By: JASON LA ROSE
PORTAGE LA PRAIRIE, Man. – Brad Bowles had a goal and an assist and Zack Waldvogel chipped in with three helpers, all in a three-goal first period, as the Portage Terriers finished the preliminary round at the 2015 RBC Cup with a 3-2 win over the Melfort Mustangs on Thursday night. The victory gives the host Terriers first place in the round robin and means they will face Melfort once again, this time in Saturday night’s late semifinal (7 p.m. CT).The Penticton Vees and Carleton Place Canadians will meet in the other semifinal (2 p.m. CT). Landon Peel and Shawn Bowles did the rest of the scoring for Portage, which finished tied with Penticton atop the standings with identical 3-1 records, but took top spot based on its 3-2 win over the Vees in the tournament opener last Saturday. Travis Mayan and Cole Hyrsky had the goals for Melfort.With a jam-packed pro-Portage crowd at the PCU Centre rocking from the opening face-off, the Terriers controlled the play early and struck first when Brad Bowles jammed a wraparound past Mustangs goaltender Richard Palmer at the 12:01 mark.Peel made it 2-0 at 18:43 off a feed from Brad Bowles, and Shawn Bowles finished a Terriers-dominated first period just 47 seconds after that, giving the tournament hosts all the offence they would need. Penalty trouble cost Portage in the second period. Consecutive minors to Dane Schioler and Waldvogel gave the Mustangs a 39-second two-man advantage, and a long stretch of puck control finally ended in a goal when Mayan snuck a shot past an outstretched Justin Laforest to get Melfort within two after two.Hyrsky, the overtime hero for the Mustangs 24 hours earlier, made it interesting seven minutes into the third period, outracing a Portage defenceman and outwaiting Laforest before roofing a shot for the 3-2 goal.Melfort pressured in the dying minutes, but couldn’t find the tying goal.The Terriers are the 10th host team since 1990 to finish in first place in the preliminary round; of the first nine, three lost in the semifinals and four (Olds in 1994, Fort McMurray in 2000, Halifax in 2002 and Weyburn in 2005) won the national title.