Oakville holds off Portage to secure semifinal slot at NJAC

By Jason La Rose, Hockey Canada

BROOKS, Alta. Spencer Kersten led the offence with a goal and three assists, and the Oakville Blades (OJHL) held off a third-period comeback to edge the Portage Terriers (MJHL) 5-4 for their first win Tuesday at the 2019 National Junior A Championship.

The win completes the semifinal picture with four games to go in the preliminary round – the Blades, Brooks Bandits (AJHL), Prince George Spruce Kings (BCHL) and Ottawa Jr. A Senators (CCHL) will comprise the final four.

The goals came fast and furious in the first period, with five before the 12-minute mark.

Kyle Lewis needed just 29 seconds to get the scoring started, forcing a turnover in the Portage zone before taking a feed from Josh Nixon and tucking the 1-0 goal through Terriers goaltender Ethan Peterson.

Joey Moffatt replied for the West Region champions at 3:21, letting go a harmless-looking shot that found its way behind Oakville netminder Will Barber, but Alton McDermott gathered in a loose puck in the high slot and wired a quick shot past Peterson just over two minutes later.

Nixon made it 3-1 at 7:40, keeping on a two-on-one and scoring off the glove of Peterson, who was replaced by Nathan Moore after allowing three goals on five shots.

Moore didn’t fare much better; Kersten stepped in off the right point on a Blades power play and went post and in to the far side to send the Dudley Hewitt Cup champions to the dressing room up by three.

Scott Mickoski pulled one back for the Terriers midway through the second period when he snuck behind the Oakville defence and tucked a shot around Barber, only for Harrison Israels to redirect a Kersten feed past Moore on the power play to restore the three-goal advantage after 40 minutes.

Penalty trouble by the Blades made it interesting in the third; Ty Barnstable poked in his own rebound with Portage enjoying two-man advantage at 9:11 of the final frame, and he jammed in his second goal just 17 seconds after that to pull the Terriers within one.

Moore went to the bench with just over a minute to go, but Portage could not find the tying goal despite multiple scrambles in front of Barber.

The Blades close out their preliminary-round schedule Thursday against Ottawa (2 p.m. MT), while the Terriers will wrap up their season Wednesday night against Prince George (7 p.m. MT).

Photo credit: Matthew Murnaghan/Hockey Canada Images