The final four is set in each division, and they all present intriguing match ups, so fans from all four corners of the province will be in store for some entertaining hockey. In our last look ahead, which you can read here, the SHL prognosticator went 11 for 16 with their picks. How clear is the crystal ball this time? We will know in a couple weeks.
A North: On the way to the A semis, the Lanigan Pirates followed the same script, drop game one and then rebound to win the series. Coming up against a very confident Hague Royals squad, the boys from the Potash belt would be wise to change things up. The Royals have shown tremendous resilience so far, knocking off the Kindersley Red Lions, the Waldheim Outlaws, and the Dalmeny Fury. Hague is an impressive 6 - 2 on this run, lead by clutch goal tending and timely scoring, and they will give the Pirates all they can handle.
Prediction: Given Hague's .500 record on the road coupled with the Pirates having home ice we are going with Lanigan in 3 games.
A South: All that separates these two teams is 50 minutes of highway 11 and the Queen City. On the ice there is not much more to choose from, as the Dogs and Bisons have taken similar paths to get here. In the first round both teams made short work of their opponents, as Balgonie upended Midale in two straight, outscoring the Mustangs 14 - 2. The Bulldogs were up against the Bruno T-Birds, a formidable opponent from the FCHL, however they were able to nab a 3 - 2 road win in game one before cruising to a 7 - 3 game two victory. In the second round, both teams faced steeper challenges in the form of the Davidson Cyclones and the Grenfell Spitfires. The Bulldogs came up against Davidson and were full marks, sweeping the LLHL reps 7 - 4 and 6 - 5. Balgonie was in tough against their QVHL rivals, the Grenfell Spitfires. The "Spits" needed double overtime to take game one, but the Bisons rebounded with a hard fought 3 - 2 road win before sealing the deal with a 3 - 1 home ice win. Fans need to buckle up for a tremendous series.
Prediction: McVicar could be the difference in this series for Balgonie, but Bethune has been money at home, and in this match up they have home ice advantage. Look for the Bulldogs to prevail in 3 games.
B North: The Drake Canucks, long standing members of the LLHL, have appeared to hit their stride in February and early March, going a combined 8 - 0 in provincial and league play. In the SHA tournament they have mowed down their competition, beating Conquest by a combined score of 13 - 2 before dumping the Outlook Ice Hawks by a 15 - 7 margin. In Rosetown, the Wings have only played one provincial round, and even though they knocked off the Watrous Winterhawks, they need to play more inspired hockey to beat a strong Canucks team. The Wings cruised to the top of the SVHL and are looking to continue their play deep into March, however if they give the Canucks powerplay the same opportunities they gave Watrous, they could be on the outside looking in.
Prediction: With respect to Rocanville and Assiniboia, the winner of this series would have to considered favourites in the finals. Even though Drake has home ice, look for Rosetown to advance in two very tight games.
B South: Running up to this round, the Sr. Rebels have been a bit of a Jeckyl and Hyde story. In the opening round they went into Eston and stunned the defending champs 5 - 2 before returning home, capturing the series in a 5-5 draw with the Ramblers. In round two, Assiniboia let Odessa pot 7 goals in game one, and the Rebels were forced to win one on the road, which they did in impressive fashion to the tune of a 6-2 win. Rocanville also comes into this series after and up and down last round as they tangled with THL rivals in the Langenburg Warriors. In game one the Tigers amassed a 4 goals cushion, only to be forced to the brink in game two, losing the game 6 - 3, but winning the series 9 - 8.
Prediction: The Rebels will be on the road for two of three in this series, and so far they have been impressive playing away from the Civic Centre. Look for the Rebels to advance to the finals with back to back wins.
C North: The far east and far west are well represented in this match up between Wilkie and Hudson Bay as the two teams tangle for an opportunity to head to the provincial final. So far, Wilkie has looked unstoppable, as they have gone 4 - 0, out scoring their opponents 38 - 8, far and away the largest gap of any series in B, C or D. In the last round Hudson Bay looked strong as they dumped Lake Lenore by identical 5 - 2 scores en route to a 10 - 4 series win, however they will need all the bounces if they hope to continue bringing provincial action to Canada's forest capital.
Prediction: Wilkie will prove to be too deep and should take this series in two straight.
C South: Both the Radville Nationals and the the Bredenbury Cougars have used their offensive abilities to propel themselves through the first two rounds of C play this year. Radville has been pumping goals in at a pace of 7 goals per game while Bredenbury has given their goaltenders an average of 5.5 goals per game to work with thus far. In their first two series the Nats bounced Ochapawace and Eatonia, while the Cats disposed of Redvers and Milestone.
Prediction: Bredenbury holds home ice advantage, and have proven to be a much stingier team than Radville thus far, with a 1.5 GAA as opposed to the Nationals 3.5 GAA. Look for the Cougars to move on to the finals against Wilkie.
D North: In the northern final there are two teams that are very familiar with each other, the Beechy Bombers and the Dinsmore Dynamos. These two teams have locked horns several times in the past as they are both members of the SVHL, and this year, their play has been eerily similar. In league play, the teams split the two games they played against each other, each winning at home, Dinsmore by an 8 - 7 score and Beechy by an 8 - 6 count. In their league playoffs, both teams have, unfortunately, fallen to higher ranked teams, meaning that the loser of this match up hangs up the blades for the season. In provincial play, Beechy comes into this round after going 2 - 1 - 1 while Dinsmore comes in with a 3 - 0 - 1 record. The Bombers and Dynamos have both been able to light the lamp with regularity, and have both, at times, struggled to keep the puck out of their own net. This series has the makings of a great battle, and whoever comes out on top will have earned it.
Prediction: Both teams have played well enough to get here, and in the end it will come down to who can dig deeper and win the crucial one on one battles. Look for Dinsmore to score the series win in 3 games, but expect some overtime to be needed along the way.
D South: The Avonlea Arrows survived a scare last round as the Imperial Sabres came into town and held Avonlea to 3 goals. That series went back to Imperial where the Sabres were looking to overcome a two goal deficit, however Avonlea showed why they won the D crown last year, thumping the home team 10 - 3. That victory set up the meeting with the Gull Lake Greyhounds, a team that shocked the ever-competitive Kyle Elks 10 - 1 to open up provincial play. During their run, the 'hounds have been able to build up comfortable leads in game one and cruise home in the second game, however the format now changes to a best of three, and Gull Lake needs to make sure they keep the pressure on a determined Avonlea squad.
Prediction: The Arrows are looking to repeat, and will have a chance in the finals after they take this series in 2 games.
Enjoy the games, and as always, you can stay up to date on the scores and schedule page.