In just one calendar year, the Portage Terriers have flipped their program on its head. At this point last year, the Dogs had a record of 13-14-3, almost ten wins less than where they sit at the halfway mark of this season, 22-6-2.
Terriers head coach and general manager Blake Spiller says the team started to hit their stride when the new year rolled around last season. After losing 13 of their first 15 games, the Dogs missed the playoffs by just one point, losing their final game of the season.
Despite the brutal end to the campaign back in March, Spiller believes all the trials and tribulations this squad endured have helped them become a top-two team in the MJHL.
Portage has ten players still with the team that finished last season in a Terrier uniform. Of those players, Ryan Botterill finished the calendar year at the top in goals with 23 since last January. Hayden Lacquette led the way in both assists (39) and points (55). The defenceman currently leads the Terriers in total points this season and has the top spot in scoring by a blueliner.
Five of the ten returning players already have accumulated more points in half of the 2022-23 campaign than they did in the entirety of last season. Austin Peters jumped from 19 points in 44 games to second on the team in scoring with 31 points in just 28 contests. Lacquette also has 12 more points than he did all of last year.
While Matt Wisener wasn't one of the players to have already surpassed his previous season's total in points, he has done so in goals, picking up his eleventh in the last game of 2022. Wisener also ended the year as the Terriers leader in game-winning goals with six and short-handed goals with three.
In their first full year back in action, the Terriers had a 32-16-6 record and a +37 goal differential. The only man in net who's been in Portage for all of 2022, last season's Terrier MVP Jayden Catellier, closed out the year with a 19-10-4 record and a 2.91 goals-against-average.
Now looking ahead, 2023 is set to be a huge one for the Dogs as they host the Centennial Cup Tournament this coming May.
"Obviously, hosting the national tournament is exciting but we have a long way to go to get to that point," Spiller explains. "Our league is very competitive, with a number of teams who have a chance to win it. Our focus will be to continue to improve in all areas of our game."
Spiller notes the trade deadline is just over a week away, on January 10, and he adds they won't be afraid to be active if they can make the team better.
The Terriers concluded 2022 on a two-game win streak and will be looking to extend that into the new year when they return to Stride Place on Friday, January 6, against the Steinbach Pistons.