Photo credit: PortrayedbyPW
The Viterra Division apparently drew the short straw when the schedulers got together last summer as all four teams from that group are the first to return to action on Monday following the Christmas break.
The Yorkton Terriers, Estevan Bruins, Weyburn Red Wings and Melville Millionaires are the only teams back on the ice with Melville seeing its first action in 16 days while the rest have had just over a week break.
The Terriers, who have opened up an 18-point advantage in the divisional race and are sitting in the No. 3 position overall, will take on the Millionaires in a Highway 10 showdown while the Bruins and Red Wings open up their traditional holiday doubleheader in the only other contest.
For the Bruins, Red Wings and Millionaires there is little time to waste as all three are at the bottom of the league standings and enter the stretch run as many as six points out of the final playoff spot currently held by the Kindersley Klippers.
Estevan returns to action having played the fewest number of games of any team in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League and with six games in hand on the front-running Terriers they could seriously close the gap in the divisional battle. It is the four games they have in hand on Kindersley, however, that has to be their first priority as they could climb a few spots in the standings if they were to take advantage of those extra games.
Weyburn and Melville also have some extra games to make up on Kindersley and one cannot forget the Notre Dame Hounds who are tied with the Klippers in points, but are percentage points out of a playoff spot due to the one extra game they have already played.
The rest of the league will continue to enjoy some time off this week while the Viterra Division combatants resume play on New Year’s Day with the second half of their home-and-home match-ups.
Seven more teams get back to work on Friday including the league-leading Battlefords North Stars when they begin a home-and-home set against Kindersley. The North Stars, who had a bit of a tough stretch in early December when they lost five of six games, have a three-game winning streak to build on when they return to action. The recent success has propelled the North Stars into the No. 6 position in the weekly Canadian Junior Hockey League rankings, up three spots from the previous poll.
The only team not to see any action this week is Notre Dame as the Hounds will complete an 18-day break when they get back to work on Jan. 7 against the Humboldt Broncos.
Yorkton at Melville
Estevan at Weyburn
Melville at Yorkton
Weyburn at Estevan