While there are a few questions about what will happen in the other division, there is much more up in the air for the MGEU West Division. Still a battle for playoff positioning, it’s a very exciting time as we look at what could be.
MGEU West Division Playoff Matchups
1st Swan Valley Stampeders vs 4th OCN Blizzard/Dauphin Kings
2nd Virden Oil Capitals vs 3rd OCN Blizzard/Dauphin Kings
2nd OCN Blizzard vs 3rd Virden Oil Capitals/Dauphin Kings
2nd Dauphin Kings vs 3rd Virden Oil Capitals/OCN Blizzard
MGEU West Breakdown: Lots of possibilities heading down the stretch in the final week of the regular season. While things are slowly figuring themselves out, it may take until the weekend to know for sure how round 1 will look.
Swan Valley Stampeders – 34-16-5-1 – 74 points
Talk about getting hot at the right time. The Stampeders came off a surprising loss exactly how good teams are supposed to. They picked themselves up and made sure those mistakes that cost them didn’t become habit. Boasting one of the top lines in the league on top of stellar defenders and top tier goaltending, the Stamps are primed to make some serious noise.
Strength: Goaltending – Having the MJHL’s Top Goaltender clearly puts confidence in the entire team every night. The backbone of any club with championship aspirations, the Stamps know that if they limit great chances against, the odds of the other team scoring are minor.
Concern: Over Work – The top players play a lot. A lot, a lot. They’ll need the entire lineup to eat minutes, especially key minutes 5 on 5 and even if they are to just break even, they have the goal scorers to make a difference eventually. If the Stamps go down in a game, they’ll ride the big guns and that can be taxing in what could be a lengthy first round series.
Virden Oil Capitals – 34-20-1 – 69 points
No team showed more heart and determination than the Oil Caps since the start of 2023. They’ve fully bought into what the coaches have been preaching. They get contributions from up and down the lineup on any given night and earned where they are now. The biggest thing for Virden is that success hasn’t been a flash in the pan or some magical run. It’s been about hard work, preparation, and execution. All things that can carry over into the playoffs.
Strength: Work Ethic/Determination – Out working other teams has made Virden a very feared group to meet with in round 1. They are not afraid to stick within their system, wait for a mistake and then pounce. They can play heavy, they can play fast, they can do whatever it takes that night to come away with the win.
Concern: Getting the Big Goal – Virden has shown they have the depth to be dangerous but in the post-season, it often comes down to the best players taking over for a shift or even an entire period. The Oil Caps will need someone to be that guy that when he’s on the ice or has the puck, the other team panics, allowing them to capitalize. The good news is, it can be a different guy every night and that could play into the Oil Caps favor.
OCN Blizzard – 31-19-2-4 – 68 points
At one point, things were looking mighty comfy atop the standings for the Blizzard. A tough stretch has allowed other teams to catch back up but it may end up being a positive for a club that is looking more and more playoff-ready down the stretch. A mix of high-end skill and elite goaltending, plus one of the hardest arenas for visitors to come in and win in in the entire province, the Blizzard know that once the series starts, they have what it takes to make a run.
Strength: As mentioned, the Blizzard have some of the most dangerous shooters at the JR A level. Lethal from anywhere on the ice, once they get control of the puck in the offensive zone or get a step on the defenders off the rush, the puck is going towards the net hard and accurately. The top scorers on the team have battled through tough defensive matchups and know what’s coming. Plus, they know how to fight through it. Bonus strength, goaltending.
Concern: Depth scoring/Defense – While the top scorers can carry the mail, like all teams in the playoffs, the Blizzard will need the entire lineup to help when the goal scoring gets tough. Spreading out the dangerous forwards may help and also have the luxury of loading up a line if a goal is needed. Also, the Blizzard will need to make sure their defense moves pucks quickly. They can have a tendency to get hemmed in and long shifts are often the cause of miscues.
Dauphin Kings – 32-21-2-2 – 68 points
It’s been an up and down season for the defending champs but once the playoffs start, no one cares how they got there. Speed and depth upfront plus some heavy, physical and fast defenders brings a very nice mix for a team looking to repeat as champions. They have guys who have been there before but also guys who haven’t, which should keep the entire locker room hungry.
Strength: Balanced Scoring – The Kings can load up or spread out their offence, which makes for a nightmare matchup in any round. Having scored 4 or more goals in a game 14 times since Christmas, the Kings know they can put the puck in the net. The power play coming alive also helps. The Kings have gone 9-32 in the month of March.
Concern: Team Defense – The Kings can score in bunches but they can also give up goals in bunches. Riding out the ebbs and flows of a playoff game can be much harder than what teams experience in the regular season. The emotions run high, guys can get out of position and before you know it, they’re chasing the game. Dauphin has the plan and the pieces to keep from having things snowball but they’ve seen it before, they’ll have to be ready to deal when times get tough.