The final weekend of the regular season is officially in the books and now the fun begins for the eight teams competing in this years edition of the NPHL playoffs.
The regular season wasn’t without it’s fair share of stories.
When the NPHL fall meeting concluded one team needed a year off and another was denied access. The city of Fort Nelson put forth a very strong proposal looking to gain entry into the NPHL. Despite a lot of positive ideas their bid was ultimately rejected with the remaining member teams worried about the length of travel and player commitment it would take for the trip. Armed with a roster the Fort Nelson Yeti pushed forward this season playing a handful of exhibition games looking to gain experience and information in their attempt to apply once more this off season to the North Peace Hockey League.
In the East the Valleyview Jets, a team with a long tenure in the NPHL requested a years leave citing a lack of players. This isn’t unusual. Many clubs throughout their NPHL existence have taken years off or folded only to come back and rejoin. Still it seems a lot of senior teams in the region could be on the verge of collapse because of this very reason. That proved evident as the NPHL regular season came to a close.
It undoubtedly was the biggest story of the year. Both the Hythe Mustangs and Lakeland Eagles never survived the year. Neither team failed to make it once again citing a lack of players as the problem. The biggest surprise came out of Hythe where the club folded with just five games remaining in the regular season. A full roster earlier in the year dwindled and eventually caught up to the Mustangs where the team was relying on a lot of affiliates to ice a lineup.
Lakeland on the other hand struggled with players all year long. With numerous games featuring a roster of under ten players the league had had enough. Even though the Eagles owned a better record then the High Prairie Regals and managed to clinch a playoff spot with a fourth place finish they were bounced from the NPHL following a 17 to 0 loss in Manning on January 25th where once again they arrived with a short bench.
That pushed the Eagles out and the High Prairie Regals into the NPHL playoffs and to where we are today.
Dawson Creek Canucks vs Grande Prairie Athletics
It’s first versus fourth in the opening round of the NPHL West semi-final. The Athletics controlled the season series winning 4 and losing just 1. That of course means nothing now. The Canucks were one of the better teams in the second half of the season, they beat the Athletics in January and nearly finished third in the West falling just short. In the last few years these two teams have played very tight hockey with a dozen or so games being decided by two goals or less. One shouldn’t expect anything different. With Dawson featuring a wealth of offensive talent Grande Prairie’s goaltending, defence and depth will play a major role in slowing them down. Special teams, as they typically do, should also play a big role in this series.
Tue Feb 11 Dawson Creek at Grande Prairie
Thur Feb 13 Grande Prairie at Dawson Creek
Sat Feb 15 Dawson Creek at Grande Prairie
Tue Feb 18 Grande Prairie at Dawson Creek
Thu, Feb 20 *Dawson Creek at Grande Prairie
Sat, Feb 22 *Grande Prairie at Dawson Creek
Tue, Feb 25 *Dawson Creek at Grande Prairie
Spirit River Rangers vs Fort St. John Flyers
The Flyers return to the NPHL playoffs after enjoying success at the AAA level for the past few years. A successful first year back full time in the NPHL seen Fort St. John finish second in the West just behind GP. There is little doubt on what type of series this will be. Spirit owns the season series between both clubs with 3 wins and 2 losses…one of those wins came in overtime way back earlier in the year.
Tue Feb 11 Spirit River at Fort St John
Thur Feb 13 Fort St John at Spirit River
Sun Feb 16 Spirit River at Fort St John
Tue Feb 18 Fort St John at Spirit River
Feb 20 *Spirit River at Fort St John
Feb 22 *Fort St John at Spirit River
Feb 25 *Spirit River at Fort St John
High Prairie Regals vs Manning Comets
With just one win in the regular season the High Prairie Regals weren’t expecting to partake in the post season but here they are. After hearing that news the Regals now have the unfortunate privilege of facing the first place Manning Comets. The Comets are coming off another successful season and own a 5 to 0 regular season record over the Regals. If the season series is any indication one shouldn’t expect an upset in this series.
Tue, Feb 11 High Prairie at Manning
Thu, Feb 13 Manning at High Prairie
Sat, Feb 15 High Prairie at Manning
Tue, Feb 18 Manning at High Prairie
Thu, Feb 20 *High Prairie at Manning
Sat, Feb 22 *Manning at High Prairie
Tue, Feb 25 *High Prairie at Manning
Grimshaw Huskies vs Falher Pirates
The Pirates have loaded up and are looking to make a push towards their second NPHL title in three years. In their way in the opening round is the Grimshaw Huskies. Grimshaw boasts some wealthy new talent, including rookie league leading scoring champ Brendan Hawryluk who finished the season amassing 72 points in 23 games. The Pirates on the other hand owned a 4 and 1 record over the Huskies this regular season with the lone loss taking place in the final game of the regular season. A few new faces have been added to Falhers roster which will make them a team to look out for as the playoffs move on.
Tue, Feb 11 Grimshaw at Falher
Thu, Feb 13 Falher at Grimshaw
Fri, Feb 14 Grimshaw at Falher
Tue, Feb 18 Falher at Grimshaw
Thu, Feb 20 *Grimshaw at Falher
Sat, Feb 22 *Falher at Grimshaw
Tue, Feb 25 *Grimshaw at Falher