The Blizzard on a Heater: After another coaching change in the off-season and the departure of some key pieces, the Blizzard are just two points out of top spot in the MGEU West and only lost one game in December. Playoff style or fill the net, the Blizzard seemingly can do it all. Every player that has played more than 4 games has contributed at least a point, proving it’s a team effort. The Blizzard picked up another win on Thursday to extend their win streak to 8 games. Hats off to Eric Labrosse and company in The Pas.
Blake Spiller On the Verge of History: The long time Portage bench boss will soon be the name at the top of the list for wins in MJHL history. Spiller sits three wins away from earning the all-time record. Paul Harland has been by his side through it all. Both will one day be in the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame, but they still have plenty of good years ahead. As a side bar, how about the Terriers who have the 4th best win percentage in the league (.700), just one season after hosting the Centennial Cup. It seems like it’s never about rebuilding in Portage, it’s about reloading.
Flying to the top?: The Winkler Flyers have shown to be one of the top teams in the MJHL this season with their strong and aggressive play with a good mix of young and experienced talent. The tandem of Malachi Klassen and Liam Ernst has given up the fewest combined goals in the league (59), while veteran Trent Penner and Brody Beauchemin sit in the top 3 of MJHL scoring. It’s been a struggle for the Flyers to get out of the first round for some time, but if there’s a season for the Flyers to do it, this could be it.
Neepawa sitting at .500: It was an up and down December, but the Titans have shown they have what it takes to be in battle against the top teams in the league. With two games in hand and a 6-point buffer between themselves and 5th place, the Titans hold their playoff fate in their own hands. Solid goaltending and the return oF some key pieces has the Titans right in the mix.
Pistons Primed to Repeat?: The defending Turnbull Cup Champions haven’t missed a beat and sit atop the MJHL standings to start 2024. Despite playing in a temporary facility and location this season, the team continues to rack up points and looks to be a tough out if another team wants to hoist the big trophy.
Get In and You Can Win: While there may be favorites to win it all, any team that gets into the playoffs could make a case for them hoisting the Turnbull Cup. With that, there will be a team knocked out in round one who could have gone all the way, if not for that first round opponent. To be the best you’ve got to beat the best.
Oil Caps look to Get Over the Hump: Coming off a trip to the MJHL Final, the Oil Capitals appear to be loaded from top to bottom for another crack at getting over the hump. Close, tight checking games paired with dynamic offensive threats, now it’s about finding consistency, especially at home. A year older with plenty of playoff experience has the Oil Capitals at the top of the MGEU West Division to start 2024, is this the year for boys in southwestern Manitoba?
Young Guns Shooting out the Lights: League wide, the 2004 and 2005-born class has proven to be elite goal scorers. 7 out of the top 10 goal scorers are in that age bracket, including 18-year-old Dawson Zeller who leads all players with 19.
Great Guardians of the Gilded Gazebos: Across the MJHL, every team can look at their crease protector and feel very good that he’s going to get the job done. Regardless of the wins/loss records, this may be one of the strongest years for goaltending league wide. Not only is goaltending strong around the MJHL, it’s young guns in the net as well. 4 out of the top 5 in save percentage are just 17, 18 and 19-years-old.
Nighthawks flying higher and higher: In their inaugural season, they made the playoffs. In their second year, Niverville has bigger goals in mind. 2006-born forward, Nathan Brown and HC/GM Kelvin Cech helped Team Canada West to a gold medal at the World Junior A Challenge in Truro, NS. Brown also garnered recognition on the NHL Central Scouting’s preliminary rankings. A deeper roster, elite goaltending and a building that’s very hard to win in, the Nighthawks want more than just a playoff appearance.
Trade Deadline or Dudline?: This time of year is usually filled with possibility coupled with concern. Trades are part of team business but it’s never easy for players who may be moved. However, it’s getting harder and harder to make an impactful addition for now or the future. GM’s will try their best to do right by players, whether it’s to give them a chance to win or simply a chance for more ice time, but they can only do so much, it’s really up to the players now.
Winnipeg vs Winnipeg: Just a single point separates the two in-city rivals. Both teams have young, explosive talent and goaltenders who seem to get better with the more shots they face. Both teams have earned more respect around the league. While the playoffs are falling out of reach, bragging rights are certainly on the line. Who’s going to be the “little brother” at the end of the year will be fun to watch.
MJHL/SJHL Showcase: This month will see some of the top players from both leagues go head-to-head. The coaches are in place, and it’s expected the player rosters will come out soon. It’s an excellent opportunity for players involved to stand out and grab a scholarship. For other players, it might be motivation to have a sensational second half and earn a scholarship that way.