The Portage Terriers are aiming for their eighth straight win as they return to Stride Place tonight.
The Dogs are set to play their first game ever against the MJHL's newest team, the Niverville Nighthawks. Goaltender Bailey Monteith says it's hard to know what to expect from the latest expansion team.
"Everyone in the league is dealing with it this year, it's our first time playing them, we have no idea what they're like. I only spent a short time in Virden but even from my time there, you can pick up on tendencies that teams have. Of course, there are new rosters every year but teams typically play the same way," Monteith explains. "We have no idea what Niverville is about, other than when we've done video on them. I think that's going to be the biggest challenge with them is not having any prior knowledge of them."
The Terriers are coming off of back-to-back road games. They defeated the Swan Valley Stampeders 5-2 but had their following game against OCN suspended in overtime after an extremely unfortunate injury to one of the Blizzard's players.
Bryden Kiesman’s first of THREE, first period goals as the newly acquired @PortageTerriers gets the 🎩🎩🎩 pic.twitter.com/W9CPdJZtWY— #theMJ (@mjhlhockey) October 15, 2022
With a 10-1-0 record, Monteith says they will be sticking with what got them to this point.
"I don't think that we want to change up what we're doing too much. We're playing pretty well, obviously, there's always going to be things we can improve on and we're not resting on our laurels," Monteith continues. "We're going to be playing the game we've been playing for the past six-plus games. It's been working so far and I don't think we want to change too much at this point."
Portage will be looking to capitalize on the man-advantage as they're tied for the second-best power-play in the MJHL (26.4%) and are playing a Nighthawks team that has the worst road penalty-killing unit in the entire league (64.0%).
Monteith himself has been playing extremely well over the last few weeks, as he's now second in the league when it comes to goals-against-average, with a 1.63 this season. The goaltender also picked up an MJHL Star of the Week nod for week four of the season, and he notes while it was great to be recognized, the credit goes to the entire team for the way they've been playing in front of him.
The 20-year-old says he's gotten a lot more comfortable as the year has progressed.
"I knew it was going to take a couple of weeks to get acclimated as a group. My second start, obviously, didn't go the way that I wanted to (was pulled after allowing four goals on 14 shots against the Waywayseecappo Wolverines) but I'm definitely getting more comfortable with the guys. It's easy to play in front of them. I'm becoming really comfortable with it, I'm getting used to everyone, and I think we're all firing on all cylinders right now."
The Kamloops, British Columbia product says a big part of their success has been the fan support.
"Being on that northern trip we were just on, we went into two difficult buildings to play in, especially OCN. That's a loud rink but I'd throw Stride Place right up there. We have great fans that come out," Monteith notes. "For opposing teams, it's a hard rink to come into and get two points in with the team that we have and the fans that we have. It's not an easy place to play for the road team."
The Terriers and Nighthawks will have their first-ever matchup tonight at Stride Place, with puck drop scheduled for 7:30
Tale of the Tape
Terriers: Hayden Lacquette (3G, 11A, 14Pts)
Nighthawks: Josh Paulhus (8G, 4A, 12Pts)
Terriers: Bailey Monteith (1.63GAA, 0.918SV%)
Nighthawks: Ethan Kadatz (3.27GAA, 0.896SV%)