March 4, 2015
By Derek Holtom
MJHL Web Correspondent
The MJHL playoffs are now upon us, and with a new balanced schedule and a survivor series component factored in, this will be a new experience for all teams involved.
A couple of significant changes: the elimination of the former Addison and Sher-Wood Divisions, and a best-of-three ‘Survivor Series’ for the teams placing seventh to 10th. Winners move on through to best-of-seven series, while losers pack bags and head home.
The balanced schedule means each team will have faced each other the same amount of times (six). It will also mean there are some intriguing first-round playoff matchups which have never been seen before (for example, Swan Valley versus Winnipeg, or Virden versus Winkler).
The ‘Survivor Series’ concept came into effect last years with the fourth and fifth seeds from the Addison and Sher-Wood (or, perhaps, a crossover team) played best-of-three series to determine the fourth seeds for the two divisions. With the balanced schedule, the seventh through 10th seeds now battle for the final two spots in best-of-seven playoffs.
This year, the top six seeds are automatically into the first round of the playoffs. The fourth seed will face the fifth seed, and the third seed will take on the sixth seed.
The first and second seeds will have to wait for the best-of-three survivor series to wrap up before they’ll know who they are to face.
The seventh-seed will meet the 10th seed in one series, while the eighth and ninth seeds will also clash for a chance to get into the playoffs.
This year the seventh seed will be Selkirk, while the 10th seed will be OCN.
Waywayseecappo has home ice home-ice advantage on Dauphin in the eighth-versus-ninth series.
“Last year we started this a little bit, and this year this (new format) makes things quite exciting,” said Barry Butler, head coach of the Waywayseecappo Wolverines. “We’re not only battling for playoff spots, but also home-ice advantage in the survivor series.
“And things can change from the eighth spot to the sixth spot pretty quick, so that makes things interesting for the fans, the players, and the teams involved.”
Last year the Winnipeg Blues won their survivor series, and kept winning until they won the MJHL title. That might be a stretch this year with Portage dominating as the RBC Cup hosts, but the possibility still exists.
“That’s a tremendous thing for the Manitoba Junior Hockey League to see what the Blues did last year,” said Butler. “You can also see that in other leagues – I think the L.A. Kings are a great example of that.”