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This article was published 18/4/2012 (2831 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
THE Portage Terriers have already secured a berth in the 2012 RBC Cup national championship next month but there's a little bit of business to look after first.
The Terriers will meet the Humboldt Broncos, the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League champions, in the best-of-seven ANAVET Cup Western regional championship series. Usually only the ANAVET Cup winner earns a berth at nationals but Humboldt is hosting this year's event on May 5-13 and so the Manitoba Junior Hockey League champion received an automatic berth.
"We're going to be excited to go to the RBC for sure, most guys play their entire junior career and don't get to go so I know deep down they guys are excited to go. But we've practised hard this week and we're concerned about the ANAVET Cup," said Portage head coach Blake Spiller who will participate in his fifth ANAVET Cup. He coached in one as an assistant to former coach Don MacGillivray and three (2008, 2009, 2011) as head coach and has a 2-2 record in those four appearances.
"We won it last year so we're the defending it and it's the last one so it does mean something special. The major thing the guys are focused on is Game 1 of the ANAVET Cup. We want to get a good start to the series, go into Humboldt and sneak Game 1."
The Humboldt team includes four Manitoba players in forwards Ryan Marshall of Ste. Rose du Lac, John Lawrence of Newdale and Matt Glowa of Winnipeg and defenceman Mathew Backhouse of Thompson. Humboldt has won four of the last six SJHL titles
"They're a pretty good club but we think we're a pretty good club, too," Spiller said. "They've got lots of depth, mobile defencemen and they'll work hard. They've been the top franchise in Saskatchewan for a number of years here."
Hard work is what the Terriers know all about, said forward Kajon McKay, 19, who is the Terriers longest-serving player in his fourth year with the team.
"We've got a great assortment of players and some of us have played together since we were younger. It gives us a special chemistry to be on the same team now," said McKay, who played minor hockey with Shaq Merasty and Justin Slobozian.
"The biggest thing is last year, we went to the RBC and we didn't do so well. This year is kind of redemption, we want to do way better and win it if we can. We're starting right now with the ANAVET."
Spiller said goaltender Shea Cooper, hurt earlier in the playoffs, is healthy once again but he plans to start Adam Iwan in the first ANAVET Cup game after his strong performance throughout the playoffs. Iwan posted 12 wins in 15 post-season appearances with a 2.12 goals against average.
2012 ANAVET Cup Western regional junior hockey championship best-of-seven series
Games 1 and 2: Friday and Saturday at Humboldt, 8:30 CT
Games 3, 4, and 5 (if necessary): April 24, 25, 26 at Portage Credit Union Centre, 7:30 p.m.
Games 6 and 7 (if necessary): April 28 and 29 at Humboldt, 8:30 p.m.