The second half of the season is about to begin for the Portage Terriers but tonight's contest marks a special milestone for one veteran defenceman. Matt McLeod will be taking part in his 150th MJHL game tonight against the Steinbach Pistons, and he says he wasn't even aware of that achievement.
"I don't really keep track of that but it's cool. It's definitely an accomplishment for myself."
While only seven of these 150 games have come with the Portage Terriers, McLeod has become a major contributor on the defensive end of the ice since his arrival on December 1st. McLeod has two points as a Terrier and has spent five games partnered with Brandon McCartney on the back end.
Reaching 150 games in the MJHL is a major feat, especially considering McLeod played only five games in his 18-year-old season before it was cancelled due to COVID-19. The next highest Terrier, when it comes to games played in Junior A hockey, is Kian Calder at 98 but only 53 of those have come in the MJHL.
McLeod has 41 points through his 149 games so far and will be looking to add to that total in his milestone game tonight. The defenceman says playing in the MJHL has helped him grow up quickly.
"(I've learned) Responsibility, not only with my body but taking care of the younger guys, making sure they're staying safe, healthy, and not getting into too much trouble," McLeod notes. "I think (the league) has just taught me to grow up a little bit, and being away from home definitely helps with that."
Last month was McLeod's first time playing hockey for a team that wasn't located in his hometown of Winnipeg. The 20-year-old spent the last three seasons with the Winnipeg Blues before being traded to Portage along with his teammate Jack Kaiser in exchange for Brandon Funk and Tyler Dodgson.
"The biggest difference for me is definitely being around the guys more. I'm really liking the town of Portage. There are a lot of great people here, and everyone's helping me find my way. The coaching staff has been great in integrating me, and Jack when we came from Winnipeg. I have nothing but good things to say, and I'm excited to see what we can do."
McLeod places 11th in defenceman scoring in the MJHL this season with 21 points. The Winnipegger is one of four Terrier defencemen to have over 20 points this season.
The 150th game for McLeod will see the Terriers taking on the league's top-seeded Steinbach Pistons. The Dogs defeated the Pistons 4-2 just three weeks ago and will be looking for a similar result tonight at Stride Place.
"We definitely need to keep our physicality up. I think we're a really fast team offensively, especially when we get pucks in behind them. So, getting past their D-men and finishing checks in the corner," McLeod continues. "In our own end, we just got to kill pucks on the boards. They're a great team but I think we're a better team, and we just have to show that."
Portage is six points back from Steinbach for first place in the league standings but has two extra games to play this season. The Terriers will look to make up some ground tonight on home ice with puck drop set for 7:30.