It's been just over six weeks and 17 regular season games for this year's version of the Portage Terriers. As teams pass the quarter point of the long season, head coach and general manager Blake Spiller is content with how things have gone so far.
"We are where we thought we might be at this particular time. Obviously, we would have liked to have a few more wins here, but we've had a few injuries early. In hindsight, it gave us a chance to see some other guys in different situations. We still have some decisions to make because we have too many forwards. Having too many guys sitting in the stands isn't ideal. We're pretty satisfied with things so far, probably struggling with being a little bit more consistent, but that's not unusual at this time of year."
The club lost their only game over the weekend in Niverville on Friday night. It's a game they led 3-0 after two periods. The Nighthawks scored 3 times in the final 10 minutes and then took the match in overtime. Portage was supposed to play Waywayseecapo on Sunday but due to freezing rain in the forecast, that match was postponed. This means their next game will be a rematch with Niverville, but this time on home ice Wednesday.
With a 9-4-4 record, it's no surprise to see the Terriers near the top of the standing. In any given year, that mark might be good enough for top spot. But this season, five other clubs have come out of the gate hot and the Terriers find themselves in fourth spot in their own division. Only five points separate first from sixth. Spiller says this means they need to be on every night as two points have the potential to make a big difference in the standings.
"It's a real competitive league and that's the way you want it to be. If you don't show up to play, then you're probably not going to have any success. We have played really well at times and not so good at other times. I think the guys that are here are really working hard and are happy to be here. So that's always a good sign. Like any team, we would like our special teams to be a little more consistent as well."
Sometime in late December or January, Spiller will most likely be passing several milestones if the team continues the pace they are on. With 14 more wins he will become the winningest coach (regular season) in Terrier history and also tie the league record. With 15 wins, Spiller will have more than anyone else in the over 50 years the league has been around.
Attendance has been slightly down from last season when the team was the host of the national championship. So far the club has averaged just under 650 fans a game and traditionally attendance goes up as the season moves on. Friday night, they will team up with Central Plains Cancer Services for the annual sports dinner and auction. The guest speaker will be NHL Hall of Famer Paul Coffey and the players are looking forward to meeting the legend. Cody Buhler, in charge of marketing for the team, says it is almost a complete sellout, however, there are still a few tickets available.
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