A third-period push wasn't enough to power the Portage Terriers past the Steinbach Pistons last night, as they fell 4-2 in Manitoba Junior Hockey League action at the PCU Centre in Portage la Prairie.
"We didn't get much luck in the first couple of periods," says Terriers head coach Blake Spiller. "It seemed like our hard work paid off and we made some plays in the third to get even, and then an unfortunate bounce led to a goal."
"We also had that four-minute powerplay and we didn't mount enough there," continues Spiller. "But for the most part, it was a pretty solid game despite the loss."
The Pistons came out firing to start the period, but Kurtis Chapman shut the door early to keep it scoreless. It took Portage five minutes to register its first shot of the game. After that, the hosts seemed to settle into their game. They did a great job of keeping Steinbach to the outside through the period. But, with just over five minutes left, Tyson McConnell scored the game's opening goal. He found himself alone on the boards, walked out, and fired a shot past Chapman on the short side to stake the visitors to a 1-0 lead. Portage had a powerplay in the frame but only managed one shot on net.
It was a tough middle frame for the Terriers, as they ran into some penalty trouble five minutes in. They took four penalties in a row, and gave up three five-on-three powerplays, but their penalty kill stood strong and kept the Pistons' lead to one. Puck luck was non-existent for Portage in the first two periods, missing three wide-open nets and having several great passes bounce away at the worst possible time. The Terriers struggled to find any rhythm in the offensive zone. Steinbach increased its lead to 2-0 late in the second, when William Koop deflected a point shot past Chapman.
Portage's continued hard work carried over into the third, and it paid off. Ty Enns cut the lead to 2-1 early on, then defender Jordan Thomson knotted the game 2-2 a short while later. Dylan Burton, an alternate player/call-up, found himself the recipient of an errant Pistons' pass and went in on a two-on-one with Thomson. Burton fired a shot at the far pad and Thomson buried the rebound. Things started to tilt in the Terriers' favour, but then Declan Graham scored for the Pistons, destroying any Terrier momentum and restoring a one-goal lead. Portage had a shot to tie things up on a four-minute power play, but couldn't solve Roman Bengert. Steinbach would add an empty-netter to seal the win.
"By no means is any team in this league unbeatable," Spiller says. "I think that if we bring an effort like that we're going to have more good days than not. It's a 60-minute game that you have to learn to play then you will have a chance to win, and I think we're getting really close to that 60 minutes."
The Terriers (24-12-0) return to action Friday, when they play the first of back-to-back games up north against the OCN Blizzard (22-11-3).