Briercrest hockey started off the season with a strong opening as the team skated away with a well-earned victory and an important two points in the standings against Portage College on Friday. This year the team added a few new skaters to their bench and of the 25 players, 7 are new recruits.
In the first game opening night, newly minted captain Josh Anderson set the tone early for the weekend, executing a perfect shift with a hard hit on the forecheck. After the teams felt each other out for the first few minutes, Tristan Hermanson out-hustled a Portage defender to set up Josiah Friesen for an early chance. Moments later, Jamie Wuttunee raised the ire of the Voyageur defense with a big hit and drew a retaliatory cross-checking penalty. On the ensuing powerplay, Thomas Freeman threw the puck on the net and Josh Mitton banged in the rebound to open the score. A great hip check by Micah Abbott preceded another scoring chance for Briercrest, but Portage was able to turn it aside and managed to tie the score shortly afterward on a broken play. After the Voyageurs took another penalty, Alex Bechtold muscled his way through the defense and put the puck past goaltender Garret Montour while being hauled down to retake the lead for the home side. The teams headed into the first intermission with Briercrest leading 2-1.
The second period saw both teams ramp up the intensity as it became clear that offensive opportunities were at a premium. After Mark Mackinnon put an abrupt stop to a Voyageur attacker with a crushing open ice hit, both teams traded powerplays. Dan Dekoning helped to hold Briercrest’s lead throughout the night with 35 saves.
Briercrest came out a little tentative in the third, with an early giveaway resulting in a chance for the visitors that rang off the crossbar. Some more hard work by Anderson drew another penalty. Arlyn Semeschuk put a pass on the stick of MacKinnon, who ripped a onetimer home to open up a 3-1 lead. While on another powerplay, Mitton rang the puck off two posts before burying his own rebound. A late goal by Portage's Gael Lubwele briefly made things interesting, but MacKinnon iced things with a 180-foot empty net goal to make it 5-2.
Josh Anderson shared his thoughts after the game on how important it was to keep calm in the midst of animosity: "We came into this game trying to be composed- that was our game plan. We knew that it can get out of hand and we just have to step away from the battles and keep our heads... we had a great powerplay and capitalized on that."
Players of the game were Gael Lubwele for Portage and Josh Mitton for Briercrest.