The Portage Terriers boarded the bus back home, but left two vital points in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL) playoff race behind in Neepawa.
Ashton Anderson scored twice, including the game-winner, and Tyler Gutenberg made 39 saves, as the Neepawa Natives held on to beat the Terriers 5-3 Friday night at the Yellowhead Centre.
Josh Sielsky, Justin Metcalfe and Nolan Richards also scored for Neepawa (13-31-5), which picked up its first win against Portage (32-16-3) this season, after being outscored 17-7 over the first three meetings. Riley Thiessen, Ryan Sokoloski and Jeremey Leipsic tallied for the Terriers.
“We just didn’t come out and play,” says Terriers defenceman Layne Toder. “We had a slow start and started building at the end. We just didn’t play 60 minutes.”
Neepawa jumped out to an early 2-0 lead. Sielsky, who spent a brief stint with the Terriers this season, scored 2:46 after puck drop to make it 1-0. Then just 1:08 later, Metcalf beat Brock Aiken to put Neepawa up 2-0.
Thiessen scored an unassisted goal late in the first period to cut the lead to 2-1.
But Neepawa would restore its two-goal lead promptly in the second period, as Richards scored 1:18 in to make it 3-1. Then just past the midway mark of the second, Sokoloski tallied a power play marker to bring the Terriers back within a goal.
Neepawa, however, would again extend its lead again, as Anderson scored to make it 4-2 less than three minutes later.
Early in the third, the Terriers, again, climbed back to within one, as Leipsic scored 3:55 in to cut Neepawa’s lead to 4-3. But that was as close as Portage would get. Anderson added an empty-netter with 19 seconds left in regulation.
Gutenberg made 39 saves in the win, while Aiken stopped 35 taking the loss. Portage outshot Neepawa 42-40 while going 1 for 4 on the power play; Neepawa finished 0 for 3.
With nine games to go in their MJHL regular season, the Terriers sit in fifth-place, two points back of the surging OCN Blizzard (33-15-3) for fourth. The Blizzard have won seven straight. Portage is also just four points shy of the third-place Selkirk Steelers (34-16-3) with two games in hand, and another two meetings lined up with them down the stretch.
The Terriers are off until next Wednesday, when they return home for their final meeting of the regular season with the Winnipeg Blues (25-22-5). Portage has already clinched the season series between the two clubs, having won four of the first five meetings while outscoring Winnipeg 21-10.