Since we last checked in on the CJHL Playoffs, they were slowly beginning to unfold, with two leagues having opened up its preliminary rounds.
In the Ontario Junior Hockey League, the 8th seed Cobourg Cougars have shocked league champion Trenton Golden Hawks, while the Buffalo Jr. Sabres quickly dispatched the Burlington Cougars, and the St. Michael's Buzzers knocked off the Toronto Jr. Canadiens, to earn a berth in the Quarterfinals.
Meanwhile in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, the 4th and 5th place teams in each division played off in a preliminary series to earn a spot in the Quarterfinals. In both divisions, the 5th place teams scored minor upsets, with the Melfort Mustangs knocking off the Battlefords North Stars, and the Estevan Bruins defeated the Kindersley Klippers.
Three more leagues are underway, and the rest are fast approaching their start dates. So let's get right to it, and look at a couple more opening rounds.
Ligue de Hockey Junior AAA du Quebec (LHJAAAQ)
The fifteen team Quebec Junior A league opens its playoff with the top four teams receiving byes to the quarterfinals, and the 5th through 12th place teams matched up in a best-of-five series to advance.
(5) Loups de La Tuque vs. (12) Lauréats de Saint-Hyacinthe
(6) Montagnards de Sainte-Agathe vs. (11) Braves de Valleyfield
(7) Titan de Princeville vs. (10) Condors de Kahnawake
(8) Cougars de Sherbrooke vs. (9) Cobras de Terrebonne
Saint-Hyacinthe had to go down to the last day of the season to qualify for the playoffs, finishing 23 points behind La Tuque in the regular season. But, just like we saw in the OJHL and SJHL, big differences in points haven't seemed to matter in the playoffs, as the Lauréats find themselves up 2 games to 1, with a chance to close our the series tonight at home.
Valleyfield also had to go right down to the wire to secure their playoff position, but haven't had the same luck in the first round. They have been hung tough against a high-powered Sainte-Agathe offence, but are down 2 games to none. Game 3 was played last night.
Princeville missed out an opportunity to sweep past Kahnawake last night, with the Condors picking up a 6-3 victory to force a Game 4 tomorrow night at home. Meanwhile, offence has been tough to come by in the Sherbrooke-Terrebonne series so far, but the Cougars have a 2-0 lead backed by some stellar goaltending and timely offence. They too had the opportunity to close out their series last night.
(The Quebec League's site flat out sucks, and is only available in French. So unfortunately we don't have information on what the season series was prior to the playoff rounds beginning, or a preview from someone who follows the league).
Manitoba Junior Hockey League
How's this for a way to miss out on the playoffs? The MJHL has two divisions; one with five teams, one with six. The top four teams from each division make the playoffs, but if the fifth place team has more points than the fourth place team from the other division, they can cross over. So here we have the poor Selkirk Steelers, 5th place in the Addison Division, tied with the Winkler Flyers for 4th place with 55 points, but losing the first tiebreaker of head-to-head record (despite 3 more total wins; Winkler had 11 OTL). So what was the record of the Sherwood Divison's 4th place team, the Waywayseecappo Wolverines? 55 points. Oof.
All quarterfinals in Manitoba are best-of-seven series, with 3 of the 4 series kicking off tonight.
(1) Winnipeg Blues vs. (4) Selkirk Flyers - Season series - Winnipeg won series 7-1-1
(2) Steinbach Pistons vs. (3) Portage Terriers - Season series - Portage won series 5-4
The Blues ran away with this divison, finishing a full 25 points clear of 2nd place Steinbach. The 2/3 matchup will be interesting as there wasn't much to choose between the Pistons and Terriers, just one point separating them during the season.
(1) Dauphin Kings vs. (4) Waywayseecappo Wolverines - Season series - Dauphin won series 6-0-1
(2) OCN Blizzard vs. Swan Valley Stampeders - Season series - OCN won series 5-2-1
The MJHL seems to have a pretty clear divide between the top and bottom teams this season; Dauphin's 96 points were top of the league, really only Winnipeg was close. Meanwhile OCN and Swan Valley were without question the 3rd and 4th best records in the league, as the Sherwood Division seemed to beat up on a couple of weak sisters.
Alberta Junior Hockey League
(2) Grande Prairie Storm vs. (7) Sherwood Park Crusaders - Season series - tied 3-3
(3) Bonnyville Pontiacs vs. (6) Drayton Valley Thunder - Season series - Drayton Valley won 5-1
(4) Whitecourt Wolverines vs. (5) Fort McMurray Oil Barons - Season series - Fort McMurray won 4-2
The first round of North Division play should be incredibly competitive; the spread from 2nd place to 7th was just 11 points, which over a 60 game season isn't a lot. The North Division champion Spruce Grove Saints, 5 points clear of Grande Prairie, should be fortunate to get the rest afforded to them from the bye.
The very competitive play from the regular season has carried over into the first round of the playoffs; all three best-of-five series are currently tied at one. Only one game has been won by more than 2 goals, and only one game has seen a team score four goals. The lower seeds get a pair of home games this weekend, with Game 3 being played tonight and Game 4 tomorrow.
(2) Okotoks OIlers vs. (7) Olds Grizzlys - Season series - Okotoks won 6-0
(3) Camrose Kodiaks vs. (6) Calgary Canucks - Season series - Csmrose won 4-2
(4) Drumheller Dragons vs. (5) Canmore Eagles - Season series - tied 3-3
The South had a pretty clear separation between the top team (the Brooks Bandits), the upper class, and the lower class. Of course, none of that appears to have mattered so far in the first round.
Olds shocked Okotoks in Game 1 of their series, but the Oilers whipped them in Game 2 to even the series at 1 game each; Game 3 is scheduled for tomorrow night.
Similarly in the 3/6 matchup, Camrose scored a win in Game 1, and Camrose rsponded in Game 2 to even their series. Drumheller scored wins in both of their first two home games, leaving Canmore to fight for their playoff lives at home in Game 3 on Saturday.