Accessibility Tools

The big dance is about to begin for eight teams in the Manitoba U18 AAA Hockey League on Friday as the playoffs are set to begin.

#1 Brandon Wheat Kings (regular season record - 43-0-1)
#8 Eastman Selects (regular season record - 20-23-0-1)

The Brandon Wheat Kings were in a class of their own this season. They suffered just one overtime loss to Southwest and never tasted defeat in regulation. From top to bottom, the Wheat Kings are filled with elite talent and future junior players. This includes Jaxon Jacobson, who at just 15 years of age, led the league with 106 points. He recorded the fourth most points in league history and he also posted six points in six games with the WHL's Wheat Kings. 

Brandon also features Brady Turko of McCreary who had 90 points in the regular season and Easton Odut of Dauphin, who also had an all-star season. In four regular-season meetings with Eastman, the Wheat Kings scored 33 games and gave up just nine goals. 

Eastman had to wait until the final day of the regular season to make the playoffs. They had to beat Parkland in their final game and hoped that Norman would lose their last game. Both of those things happen and that's why Eastman will be looking to pull off one of the biggest upsets in league history. 

Winning 20 games in the regular season, Eastman used a pretty balanced offence to find success. They were led by Calyb Moore and his 50 points, five other players recorded at least 31 points. Eastman's biggest challenge will be keeping the puck out of their net as they go up against Goliath.

Duffy's Prediction: This isn't even close. Wheat Kings easily get past Eastman in three games. 

#2 Southwest Cougars (regular season record - 27-13-2-2)
#7 Pembina Valley Hawks (regular season record - 20-16-4-4)

This very well could go down as the best first-round series despite it being a second seed going up against a seventh seed. While Southwest won all four games against Pembina Valley, two of the three were one-goal contests and they haven't played since November 18.

Pembina Valley also enters the playoffs as the second hottest team in the league, winning eight of their final 10 games of the regular season. Only Brandon (10-0) was better over their final 10 games. Both teams are also in the same region which will amp things up as the rivals go head-to-head in a best-of-five. 

Jack Clark enters the series as Southwest's top point producer after a 49-point campaign while Acoyen Fehr had 44 to average a point-per-game for Pembina Valley. 

Duffy's Prediction:  Throw out the seeding heading into this series. This will be a dandy of a series. Pembina Valley continues their hot play and pulls off the upset in four games, fans will be in for a treat. 

#3 Winnipeg Wild (regular season record - 27-13-3-1)
#6 Interlake Lightning (regular season record - 24-17-3)

Just like it will be a great series between Southwest and Pembina Valley, this series is another one that fans should be watching out for. It's the Interlake Lighting, who have not enjoyed any playoff success as of late, against a team that are always contenders to win a championship. 

While the Wild are thought to be one of the only teams that could perhaps contend with Brandon, they certainly can't take it easy on the Lightning. Interlake has one of the top goalies in the league in Dylan McFadyen, who has practiced regularly and even traveled with the WHL's Wheat Kings this year. He has a 2.94 goals-against average to go along with a .913 save percentage. Without a doubt, Dylan has the skill to steal a game, we will soon find out if he can steal a series. 

Interlake also does possess a pretty potent offence with Ian Buors leading the way with 51 points while Morgan Waddell and Brandon Burak both finished with 40 points. 

When it comes to the Wild, this is an organization that knows how to get it done in the playoffs. That proves valuable, but this hasn't been the same Wild team as in the past. With that said, they still won 27 games this year and won six of their last 10 contests.

Jacob Armstrong started 29 games in net for the Wild and won 17 of them. Carter Kingerski and his 52 points led the club with Cole Babych being second in team scoring with 18 goals and 19 assists.

They played four times in the regular season, all four games ended in a 3-1 scoreline with the Wild winning three of them.

Duffy's Prediction: Buckle up folks and get ready to go the distance. Interlake provides an upset as they beat the Wild at the Hockey for All Centre in game five, thanks to a tremendous series from Dylan McFadyen and some timely scoring.

#4 Winnipeg Thrashers (regular season record - 26-17-1)
#5 Winnipeg Bruins (regular season record - 24-15-3-2)

This could go down as another classic. Both teams finished the season with 53 points, but the Thrashers got home-ice advantage because they finished with 26 wins compared to the Bruins's 24. 

Rohan Guevarra had an excellent season to pace the Thrashers offensive prowess with 62 points as he finished in a tie for fifth in league scoring. Maxx Hamelin wasn't far behind for the Bruins as he recorded 58 points with Carson White finishing the campaign with 45 and in all, six members of the Bruins had recorded at least 30 points.

Where the Bruins get the slight edge in this series is between the pipes. Both Taye Timmerman and Austin Kindrat had a goals-against average above 3.00 and Timmerman's save percentage was just subpar at .905 while Kindrat's was .874. It's just a slight edge; however, as the Bruins Justin Perreault and Leyton Medwick both struggled at times as well for the Bruins. This would explain why so many goals were scored across four regular-season meetings between the two teams. 

21 goals were scored by the Thrashers while the Bruins responded with 16, the Thrashers won three of four meetings.

Duffy's Prediction: Defence is not the name of the game in this series, although it does tighten up a bit from the regular-season. The Thrashers win in four games.