It's a good thing for the Portage Terriers that they're already guaranteed a spot in the next month's RBC Cup, the national junior A hockey championship, in Humboldt, Sask., because otherwise they'd be facing a tall task to try to extend their season.
The Manitoba Junior Hockey League champion Terriers, whose roster includes Wabowden's Kajon McKay, have dropped the first three games of the best-of-seven ANAVET Cup series - the last one before the qualifying format for the RBC Cup changes next season - to the Humboldt Broncos, the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League champions and the hosts of the RBC Cup.
The series couldn't have started much worse for the Terriers, who surrendered four goals on nine shots in the first period of game one in Humboldt on April 20, a contest that would end 8-2 in favour of the Broncos, who didn't surrender a goal until early in the third period, by which time that already had a six-goal lead.
McKay was held off the scoresheet in the game, but Northern Manitoba's other representative in the tournament, Thompson's Mathew Backhouse, who played with McKay on the midget AAA Norman Northstars in Thompson in 2007-08, had an assist on the game's opening goal.
Things went slightly better for Portage in game two the following night, as the Broncos only outscored them 2-0 in the opening period. It was 3-0 by the time the Terriers got on the board in the second period, on a goal by Yvan Pattyn, and the Terriers pulled within one less than three minutes later on an unassisted shorthanded goal by Brett Fargher. The score remained 3-2 until late in the middle frame, when Adam Antkowiak extended the Broncos' lead to two.
Humboldt opened the third period with a pair of power play goals in the first five minutes to lead by four. McKay trimmed the lead to three near the midpoint but Humboldt closed the door the rest of the way to skate away with a 6-3 win and a 2-0 series lead.
Backhouse had a pair of assists for Humboldt.
The series shifted to Manitoba for game three on Tuesday night, and the Terriers put forth a better showing in front of 1,054 fans at the Portage Credit Union Centre, but still couldn't earn a victory, dropping a 2-1 decision on Ryan Marshall's game-winner, his second of the game, with just over 10 minutes left in the third period.
Mike Gemmill, in the second period, had the only goal for the Terriers.
Marshall opened the scoring on a power play early in the first period, assisted by Backhouse and Andrew Johnston while Portage's Pattyn was in the box for holding.
The Terriers earned an automatic berth in the RBC Cup when the host Broncos captured the SJHL championship by defeating the Weyburn Red Wings.
The RBC Cup runs from May 5-13.