the contest with his 12th of the post season.
That would hold until very late in the second as a pair of icings allowed the Terriers a golden chance, with just 12 seconds left as 16-year-old defenseman Owen Murray converted a rebound to tie the game 1-1 after 40 minutes.
Swan Valley, though, regained that lead early in the third. North Vancouver product Alexander Uryga picked up the puck off a board battle and used the screen to beat Portage netminder Nathan Moore 2:20 into the period.
Portage, though, scored just after a power-play ended with 6:35 left in the third as Reece Henry scored his fifth of the post-season. To add insult to injury, a harmless looking point shot by Chase Brakel was tipped in by Stampeder forward Campbell Balk with 4:55 left in the third to give the Terriers their first lead of the game.
A late power-play for the Stamps was less than effective, and with 1:24 left in the game the Terriers sealed their date for a Game 7 with an empty-net goal by Jay Buchholz. He added a second empty-netter with 22 seconds left to round out the scoring.
Nathan Moore, who got the start in place of Ethan Peterson, rewarded his coach’s decision with a 24-save performance for the win. Pipes, who tried desperately to hold on for the win, made 45 saves while taking the loss.
Both teams went 0-for-3 on the man advantage.
Stampeders 4, Terriers 3 (3OT)
Of course the winner came off the stick of Bradly Goethals.
Goethals scored the overtime winner in two previous extra-time contests, and he scored the winner again in Game 5 of the MJHL final.
On an early power-play in the third overtime period, Goethals directed a point shot past Ethan Peterson to lift Swan Valley to a 4-3 lead and a 3-2 series lead – the first time the Stamps have led in this series.
The overtime winner came via the power-play, in a game which saw both teams have extra-man opportunities in extra time.
The game only got to overtime thanks to a timely goal by Brian Harris. His fourth of the post-season, coming with just 3:48 left in regulation, lifted Swan Valley back into a tie with Portage. Matthew Osadick and Kasyn Kruse had the other goals for Swan Valley, while Portage got goals from Ty Barnstable (on an incredible stretch pass breakaway), Chase Brakel and Jay Buchholz.
Each scored one goal in the first, second and third periods in what was an incredibly tight affair.
Both netminders were to be commended on their efforts on this night, though Pipes gets the edge with his 44 save performance in 91:48 minutes of work for the Stamps. Ethan Peterson turned aside 37 saves for the Terriers.
The Stamps scored once on seven power-play chances, while the Terriers were 0-for-3.
STAMPS STUFF – Portage has now won 12 MJHL championships, four of the last five and eight of the last 12. And with them hosting the RBC Cup next year, they’re sure to be the early favourite to win their 13th title next season … The Stampeders, meanwhile, will have plenty of holes to fill, as a good chunk of their top players are either 20 years old and graduating, or are headed to college next year. The list of graduating players includes Bradly Goethals, Josh Tripp, Alexander Uryga, Quintin Sudom, Tucker Scantlebury, Campbell Balk, Jun Yi Zhong, and Merek Pipes. Matthew Osadick will also be leaving the Stamps to play college next year at Maine (Pipes is also off to college next year in the NCAA ranks).

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Derek Holtom
REPORTER
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