2009 MJHL playoffs promise to be exciting!
(Courtesy of Manitoba Junior Hockey League)
There’s nothing like an exciting playoff series to rekindle old rivalries, establish new ones and raise all fans’ interest levels.
This Friday the second season begins on four MJHL fronts. With the grueling 62-game regular season now history, teams are back to Square One with wins and losses.
This year’s playoffs have a number of exciting subplots:
Subplot #1: Neepawa Natives GM/Head Coach Curtis Bateman grew up in the Winnipeg suburb of St. Boniface, and played minor hockey with the Saints. On Friday his Natives square off against a team which used to play out of St. Boniface and still goes by the Saints moniker: Winnipeg Saints.
Subplot #2: For the first time in its history, the MJHL will feature a playoff crossover with the Natives – fifth in the Sher-Wood Division – coming over to the Addison Division.
Subplot #3: Consider that OCN Blizzard GM/Head Coach Doug Hedley returns to his hockey roots, with his club taking on the Dauphin Kings.
Subplot #4: Portage Terriers are looking to avenge their sweep in the ANAVET Cup. In order to do so, they must repeat at MJHL champions.
Subplot #5: Winkler Flyers and Selkirk Steelers meet for the third straight year in the first round. Can you say déjà vu?
“The playoffs are going to be a very interesting and exciting for the fans,” says MJHL Commissioner Kim Davis. “The match-ups are excellent.”
Today we look at the Addison Division match-ups:
Winnipeg Saints (44-11-0) vs. Neepawa Natives (24-29-3)
To say the Saints have firepower would be like saying Hulk Hogan has monster pipes. No kidding! The Saints, who lost in last year’s league final to Portage, boast a Murderers Row of scorers, with a total of eight, 20-plus goal scorers. That’s the most in the MJHL.
Dan Watt, who won the MJHL scoring race, led the Murderers Row with 62 goals. He’s joined by Blake Chartier (45 goals), Rejean Carriere (34), Blair Macaulay (25), Jordan DePape (34), Kyle Jeffery (22) and Ryan DePape (20).
“Everyone knows we have offence,” says Watt. “But as a group we know we have to concentrate heavily on defensive play in the playoffs. Everyone in our room is focused on the task at hand.”
Neepawa will be led offensively by its captain Shane Jury, 20, who scored 27 goals and recorded 71 points. Jury told the Winnipeg Free Press that the Natives consider themselves fortunate to be participating in the post-season.
“It’s just great to be going on after missing out last year,” said Jury, who is the only returning player from last year’s Natives. He acknowledged that the battle with Wayway for fourth spot in the Sher-Wood should help his teammates mentally.
“We’ve been able to play playoff-style games down the stretch,” Jury told the Free Press. “We’ve been able to compete with the big teams like the Saints.”
Selkirk Steelers (45-17-0) vs. Winkler Flyers (33-25-2)
Steelers captain Russ Payne is in his fifth and final season. He recently achieved a career milestone, notching his 300th career points. Long-time teammate Adam Pleskach also hit the magical #300 career point this season. Both vets won’t be lacking any motivation as they lead their club into the second season.
The Flyers will be led offensively by Nick Lazorko, who lit the red light 54 times this season. Jordan Peters chipped in 41 goals and 74 points. One Flyer with a bit of extra motivation will be Michael Wilgosh, who was traded by the Steelers earlier this season for steady defenceman Lucas Alexiuk.
This series could be a defensive battle, with both teams boasting excellent goaltending: Alan Armour and Joey Rewucki have both been solid for the Steelers while Dayn Belfour has played the majority of time in the Flyers’ net.
Tomorrow: The Sher-Wood Division match-ups, www.mjhlhockey.ca.