Faupel, Portage chasing national title

Connor Faupel had plenty of hopes and expectations when he left Rochester last August to play in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.

The former Rochester Century standout defenseman has lived up to those expectations in his first season in the Junior A Tier I league. In many ways, his time in Canada has been better than expected.

After all, Faupel and his Portage Terriers teammates will be playing into May.

"It's a lot different than playing 25 (regular season) games in high school," Faupel said. "We'll play more than 70 games by the end of the year. The regular season can get long, but the playoffs have been such a rush. All of the games have been really intense."

The Terriers won the Turnbull Cup, the MJHL's championship series, on April 12. They beat the Winnipeg Saints, 4-1, in a best-of-seven series. That guaranteed them a spot in the ANAVET Cup, which pits the champion of the Manitoba league against the champion of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.


And even though the Terriers trail the best-of-7 ANAVET Cup series 3-2 (Game 6 is Saturday at 7:30 p.m.) to the Humboldt Broncos, they have a lot of hockey to look forward to.

Beyond this series, Portage is guaranteed a spot in the Royal Bank Cup, the championship tournament of Junior A hockey in Canada. It is scheduled for May 5-13 in Humboldt.

"We want to win, but we're trying to get focused for the RBC, get some good momentum going into it," Faupel said. "Portage won the ANAVET last year, went to the RBC and got knocked out, so the captains and veterans are saying 'we want to win it this time.'"

Faupel, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound defenseman, has 24 points this season. He started the season in the MJHL with Neepawa before being traded to Portage.

He said he adjusted fairly quickly to the more physical style of play.

"The beginning of the season was a little rough," Faupel said. "I got in a fight early in the year. That was my welcome to the league. That woke me up and I feel like my game has grown and improved."

Faupel said he would gladly to return next season to Portage and the MJHL, though he will also likely attempt to catch on with a team in the USHL, the top Junior A league in the United States.

For now, though, he hopes to help the Terriers make a deep run in the postseason.


"I would like to try to make a USHL team," Faupel said, "but if not I'll gladly come back up here. More and more kids are coming out of (the MJHL) lately (and moving on to college hockey)."

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