By Bill Burfoot
Photo provided by the MJHL
Overtime. Game 7. This is what dreams are made of.
For the first time since 1996, the Manitoba Junior Hockey League championship needed all seven games to decide the winner, with Portage Terriers and Swan Valley Stampeders going the distance and putting together one of the greatest Manitoba Junior Hockey League final series’ in recent memory.
In the end, the Portage Terriers claimed their fourth championship in five seasons with a thrilling 3-2 overtime win over the Swan Valley Stampeders in Portage la Prairie Monday night.
Reece Henry played hero for the Terriers, scoring his sixth goal of the playoffs 5:26 into the first overtime, securing the Terriers fourth MJHL championship in the past five seasons.
Henry, who turned 19-years-old on Sunday night, could not have drawn up a better way to celebrate his big day then by scoring arguably the biggest goal in his hockey career in front of a sold-out crowd of just under 2,200 at Stride Place.
After blocking a shot in his own end, Henry chased the puck down the left side before cutting toward the net and beating Merek Pipes on a backhand to send the home crowd into a frenzy.
Portage didn’t make it easy on themselves, letting a 2-1 lead slip away with just seconds remaining before ultimately winning it in the extra frame.
The Terriers opened the scoring in the first period on Sam Huston’s seventh of the post season. Matt Osadick evened things up for Swan Valley just over six minutes into the middle frame to tie things up and one, but just two minutes later Chase Brakel regained the Terriers lead with his eighth goal of the playoffs.
It looked as though Brakel’s goal was going to hold up as the series winner, but the never-say-die Stampeders - making their first appearance in the finals in their 20-year history, had other ideas.
While shorthanded and with their net empty, Osadick tallied his second of the game with just seven seconds remaining, beating Terrier netminder Nathan Moore on his own rebound to send the game to overtime.
The top two clubs in the regular season continued to exchange chances in the extra frame. Swan Valley had a glorious opportunity to end the game when the MJHL’s playoff point leader Bradly Goethals broke in alone on Moore, but was unable to beat the Terrier netminder who stopped 30-of-32 shots - including eight in overtime- in the win. Moments later, Henry would tally for the Terriers.
Merek Pipes, who was sensational in net all playoff long for the Stampeders, finished the night with 24 saves in the loss.
With the Turnbull Cup on the ice and celebrations taking place, Terrier captain Ty Barnstable called over teammate Braden Billaney to hoist the cup. Billaney, who has missed the entire playoffs due to an 18-game suspension handed out by the league for a vicious hit thrown against Winkler in late February, will be eligible to play in Game 2 of the Anavet Cup.
The Terriers will enjoy a day off to celebrate winning their 12thtitle in franchise history before they begin preparations for their best-of-7 Anavet Cup series against the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League champion Battlefords North Stars. Game one is set to begin in Portage next Friday, with the winner of the series earning a spot in the Canadian Junior Hockey League National Championships May 11-19, in Brooks, AB.