Noah Wagner is hanging up the skates.
The Winnipegger was thrilled to play last season for the Portage Terriers and says there isn't another group of guys he would've rather played his final year with. Wagner feels very lucky to have the Centennial Cup tournament as his final memory on the ice.
"I want to say how proud I am of our team and the effort we had at the Centennial Cup, especially with how devastated we were after the Virden loss (Game 7 of the MJHL semi-finals)," Wagner explains. "I think that was one of the best stretches we've played all season. We were all bonding as a team and moving the puck really well. Everyone performed their best at the right time but we just fell short."
Wagner had his most productive offensive season in his Junior A career with the Terriers. He put up 21 points in 43 games with 58 penalty minutes. The forward added six points in the playoffs and played in five of the six games at the Centennial Cup.
He says the fan support during the Centennial Cup will stick with him for a lifetime. He says that's not the only major moment that he'll carry with him.
"Before Christmas break, we went on a bit of a losing streak (lost five out of nine). I don't think we had even lost four games all year before that," Wagner continues. "We just responded and went on an eight-game winning streak after that. We had a really good run and had a really good time right after that. I think that shows what kind of team we were and how close we were as a group."
Wagner battled through a shoulder injury this entire season, tearing it in the first game of the regular season.
"I had a torn labrum. I hurt it in the early run of the season and took a little bit of a rest on it (he missed a month of action). I needed surgery but didn't want to get it during the season," says Wagner. "I waited throughout and pushed through it. I got a brace for my shoulder, and the team trainer Gisele (Sutherland), did a really good job helping me out. Now, getting surgery is helping out a lot in the offseason."
The Terriers traded for Wagner all the way back in 2020 when they sent Layne Toder to the Dauphin Kings. He only played two games in Portage before COVID-19 cancelled the season, and then he moved to the North American Hockey League's (NAHL) Johnstown Tomahawks last year.
"I wasn't sure if the MJHL was going to start up again because of COVID and all of that. I went over there, met a ton of new friends, and was able to play a whole new style of hockey, basically," Wagner explains. "In the NAHL, there's a lot of speed and skill. It's kind of a whole different way. It was nice to adapt my game to that and then pay it forward with my teammates in Portage and help them out."
By the time this season was over, Wagner says, he considered Portage a second home.
"The community was so welcoming. Anytime they'd see you around the city, they'd talk to you about how the season is going and say good luck. It's nice when the team you're playing for has fans that really care."
This was Wagner's year on the ice as he now plans to start his next chapter at Red River College, where he will pursue carpentry.
While he gained a plethora of knowledge about the sport of hockey from his time with the Terriers, he notes plenty of the lessons he learned will apply to the rest of his life, as well.
"They just taught me off the ice how to be responsible for the team and be respectful in the community. They preach that everyone in the community is watching, so you have to be respectful."