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361 games have been played and beginning Tuesday, just 21 more regular season games will be played this year.

It's been an exciting season and as of Tuesday, just six more days remain in the 2023/24 Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL) campaign. Eight of the league's 13 teams will qualify for the playoffs for the right to battle for the Turnbull Cup. The winner of the MJHL will represent Manitoba at the Centennial Cup in Oakville from May 9-19 at the Sixteen Mile Sports Complex.

Manitoba will be in a pool alongside the champions from the Superior International Junior Hockey League (SIJHL), champions from the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey (SJHL), the host Blades, and the champions from the Maritime Hockey League (MHL).

Last year's league champion Steinbach Pistons failed to make the playoffs while the Dauphin Kings advanced to the national semi-finals two years ago. This year, both the Kings and Steinbach will be competing in the playoffs. 

With six days left (as of publishing) left in the regular season, here is what the playoff picture looks like.

West Division:

#1 - Virden Oil Capitals (38-11-3-3)

With three games left on their schedule, the Oil Capitals can earn home ice advantage with just one win over their next three games, paired with a single loss from the Blizzard. Sitting on top of the division by four points, the Oil Capitals have scored a division-leading 215 goals this year while also giving up the fewest in the division with 128 against.

Virden advanced to the league final last year where they came up short against Steinbach. This year's team brings plenty of playoff experience along with it and Eric Reid is putting together an outstanding season between the pipes.

Coming Up: March 13 @ Winkler, March 15 vs Niverville, March 17 @ Waywayseecappo

#2 - Blizzard Junior 'A' Hockey Club (37-14-1-3)

There is no hotter team in the league. The Blizzard have not lost since February 4 as the league's most northern team has won 12 games in a row leading up to the final week of the regular season. With 178 goals this year, the Blizzard rank fourth in the West offensively while they have allowed the second-fewest in the division with 129 against.

This year's Blizzard team has built off last year when they finished in second place in the West. They are not a team full of all-stars and exceptionally skilled forwards; however, you would be hard-pressed to find a harder working team that bonds together. While they have an outside chance of catching Virden and finishing first in the West, the Blizzard can clinch at least second place with two points over their final three games. Doing so would give them home-ice advantage in round one of the playoffs.

This year's team continues to prove why they will not be an easy out. They have guys who can score in big moments and in the net, they have Tomas Anderson who is the league's top goaltender and recently had a stretch where he had four shutouts in a span of six games. Watch out for the Blizzard.

Coming Up: March 13 vs Dauphin, March 15 vs Waywayseecappo, March 17 @ Neepawa

#3 - Dauphin Kings (34-17-2-1)

With four games in five days to wrap up their regular season, the Kings will be one of the busiest teams around the league to cap off their 58-game schedule.

Playing four more games before the big dance also presents Dauphin with a chance to figure things out. After an outstanding stretch saw the team win five in a row from February 16 to 24 including wins against Steinbach and Portage, the Kings have gone downhill as of late. Dauphin has lost four of their last six games and has not looked overly impressive in more than two weeks.

Giving up far too many grade-A scoring chances while failing to produce many themselves offensively has seen Dauphin's chances of finishing second in the West come crashing down. With that said, this is still a very good club and if they can start firing on all cylinders, they have the ability throughout the lineup to go on a run. It also helps that they have Cole Sheffield, who is one of the top goalies in the league. 

With a matchup against the Blizzard nearing confirmation, the Kings will look to get back at their northern rivals after dropping the last two meetings against them. 

Coming Up: March 12 vs Portage, March 13 @ Blizzard, March 15 @ Blues, March 15 @ Selkirk 


#4 - Neepawa Titans (26-27-1)

The only real race for playoff positioning in the West Division is turning out to be not much of a conversation. The Waywayseecappo Wolverines were right on the heels of Neepawa after winning seven straight games earlier in 2024; however, paired with some recent success from the Titans, Neepawa is now in a great spot.

Also with four more regular season games, the Titans now have a five-point gap over the Wolverines for the fourth and final playoff spot in the West. Losing their captain Cody Gudnason was a very tough blow, but the team has rallied around him and is now playing for the 20-year-old from Killarney.

The Titans have won five of their last seven games which included a wild comeback on February 23 when they were down by two goals against Selkirk with just more than two minutes left. The Titans stormed back to win the game in overtime and then reeled off three straight wins after that. 

Something would have to go seriously wrong over the next week for Neepawa to miss the playoffs.

Coming Up: March 12 @ Blues, March 15 @ Steinbach, March 16 @ Portage, March 17 vs Blizzard

#5 - Waywayseecappo Wolverines (22-28-1-3)

They were firing on all cylinders. Taylor Harnett had them playing outstanding hockey as the Wolverines reeled off seven straight wins from February 2-19. Since then, things have taken a turn for the worst as the Wolverines have lost six of seven games, quashing any momentum they had built.

The Wolverines are an inconsistent club. They also, barring a miracle, will miss the playoffs this year and their recent play as of late is a reason why. Waywayseecappo was in Neepawa on February 27 and lost 7-0. 

They were also outscored 11-3 in two games against Steinbach over the weekend. With just eight points possible the rest of the way and being five points back, the Wolverines have to win out and still get some help. Crazier things have happened, we will see how the week plays out.

