Ryan T. Renbarger was a Mattawan student and hockey player in the KOHA program until he died of leukemia when he was 13 years old. In 2002, the Mattawan and Portage Central hockey programs agreed to honor Ryan and his hockey spirit by creating a trophy and dedicating the second regular season game between the schools each year in his honor – The Renbarger Jug was born.
As both programs have enjoyed prolonged success, the hard-fought rivalry has grown and this trophy has become a point of emphasis every year. This was the 17th year of the rivalry, with Portage Central leading 12-4 in wins, but Mattawan had possession of the trophy based on their 7-2 win last season.
The 2019 edition of the Renbarger Jug game was a great night for hockey. The stands were packed with students and families from both schools, the pre-game activities and off-ice events added to the excitement and a buzz of anticipation surrounding the game. So it was no surprise that the game started with high energy and physical play from both teams. Big hits were thrown by both sides, scoring chances materialized on both ends and the crowd was into it!
The first goal of the game was a result of hard work and cycling by the Mustangs. Ryan Jaros gained control of the puck and tried to maneuver for a shot, but was blocked out by the Mattawan defense. The puck was deflected into the corner where Jaden Sorenson used his body to shield the puck and work it along the boards. Jaros cycled around the zone and picked the puck up from Sorenson and took it to the net. Jaros juked one defenseman, then skated between two other defenders to get a shot off on net. Jaros shot the puck at the far side of the net, just over the goaltender’s pad and just below his glove. The goalie couldn’t make the save, and the Mustangs struck first to take a 1-0 lead.
The Mustangs made it 2-0 in the second period when Ryan Jaros pressured the Mattawan goaltender as he played the puck behind the net. Jaros was able to tip the puck as the goaltender attempted to clear the puck up the boards. Skyler Sorenson gathered the loose puck from the boards and pulled it in towards the circle, creating a shooting lane. Skyler fired a snap shot on goal, which the goaltender could not handle and the rebound dropped to the left of the net. Hunter Maschke grabbed the rebound and pivoted around the Mattawan defender, putting the puck through his feet, then twisting and firing the puck into the net while falling to the ice. Maschke’s goal gave the fans something to cheer about!
Mattawan closed within one goal when they scored on the powerplay a few minutes later in the second period, but that is as close as they would get. Portage Central appeared to score again when Konnor McLeod shot the puck off the Mattawan goaltender’s backside and it kicked high up into the air. While the puck was still too-high in the air, John Seals used the shaft of his stick to direct it into the net for a goal. The referees determined that Seals hit the puck while it was still above the height of the crossbar, which is an illegal touch and the goal was disallowed.
Portage Central scored the final goal of the night in the third period and it was a work of art, created by two seniors. Konnor McLeod picked up an errant Mattawan clearing pass along the far boards and then deeked his way around 3 Wildcat defenders to the near side of the net. McLeod then whipped a pass across the crease to Canyon Morse who one-timed the puck into the back of the net and restord the a two goal lead for the Mustangs.
Bryan Gracey got the start in net for the Mustangs and played an outstanding game. Gracey faced 33 shots from Mattawan and was forced to make a number of quality saves.
When the game finished, the team was awarded the Jug and celebrated on the ice – lining up for the traditional trophy photo with the fans in the background.
The Mustangs improved to 11 - 10 on the season.
Ryan Jaros (1G, 1A) and Skyler Sorenson (2A) each had two points.
Portage Central clinched second place in the SWMHSHL regular season with the win. PC swept the regular season series with Mattawan – 2-0.
The Renbarger Jug Game was the marquee event of a day-long celebration of hockey hosted by the SWMHSHL. The day was billed as “Hockey Supports the Great Lakes Autism Center” and featured a silent auction with prizes donated by all the high school and KOHA teams as well as a full slate of high school hockey with Portage Northern and Kalamazoo United playing in the early game, followed by the Kalamazoo Eagles and Southwest Michigan Blades rivalry game.
Due to the snow days and rescheduled hockey games, this was also the Senior Night for the Portage Central Mustangs. The Mustangs honored the seniors and their families in a ceremony before the game. The Mustang Seniors players are Konnor McLeod, Jackson Saline, Skyler Sorenson, and Canyon Morse. The Mustangs also honored Senior student mangers Briana Lawson and Leslie Powers.
Upcoming Portage Central Games:
Wednesday, February 20
SWMHSHL League Tournament Semifinal game - #2 Seed (PC) vs #3 Seed (Mattawan)
Mattawan at Portage Central - 7:30 pm @ Wings West