On Monday night the Swan Valley Stampeders eliminated the defending MJHL champion Steinbach Pistons with a 5-3 win in Game 6, and will now move on to face the top-seeded Portage Terriers for a chance to hoist the Turnbull Cup.
For the Stampeders, they will be making their first trip to the final since joining the league in the 1999-2000 season. The Stamps finished with the second-best record in the MJHL at 42-13-3-2, and boasted the league’s top two scorers during the regular season with Josh Tripp (84) and Bradly Goethals (79) finishing one-two respectively. Goethals currently leads the MJHL in playoff scoring with 7 goals and 15 points in 10 games. The club finished with 42 wins, one shy of their franchise-high of 43 set in the 2002-03 season, and finished second in the MJHL in goals scored with 251.
They’ll face the only team in the league who had more goals scored, the Portage Terriers, who filled the net 277 times en route to league-best record of 46-11-2-1. The Terriers bring a wealth of experience to the finals, making their fourth appearance in the past five years. Before the Steinbach Pistons championship run last season, the Terriers had rattled off three consecutive championships from 2014-15 to 2016-17.
Coming into the final, Portage has been the hottest team in the MJHL, currently riding a 14-game winning streak after winning their final six regular season games before sweeping both the Waywayseecappo Wolverines and Virden Oil Capitals in the first two rounds of the playoffs. Ironically, their last loss came back on February 15, a 4-2 loss to none other than their opponents in the finals, the Swan Valley Stampeders.
Head to Head
The Stampeders accounted for almost a quarter of the Terriers loss in the regular season, winning four-of-six meetings, including a pair of shutouts from Merek Pipes, who stopped 42 shots in a 2-0 blanking of the Terriers January 19, followed by a 43-save 1-0 shutout win. The Terriers won the most recent meeting, a 5-3 win at Stride Place February 22nd.
The two clubs finished at or near the top of many offensive and defensive categories throughout the regular season, and have continued that way through the playoffs. One team is experienced in the finals, one is making their first appearance. This matchup has the makings of a classic, and the only certainty going into the final is that it’s going to be an exciting two weeks to find out who will host the Turnbull Cup.