By Derek Holtom
MJHL Web Correspondent
The race for the eighth and final playoff spot in the MJHL is perhaps the most exciting one with two weeks to go. A three-team race is a pretty much a two-team one now, but the final two weeks offer up the potential for plenty of drama.
Let’s take a look at the three teams left, and what their schedules look like.
First off is the Swan Valley Stampeders, who have six games remaining and lead the Neepawa Natives by three points. Swan Valley’s schedule goes like this – at Wayway, versus Virden, versus Virden again, at Portage, versus Wayway, at Neepawa.
Neepawa, who pose the biggest threat after a four-game winning streak, retain a game in hand on Swan Valley. Their schedule goes like this – versus Wayway, versus Portage, at Portage, at Winkler, versus Steinbach, versus Dauphin, versus Swan Valley.
Neepawa’s overtime loss Sunday left them still in need of help of catching the Stampeders, though they retain one game in hand.
The Dauphin Kings are five points back and have only four games left. They need to basically win out and still likely need help to sneak into the post season. And their schedule is the toughest. They end the season like this: versus Steinbach, versus Steinbach, at Neepawa, at Winnipeg. Those two games versus the Pistons might just do in the Kings, who have not missed the playoffs in a long time.
So the race really comes down to Swan Valley and Neepawa. The final game of the season between one another could determine eighth seed to the playoffs.
But the schedule works against Neepawa. They had only won 12 games prior to their four-game win streak, and they will need to out-win Swan Valley down the stretch. Even if Swan Valley only wins two of six games, Neepawa still needs to win three of six games to pass them. And with a game against the Pistons, two against the Terriers, and one against Winkler, their schedule is much harder than that of the Stampeders, who only play one game against a team higher in the standings than the seventh place Oil Capitals, that being the fifth place Terriers.