By Dave Leaderhouse
The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League playoffs are nicely underway with the semi-final round having the Nipawin Hawks and Estevan Bruins holding two-game leads over the Humboldt Broncos and Battlefords North Stars, respectively.
While there is still a lot of hockey to be played to determine this year’s Canalta Cup champion, there is also plenty of action taking place outside of Saskatchewan on the road to the RBC Cup, which will be held in Chilliwack, B.C., in mid-May.
To get to the national championship the SJHL champion will have a different road to take this year as the Western Canada Challenge has been eliminated in favour of the familiar regional playoffs that were held for decades prior to the brief alteration in the playoff format.
Once the SJHL champion is crowned they will go up against the victor of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League with the winner claiming the Anavet Cup and the western berth in the RBC Cup. The MJHL is already down to its final two with the Steinbach Pistons taking on the Virden Oil Capitals.
In the last five years it was the four provincial champions meeting in one locale, along with a host team, to produce two qualifiers for the RBC Cup, but with Saskatchewan and Manitoba meeting to determine the western regional champion that leaves the British Columbia Junior Hockey League and Alberta Junior Hockey League left to square off for the pacific regional honours.
In the AJHL, the Spruce Grove Saints lead the Whitecourt Wolverines 2-0 in one semi-final while the Brooks Bandits and Okotoks Oilers are all square at 1-1 after the first two games. The BCHL has the Wenatchee Wild and Prince George Spruce Kings holding 2-0 advantages over the Trail Smoke Eaters and Powell River Kings, respectively, in that league’s semifinals.
An interesting note here is that the RBC Cup host Chilliwack Bruins were eliminated in the opening round by Prince George and will have nearly two months off before they return to action at the national tournament.
Other playoffs are also underway out east with two more representatives to be determined from the central and eastern regions.