The Steinbach Pistons came out and went stride for stride with the Portage Terriers but as the game went on, the Pistons began to show signs of playing intense hockey for over a week and the Terriers capitalized winning game 1 of the MJHL finals 5-1 on Friday night.
The Terriers had a very moving ceremony for Braden Pettinger before the puck dropped and many fans were moved to tears watching him drop the ceremonial face off to the captains. The emotion of that moment was felt around the packed PCU Centre and it’s something the fans and players will never forget.
Once the game got started, Portage used that emotion to score just 31 seconds into the game. Anthony Kapelke answered back as some good work in the corner by Quintin Lisoway and Cole Smith, freed the puck up and Lisoway passed it to the point where Kapelke fired a good hard shot and knotted the game a goal apiece. The Terriers regained the lead on the power play and never looked back.
The Pistons had a few chances in the second period but Portage found the back of the net to make it 3-1. Luke Amsbaugh, with under a minute to go, led a two on one into the Terriers zone and got away a good quick wrist shot but the Terriers netminder, Nathan Park was able to squeeze his right arm to his body and avoid having the puck slip through.
Some miscues in the neutral and defensive zones would hurt the Pistons as Portage tallied two more in the final period and ended the game winning 5-1.
The win snaps Steinbach’s winning streak at 3 games. For the Terriers, they have yet to lose a playoff game in 2016. The power play finished 0-for-3 and the penalty kill went 3-for-4. There was some debate to whether or not the shots were correctly counted but they finished 27-17 in favour of Portage.
Game 2 is set for Sunday in Steinbach and the Pistons know they will have to play “Pistons Hockey” if they plan on making a series out of it. Many players were disappointed in the loss but know that, as a team, they have much more to give and that includes Captain Tyler Penner.
“We can’t take this team lightly that’s for sure,” Penner said after the game. “One of the good things to take away is that we didn’t come close to how we play but we need to come out with a better effort and I think we’ll be ready.”
Penner says he isn’t feeling the pressure just yet. “We need to come out and prove we’re a team that deserves to be here. We’re one of the top two teams in the league for a reason and we need to show it.”