The Portage Terriers awarded graduating goaltender Bailey Monteith their Top Performer award for his play at the 2023 Centennial Cup.
In the round-robin, Monteith had three games with 34+ saves and in the quarterfinal against the Yarmouth Mariners, he stopped 36 shots to help the Terriers pick up a 2-1 victory. The Kamloops native is proud to receive the recognition but he gives his teammates a ton of credit for helping him play as well as he did.
"It was really a testament to how the guys played in front of me. We probably weren't as consistent as we wanted to be all season, but for four or five games, the team really showed up in front of me," Monteith explains. "It made it easy for me to just make the saves I needed to. At the same time, it's great getting the recognition. This was our biggest team effort in a five-game stretch this whole season."
He says it was incredible to hear the Dog Pound bark every time they scored and notes he's never played in any games quite like the ones at the Centennial Cup.
"Just seeing how big of a deal it was and how big the stage was, it was amazing to cap off my junior career like that. When you're looking around, you see the TSN logos and Hockey Canada logos," Monteith continues. "It was an amazing way to cap off what has been, I know I'm only 21, but it's been my favourite five years of my life. I wouldn't have traded it for anything else."
Even though the Terriers were two wins short of their ultimate goal, lifting the Centennial Cup trophy, Monteith says they still held their heads high when it was all said and done.
The Terriers were the only team in the Centennial Cup who did not win their league championship, however, Portage still made it to the final four. Monteith says this season wasn't always a smooth ride but he is glad he got to spend it with this group of men in Portage la Prairie.
He adds the one thing he'll remember most about Portage is the passionate young hockey fans.
"I'll be sitting on the bench one game, talking with the guys, and then I'll hear, 'Mr. Kohle! Mr. Wisener!' It's awesome," Monteith shares. "I'm going to miss being interviewed. I'm going to miss having a kid down the street look up to me. You only get a couple of years to do this for most of us. If you have an opportunity to play junior hockey, take it and run with it. It's the best decision I ever made, and I'm going to miss it."
While his junior hockey tenure has come to an end, Monteith believes his experience has helped him grow as a person.
"I think what we should all take away from junior is the off-ice stuff and the lessons that it teaches us," says Monteith. "I've become so persistent. There were so many times throughout junior where I was a fringe guy out west. There were so many times where I could've given up but I didn't. I'm grateful for that, and I know that's going to carry over into my life, too."
Monteith says he's not 100 per cent sure what the future holds for him but he wants to stay involved in hockey in some capacity. He says coaching, scouting, or trying to still play have all crossed his mind at this point. Whatever he pursues next, Monteith knows his persistence will help him immensely.