Hockey season made it all the way to May 2 in the Battlefords this year, but the season lasts even longer for the Portage Terriers.
The Manitoba champions beat the SJHL champion Battlefords North Stars 7-3 on Thursday at the Civic Centre to clinch the Anavet Cup in five games.
The Terriers now head to Brooks for the national junior A championship.
This turned out to be the only real lopsided game of the entire series. The previous four games had been closely-fought contests, as the North Stars showed they could compete toe-to-toe with the champions of the MJHL.
But there was no question who was the better team on this night.
“They’re a good team, they deserve it,” said head coach Brayden Klimosko afterwards.
“It was a hard fought series. It probably felt a little closer than a 4-1 series. We tried our best, tried to battle it out, but they’re a good hockey team, so they’re well deserved over there.”
It was a long sad night for North Stars fans, right from the opening faceoff. Just 27 seconds into the game, the Terriers got a goal from Ocean Wiesblatt to give the opponents a 1-0 lead.
The Terriers had gotten the first goal in four out of five games in the series. The Terriers made it 2-0 later on a goal by Joey Moffatt.
Then came the start of what would be a rash of North Stars penalties in the contest. Seth Summers went to the box for four minutes: two for holding, and another two for roughing.
What happened next turned out to be the most exciting moment of the game. The North Stars’ Matthew Fletcher ended up beating two Portage Terriers on a breakaway, and he scored a shorthanded goal to make it 2-1.
The crowd was back into the game, but the momentum didn’t last. With Summers still in the box, Orca Weisblatt scored at 17:27 to put Portage up 3-1.
Klimosko later pointed to this moment as a turning point of the game.
“Scoring one on the same PK (penalty kill), that hurt,” said Klimosko. “If we get in there where it’s 2-1 going into the intermission, we’re feeling pretty good about ourselves. But once he scored that, it felt like we were on our heels after.”
In the second period, the North Stars ran into penalty trouble again. A controversial call to Kaden Boser for boarding left the North Stars fans and bench incensed.
Right away, the Terriers capitalized with a goal from Orca Weisblatt, Scott Mickoski assisting. At that point, North Stars goaltender Joel Grzybowski was pulled, having only stopped 12 of 16 shots by this point. Chad Duran took over in the North Stars net.
The penalties continued to mount in the second period as Dayton Heino was lost with a two-minute blow to the head penalty as well as a ten minute misconduct.
Later came a call of goalie interference to Regan Doig, and that led to another Portage goal, this one from Jay Buchholz, to make it 5-1.
Quintin Loon-Stewardson’s 12th of the playoffs cut the margin to three goals, but Kolton Shindle restored the four-goal advantage with 1:25 left to make the score 6-2 Portage at the end of two periods. Shots favoring the Terriers by this point 29-22
Despite a decent third period, the North Stars could not come back. Joel Grzybowski was back in goal for the third and gave up only one goal in the period, as the series MVP Chase Brakel scored with 9:26 remaining to give Portage a five goal cushion.
The final goal of the North Stars season came off the stick of Brett Gammer, from Austin Becker, with 6:42 left. But it was too late.
Nathan Moore, who shared goaltending duties with Ethan Peterson through the series, got the victory in net for Portage in game five, stopping 29 of 32 shots. At the other end, Gryzbowski saved 20 of 25 and Duran 11 of 13 in defeat for the North Stars.
In the end, Klimosko pointed to Portage’s ability to capitalize on their opportunities throughout the series as the difference.
“They just bury on all their chances,” said Klimosko, who added that it seemed like every time they got them “it’s in the back of our net.”
“It’s a pretty special group they have over there, and we’ll learn from this.”