by Taylor Allen
Playoff hockey is finally here and the Winnipeg Blues couldn’t be more excited.
The Blues will take on the Portage Terriers in the first round of MJHL playoff action. The two teams faced each other six times in the regular season, with Portage winning four games. The last meeting between the two teams came on February 14, with the Blues picking up a 6-4 victory in front of the home crowd at Bell MTS Iceplex.
“The boys are excited and ready to get things going,” said league-MVP and Blues’ forward, Dexter Kuczek. “We’ve beaten them twice this year so if we have Jeremy Link, all four lines, and our defence playing well, we can give them a shot.”
Portage, who finished the regular season in third place, outscored Winnipeg 23-15 in the six meetings between the two teams during the regular season. But the Blues weren’t at full strength for several of those games, as the first half of the season the team fought through a ton of injuries. The team has managed to stay a lot healthier in the second half of the season and it has made a major difference, as the Blues’ record in 2018 is 16-9.
”It’s exciting because we haven’t had too many games where we’ve had a full line up ,” said Blues’ forward Dale Goodbrandson, who finished the regular season with 51 points. ” But this time it will be a little bit new because we haven’t gotten to play them six times with our full lineup yet.”
Goodbrandson believes the team is in peak form at the perfect time, but the team still knows the Terriers will make for a tough challenge.
” They have a lot of scoring power so that’s something we need to be aware of,” said Goodbrandson.”We have to make sure all of our lines are defensively responsible. On a consistent basis, we have to outwork them, outskate them,and then we will be OK.”
For 20-year olds like Kuczek and Goodbrandson, this year’s playoffs mean even more. This is their final season in the MJHL and they want to make it count.
”We have a lot of 20-year olds on the team and our goal, especially for the 20-year olds, is to leave everything on the ice because this is our last year,” Goodbrandson said. ”We want to play for each other and we want this year to be memorable so we want to make a big push in the playoffs.”
The seven-game series kicks off Friday, March 9th in Portage. at 7:30pm. Game two will take place in Winnipeg at the Bell MTS Iceplex on Sunday, March 11 at 6:30pm.