The Portage Terriers may have fallen 5-4 in their preseason opener, but the team is still feeling optimistic. The Dogs kicked off the preseason with just one familiar face in the lineup, Brett Magarrell, as they look to see who will crack the 2023-24 roster.
Portage struck first as the only returning player in the game did it all by himself on the breakout. Magarrell got the puck in the neutral zone, zipped between two Oil Capitals on his way to the net, and made no mistake.
The Domain, Manitoba product played in ten playoff games for the Terriers last season due to injury, but he looks to be in line for a more stable role on the team this year.
Virden responded on the power play at the midway mark of the first period, but Ozy Atkinson was able to give the Terriers back the lead in the final minute of the frame. 2-1 Portage after 20 minutes.
The Oil Capitals tied things up in the second. Terriers' goalie Evan Svoboda cleared the puck out of his crease and fired it off the boards, however; Portage la Prairie's own Maddox Shindle was able to keep it in at the blue line. He fired a shot toward the net as quickly as he could, and while it didn't go in, Jaxson Fillion was in front to clean up the rebound.
In the final frame, the Terriers' first-round pick in the 2023 draft, Reece Gault, made his presence felt. The defenceman looked poised on the ice all night but found the offensive touch with nine minutes to go. After a faceoff win on the power play, the puck finds its way to Gault at the point as he rifles a shot bar-down.
Nik Jones followed up a few minutes later with a sharp angle shot that found its way through, giving the Terriers a 4-2 lead with six minutes left to play.
Unfortunately, this is when things started to fall apart. It took Virden just over three minutes from the goal by Jones before they would take ahold of the lead once again. Despite a few chances with the net empty, the Terriers ended up falling 5-4 to the Oil Capitals.
Assistant coach Robby Moar says it may not have been the outcome they wanted, but there was a lot to be encouraged by.
"There were some guys that worked really hard out there," Moar explains. "In the D-zone and the neutral zone, I noticed a lot of guys were forechecking hard and being heavy on pucks. That's encouraging and something to build off."
Even in a loss, Moar says it's great to be back at the rink and see the guys get competitive.
"It was fun to get back out there. Sometimes, it's more fun with the younger guys because they have a lot to prove, and it's their first real experience wearing our colours. You can see their excitement," Moar continues. "It's always good, win or lose, to give those kids the experience they've deserved."
The Terriers' final home preseason game takes place on Thursday, September 14, as the Neepawa Titans invade Stride Place.
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