The effort was there, the chances were there, and the goaltending was there but it still wasn't enough for the Portage Terriers.
The Dogs are eliminated from the MJHL playoffs after dropping Game 7, 3-2 in overtime to the Virden Oil Capitals.
The contest was scoreless 15 minutes into the first period when Brett Magarrell beat Virden to the puck in the offensive zone. He quickly made the pass in front to Brenden Holba, who had the defence draped all over him and couldn't get a clean shot away. However, Noah Wagner was the first to the loose puck in the slot and had a point-blank opportunity but his shot was tipped high by a stick.
Both teams had many chances in the first but it remained 0-0 after 20 minutes.
Midway through the second, Andrew Blocker looked as though he was sprung on a breakaway for the Oil Capitals. Just as Blocker was about to pass Brandon McCartney and be in all alone, the defenceman picked his pocket, and Mike Stubbs scooped the puck up for Portage and went back the other way.
Stubbs brought the puck in the offensive zone wide on his backhand. He got in tight and fired a shot that was stopped. The rebound went out into the slot, right to Matt McLeod, who was behind the play. He rips it on net but is absolutely robbed by Virden goaltender Owen LaRocque.
With just over a minute left in the second, Bryden Kiesman knocked the puck away at the point on the penalty-kill. This created a 2-on-2 rush, and Kiesman entered the zone along the boards. Holba was with him, and he skated so hard that he got a half stride behind the defence. That was just enough to receive the pass in tight and chip in the first goal of the game. 1-0 Terriers after two.
Near the halfway mark in the third, Ty Plaisier skated the puck down to the top of the circle from the point before taking a shot on net. Terrier goalie Bailey Monteith made the initial save but the rebound went right to the slot, and Nolan Chastko treated it like a one-timer, putting it right into the wide-open net. Tie game.
Less than two minutes later, after the Terriers drew a penalty, Mike Stubbs scooped the puck up from behind the net, with speed. He went for a wrap-around but could curve his stick toward the net enough to put it in the open cage. Austin Peters was there for the rebound, which was miraculously stopped, but after a few whacks at it, Stubbs was able to get the puck across the red line and give the Terriers the lead back.
Three minutes after his first goal to tie the game, Chastko did it again. The puck came out of a jam along the boards but no one could find it. The puck ended up going off Noah Wagner's skate and was left right in front of the Terrier net. Chastko zoomed across the zone and fired a backhand shot top shelf as soon as he got to the puck. 2-2.
Virden had the momentum in the rest of the third but Monteith made a few key saves to help send this game to overtime.
The first overtime was hectic, with the biggest chance coming for Portage. Parker Scherr took a shot from the point that was tipped on its way to the net. LaRocque made the pad save going down into his butterfly stance but did not know where the puck was. The goalie stood up, and the puck was loose underneath him in the crease. The Terriers rushed toward the net but, ultimately, couldn't tap it in before Virden was able to clear.
The extra ten minutes solved nothing, so 20 more were put on the clock, and the game proceeded to double-overtime.
Roux Bazin beat Hayden Lacquette to the puck in the neutral zone early in the frame. He brought it in tight on a partial breakaway and tried to slip it between the pads on Monteith but he stood his ground. However, Bazin drew a penalty.
On the ensuing power-play, Dean Gorchynski made the cross-zone feed to Bazin for the one-timer, which he has buried multiple times in the postseason. That was not the case this time. Monteith got across his crease as quickly as possible and made a huge glove save to keep the Dogs alive.
Monteith made another big save on a tap-in attempt minutes later from Blocker, but shortly after, the Terriers took a holding penalty. That marked the beginning of the end.
The Dogs were great on the first half of the penalty kill, getting out on the rush twice in the first minute of the power-play. Once Virden got settled, it was a different story. The Oil Capitals had the cycle going quite fast, making the Terrier defenders move all over the defensive zone. With just 15 seconds left on the power-play, they found their opportunity.
Virden wins it 3-2 in what was a contest that saw everything you could ask for and more from both teams in a Game 7. Terrier captain Kian Calder was crushed by the loss.
"It sucks. Credit to them. They played really well. Their goalie stood on his head all night," Calder continues. "It sucks, man. I wanted to win with these guys so bad. It's really tough that we're not going to lift the Turnbull this year. This stings."
While it is the end of the Terriers' playoff run, they're in a unique position as their season is not over. With Portage being the host of the Centennial Cup tournament this year, the Terriers have been guaranteed a spot to play in the year-end event.
Calder says they're glad to have another chance but it doesn't make this loss any easier to handle.
"At the end of the day, I'm a competitive guy, and everyone in that room is competitive. We wanted to win our way in there. We have a second life, I guess you could say, but that doesn't make it any better right now."
The Portage Terrier fought extremely hard in the final game of the MJHL season. They will look to return even stronger when the Centennial Cup begins on May 11.