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Four teams remain. 

The Pembina Valley Hawks will be looking to pull off one of the biggest upsets in league history while two storied programs will go head to head with a spot in the league final on the line. The first round of the Manitoba AAA U18 Hockey League's playoffs provided plenty of drama.

The Brandon Wheat Kings scored 26 goals in a three-game sweep of Eastman. The other three series all went the distance as hockey fans were treated to some great action. Pembina Valley upset Southwest in the first round, Hudson Kowalchuk scored early in the third period for the Wild as they held off Interlake in five games and the Thrashers scored twice in the third period in a five-game series win against the Bruins.

#1 Brandon Wheat Kings vs #7 Pembina Valley Hawks

The Pembina Valley Hawks face the ultimate test on their journey. The Brandon Wheat Kings have still yet to lose a game in regulation this year and they dismantled Eastman in the first-round. Jaxon Jacobson scored 10 points in the first round while Brady Turko scored nine. 15 players recorded at least five points for the Wheat Kings in the first round.

They have not only been favoured to win the league title in Manitoba this year but they are thought to be national championship contenders. While heavily favoured in this series, Brandon can not take the Hawks easily.

Pembina Valley entered the playoffs as the second-hottest team in the league with nine wins over their final 12 games. They then dispatched the favoured Cougars in the first round. Pembina Valley is not a team that will light up the scoreboard as only three players had more than two points in the first round. They will; however, get outstanding goaltending and that's exactly what Bryson Yaschyshyn will have to be if the Hawks want to pull off an upset. He had a 2.19 goals-against average in the first round to go along with a .921 save percentage. 

After giving up six goals in game one against Southwest, the Hawks allowed three or fewer in the remaining four games of the series.

Duffy's Prediction:  Pembina Valley is riding high, they're playing with confidence, and they believe in themselves. While all great traits to possess, Brandon rolls. This Wheat Kings roster is far too deep and the Hawks will not be able to slow them down. Will every game be a blowout? No and Pembina Valley will even squeak out a win thanks to Gross; however, Brandon wins in four games.

Series Schedule:
Game 1: Tuesday, March 12th at 7:30 p.m. in Brandon
Game 2: Thursday, March 14th at 8:00 p.m. in Morden
Game 3: Friday, March 15th at 7:30 p.m. in Brandon
Game 4*: (if necessary) Sunday, March 17th at 2:00 p.m. in Morden
Game 5*: (if necessary) Tuesday, March 19th at 7:30 p.m. in Brandon

#3 Winnipeg Wild vs #4 Winnipeg Thrashers

They're coming off a dramatic first-round series against the Bruins and now, the Winnipeg Thrashers will go up against another city rival as they play the Wild. The Wild have already clinched a berth in the Telus Cup West Regionals as they will host that four-team event early next month.

That event means very little to them at this point as they look to win the league and in their way is a stingy Thrashers team. One of the biggest headlines going into this series revolves around a young star who won't even turn 15 until May. Prabh Bhatal made his U18 playoff debut as a 14-year-old in the team's game-one victory against the Bruins and did not leave the lineup, making some sizeable contributions along the way. In his first five U18 playoff games as a 14-year-old, Prabh had two goals and one assist. He had 119 points in just 32 games with the Thrashers U15 team this year. That total is the fourth-most points during a season in U15 league history. It will be very interesting to see if Bhatal can continue to produce at the U18 level as a 14-year-old. 

It was all Wild in the team's regular season series as they scored 24 goals in four games and gave up just eight in the process. Both teams can get hot offensively while both teams have also struggled in their zone at times. 

Only three players combined in the first round between the two teams recorded five or more points (all Wild). The biggest difference in this series could come between the pipes. Taye Timmerman was very good in round one for the Thrashers with a 2.37 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage. Jacob Armstrong was even better for the Wild with a 1.61 goals-against average to go along with a .941 save percentage.

Duffy's Prediction:  Timmerman has to be good, very good. If he is, then the Thrashers have a chance in this series. With that said Armstrong will prevail in this series as he outduels Timmerman in the Battle of Winnipeg. Take the Wild in four games. 

Series Schedule:
Game 1: Monday, March 11th at 7:15 p.m. at Hockey For All Centre
Game 2: Wednesday, March 13th at 7:30 p.m. at Gateway Recreation Centre
Game 3: Thursday, March 14th at 7:30 p.m. at Hockey For All Centre
Game 4*: (if necessary) Sunday, March 17th at 1:00 p.m. at Gateway Recreation Centre
Game 5*: (if necessary Tuesday, March 19th at 7:15 p.m. at Hockey For All Centre