As we nervously follow the Jets' quest for a playoff berth, we should pause to reflect upon junior hockey. The playoffs start this week in both the MJHL and the MMJHL. That means there is affordable hockey entertainment near YOU! So, COME ON DOWN! [Standings]
The MMJHL is a 10 team league, and the top 8 qualify for the playoffs. Fort Garry was a distant last, and St. James faded so that there was little doubt as to the playoff entrants. For the quarter-finals the teams are seeded 1-8, 2-7, 3-6, and 4-5 and the winners are re-seeded for the semi-finals. All series are best-of-7 all the way through. The schedule is usually Tuesday-Friday-Sunday but some teams have different nights based on arena availability.
Here is how the series started:
Tuesday, March 3rd TRANSCONA RAILER EXPRESS 3
ST. BONIFACE RIELS 6 (St. Boniface leads series 1-0)
:. [Summary] ST. VITAL VICTORIAS 6
CHARLESWOOD HAWKS 3 (St. Vital leads series 1-0)
Wednesday, March 4th RIVER EAST ROYAL KNIGHTS 4
PEMBINA VALLEY TWISTERS 2 (River East leads series 1-0)
:. [Summary] STONEWALL JETS 3
RAIDERS JUNIOR H.C. 1 (Stonewall leads series 1-0)
Thursday, March 5th CHARLESWOOD HAWKS 2
ST. VITAL VICTORIAS 1 (series tied 1-1)
The first thing to notice is that 3 of the 4 underdogs started with victories. This is most unusual in the MMJHL.
The 1-8 series is often a blowout. This year it is rematch from last year's quarter-final. The Stonewall Jets knocked off the defending champion Raiders JHC. Hunter Ploszay stopped 43 of 44 shots to steal one for the Jets.
The 2-7 series was the only one to hold to form. Even though Transcona lost, at least they are back in the playoffs. And, they held a 3-2 lead in the 2nd period. Not so long ago the franchise folded. If they could come back to beat St. B. there will no doubt be pink flamingos adorning front yards throughout Trashcona!
The 3-6 series was one where the underdog was thought to put up a fight. And River East have made good on that forecast after one game. This would be a fairly big upset, though The Twisters were 14 points ahead during the season.
The 4-5 series is usually the closest. And it is 1-1. The Hawks and Vics had some tremendous cup finals a few years back. After missing the playoffs a year ago, the Vics are back. The Hawks can still be a thorn in the side of the top three contenders.UPCOMING GAMES
Friday, March 6th
Raiders at Stonewall - 7:30 Veterans Memorial
Pembina Valley at River East - 7:30 Terry Sawchuk Arena
St. Boniface at Transcona - 8:00 Ed Golding (East End) Arena
Sunday, March 8th
River East at Pembina Valley - 4:00 Morris Rec. Complex
Stonewall at Raiders - 7:30 Billy Mosienko Arena
St. Vital at Charleswood - 7:30 Eric Coy Arena
Transcona at St. Boniface - 7:30 Southdale CC [Standings] : [Playoff Schedule]
The MJHL has 11 teams and for the 2nd year now, only one is eliminated from the playoffs. However, only the top 6 qualify for the quarter-finals. The 7th to 10th place teams play a best-of-3 "Survivor Series". The two winners then join the field for the quarter-finals. The Neepawa Natives were the team eliminated. There are no longer any divisions.
The Portage Derrieres dominated the league and are expected to dominate the playoffs. They host the RBC Cup and have stacked their team.
Thursday, March 5th OCN BLIZZARD 2
SELKIRK STEELERS 7 (Selkirk leads series 1-0)
:. [Summary] DAUPHIN KINGS 2
WAYWAY WOLVERINES 3 (Wayway leads series 1-0)
Selkirk had a disappointment a year ago so maybe they can make up for it this year. Dauphin has really fallen the year after hosting the Westerns, as expected. It would be nice to see Wayway get some glory. But if Selkirk wins, the winner of this one gets Portage.UPCOMING GAMES
Saturday, March 7th
Waywayseecappo at Dauphin 7:00
Selkirk at OCN 7:00
Sunday, March 8th
OCN at Selkirk 7:30 (if necessary)
Dauphin at Waywayseecappo 7:30 (if necessary)
Wednesday, March 11th
Swan Valley at Winnipeg Blues 7:30 at MTS Iceplex
Virden at Winkler 7:30Note: Schedules for the Portage and Steinbach series are TBA, pending the outcome of the Survivor Series.
I also like to follow the MJHL on radio during the playoffs. Here are the on-line links:
Selkirk: [Mike FM Online
Portage: [CFRY 920 AM 93.1 FM
Dauphin: [CKDM 730 AM
Virden: [Big FM
Swan Valley: [GX94 940 am
OCN: [CJ-1240 AM
Note that not all of those stations carry all games. So it is best to check.