Coming Up: March 12 @ Swan Valley, March 13 vs Selkirk, March 15 @ Blizzard, March 17 vs Virden

West division

East Division:

#1 - Steinbach Pistons (45-8-3) 

The defending champions have certainly not missed a beat this year as they continue to roll. They have already surpassed their win total from one year ago when they won 42 games.

This year, the Pistons have already locked up home-ice advantage for the entirety of their playoff run as regular season champions. They lead the league with 234 goals and have given up just 103. The Pistons have won eight of their last 10 games and with just two games left to go, Steinbach will look to polish up any loose ends as they begin their title defence of one year ago. 

Playing out of the HyLife Centre, the Pistons are 25-1-2 on home ice this year. With seven regulation losses on the road, the Pistons are without a doubt beatable, but it's not an easy feat. Dauphin did beat them twice this year. All in all, it will be tough to take down the Pistons this year, especially if a team needs to do so at the HyLife Centre where Steinbach has been near unbeatable.

Coming Up: March 15 vs Neepawa, March 16 @ Freeze

#2 - Winkler Flyers (40-9-2-3)

They loaded up at the deadline and have the top two leading scorers. This might be Winkler's best chance to win a league championship, something that has escaped them over the years despite icing some stellar clubs.

With 40 wins under their belt, Winkler has been outstanding on both ends of the ice. Dalton Andrew of the Flyers leads the league with 74 points while Trent Penner, who was recently named the league's most valuable player, is second in scoring with 72 points. Whether you turn to Malachi Klassen or Liam Ernst between the pipes, Winkler has won. Klassen will be the game-one starter when the playoffs open next Friday.

Perhaps an area of concern for Winkler is their inability to stay out of the penalty box. The Flyers have 1157 penalty minutes this year which are 330 more than anyone else. It hasn't hurt them a ton as of now as they're 85.8% on the penalty kill, but it always seems that penalties amplify come playoff time and it gets tougher to win when you're in the penalty box consistently. 

This is the year for Winkler as their prospect pool dwindled at the deadline as head coach and general manager Justin Falk went all-in. Their incredible crowds will surely help at the Centennial Arena as well.

Coming Up: March 12 @ Freeze, March 13 vs Virden, March 15 @ Selkirk, March 17 @ Blues

#3 - Portage Terriers (34-12-4-4) 

They can't move up the standings and they can't go down. The Terriers are locked into the third spot in the East Division as they will play the Winkler Flyers in a best-of-seven opening up next weekend in Winkler.

While Portage will enter that series as underdogs based on the standings, they will have some outstanding mojo as they have taken down the Flyers twice over the past three weeks. This includes once in Winkler, so the Terriers know how to win on home ice and they know how to win on the road. Portage seems to be playing their best hockey at a crucial time as they have three straight wins, one of which came against Winkler and another came against Virden while they also beat Swan Valley.

Adding some veteran experience in Aidan Brook at the deadline, this Portage team is primed to pull off an upset in the first round. Portage's downfall is they give up a lot of goals. Of the eight teams currently in a playoff spot, Portage has given up the most with 141. On the same note, they allowed just three goals combined in wins over Winkler and Virden this month, so they can also play a low-scoring type of game. The Terriers are ready for what's to come starting next Friday.

Coming Up: March 12 @ Dauphin, March 13 vs Blues, March 15 @ Freeze, March 16 vs Neepawa


#4 - Niverville Nighthawks (28-24-3-1)

Somehow, the Nighthawks still hold a playoff spot in the East. They have won five of their last seven games, but 2024 has been a struggle in all for the league's newest team. From February 9 to 24, the team lost six straight games and also fired their head coach and general manager as Kelvin Cech was relieved of his duties. 

They aren't playing with a ton of confidence right now and as they look to make a return trip to the big dance, they will have to play well over their final two games and maybe get some luck. They are currently three points up on Selkirk for fourth place, a team that they lost to over the weekend. 

Raiden Legall is one of the league's youngest players having graduated from the U18 Pembina Valley Hawks last year and while he has committed to play Division 1 hockey, he has never been tested like this at this level. If he can step up over the next week, the Nighthawks have a good chance to make the Elite Eight, especially because they play Swan Valley to finish their season.

Coming Up: March 15 @ Virden, March 16 vs Swan Valley

#5 -Selkirk Steelers (24-22-4-5)

They have made it a race, they have given hockey fans an exciting playoff race and that race is less than a week from being complete. The Selkirk Steelers did themselves a favour when they beat Niverville over the weekend.

Still, they face an uphill battle. The Steelers are three points back of the Nighthawks, with a game in hand. Unfortunately for Selkirk, their schedule is by no means a cakewalk. They play the Wolverines -- who continue to battle for a playoff spot in the West --, the Kings who are looking to correct things before the playoffs, and Winkler, a team that will also look to fine-tune things ahead of their first-round matchup against Portage.

Selkirk was four points back of Niverville last year for the final playoff spot. If the Steelers were to win their remaining three games, they would finish the regular season with 63 points. The Nighthawks would then have to get three or fewer points in their final two games. If Niverville is to also finish with 63 points, Selkirk has won the season series which would give them the edge. 

They will have to be perfect and get some luck, we'll see if they can get it done.

Coming Up: March 13 @ Waywayseecappo, March 15 vs Winkler, March 16 vs Dauphin

East division

To get you set for the 2024 Turnbull Cup Playoffs, Darnell Duff will be joined by Jeff Henson for a playoff primer.

turnbull cup 1

Darnell Duff will then broadcast all Kings home and road playoff games.