It wasn't the start they hoped for but the Portage Terriers were able to overcome the Virden Oil Capitals 4-2 in Game 5 last night. The Dogs now lead the best-of-seven series 3-2 with an opportunity to move onto the finals in Game 6.
The Virden Oil Capitals picked up where they left off in Game 4 to start this contest. Two minutes into the game, Davis Chorney waited at the blue line as Naton Miller entered the zone, creating a 2-on-1. Chorney received the puck and fired a shot on net that was stopped, however, the rebound was tapped by Miller. The puck then went off Terrier defenceman Hayden Lacquette's skate and somehow found its way into the Terrier net.
The Oil Caps were not done there, this time scoring in a 1-on-1 rush. Andrew Blocker made a slick move to get around Kian Calder. He found space in the slot, fired a shot high on the blocker side, and beat Terrier goaltender Jayden Catellier. Less than four minutes into the game, Virden was up 2-0.
Late in the first period, after a dump-in, Noah Wagner got to the puck behind the Oil Capitals' net and tried to make a quick pass out in front. The puck bounced off the back of Virden goalie Eric Reid's pad and stayed at the side of the net. Brenden Holba pounced at the opportunity to cut the lead in half as he quickly jammed the puck across the red line. This made it 2-1 after 20 minutes.
Near the midway point in the contest, Austin Peters got to the puck just before it crossed the blue line, keeping the Terriers onside. Peters made a man miss on his way to the high slot and then quickly cut toward the net. He walked right in and ripped a shot, top shelf, to tie the game.
A minute later, Joey Bielik scooped up the puck, in stride, behind the Terriers' net. He made a quick wrap-around move but Catellier got there in the nick of time to make a big save.
With less than five minutes to go in the second, Peters had the puck in a 3-on-2 rush but lost the handle as he crossed the blue line. The most recent goal-scorer stuck with it and found a trailing Ryan Botterill. The Portager skated down to the faceoff dot before he made a back door pass to Mike Stubbs. He fanned on his initial attempt but on the second effort, Stubbs tapped the puck in for his seventh goal of the playoffs. 3-2 Terriers.
Virden's best chance in the third came with six minutes to go. Treherne's own Roux Bazin was able to out-skate Matt McLeod in a 1-on-1 rush and kept the Terrier defenceman on his back as he drove the lane by sealing him off with his arm. Bazin had the puck on his backhand and shovelled it toward the net with one hand on his stick. The shot was stopped but the puck bounced up and went behind Catellier. Luckily for the Terriers, he was able to cover it up before it slid into the net.
The Portage defence stood tall the rest of the way, and Botterill sealed the deal with just two seconds to go, putting home an empty netter. This brought us the final score of 4-2 Terriers.
Forward Austin Peters says this is a key win, especially after losing the last two games.
"It was huge for our group. Virden is a good team. They definitely surprised us when they tied the series. We definitely took them for granted but we all came together and had a talk. We said, 'We're (hosting the Centennial Cup), so this just can't happen. We should've already gone through these guys,'" Peters explains. "We just tried to stick to our systems and not get ahead of ourselves. I think the last game was one of the first games we didn't score in, this year. We were definitely rattled after that but we have a good group of vets, and they kept us on track, so we knew what we had to do."
Peters describes their mindset after going down 2-0 early.
"After the two goals in four minutes, the spirits were a little low. We just had to come in the room in the intermission and say, 'We got it. We're a way better team.' We just kept our heads high because it's the playoffs, and stuff like that happens. That definitely helped us out in the end."
The Terriers will look to close out this series on Sunday in Virden for Game 6. If the Oil Capitals stay alive, the winner-take-all Game 7 will go down in Portage on Wednesday night.