February is nearly here and the playoff races in the MHL are heating up.
The action kicks off with a pair of big matchups on Wednesday. First up, we have the Eastlink North Division-leading Western Capitals (28-5-0-1) against the streaking Pictou County Weeks Crushers (15-14-3-3) at Credit Union Place. Summerside, who are on a 9-0-0-1 run, became the first team to clinch a playoff spot in a shootout loss to Amherst January 19th and haven’t played since as their lone game last week against Grand Falls had to be rescheduled due to poor weather. Pictou County lost 4-1 to Amherst their last time out, which marked their first regulation loss in 12 games. The Crushers are still locked with South Shore (16-16-3-0) for the final playoff spot in the Eastlink South, sitting one point ahead of the Lumberjacks at the moment. This is also the first meeting between these clubs since a blockbuster trade just before the deadline earlier this month that sent Jacob Hickey and Dylan Riley to Summerside for Sam Meisenheimer and Cal MacPherson.
Next, we have a rivalry renewed in Truro as the Bearcats (21-13-2-1) host the Ramblers (25-9-1-1). Amherst are on a tear in 2019, winning five straight games, and have pulled to within four points of Yarmouth (26-7-3-1) for top spot in the Eastlink South. Truro have dropped four of their last six games, sitting seven points back of the Ramblers, but have two wins in three outings against Amherst including a 2-1 shootout win on November 8th.
There are three games on tap Thursday. The Bearcats head to Bridgewater for a game against South Shore that was rescheduled from last month. The teams have split their first four games, with the latest result being a 4-1 Bearcats win on January 19th. Pictou County return home for a matchup against Grand Falls (10-19-3-2). The Rapids took a 2-1 decision back in early October at the MHL Showcase, and are in tough with games against Campbellton (22-10-2-3) and Summerside also looming. Grand Falls still have a number of games in hand as they aim for the final playoff spot in the North, but are six points back of fourth-place St. Stephen (14-21-3-0). Speaking of the Aces, they head to Miramichi (14-21-2-0), with the Timberwolves just one point back. Each team is coming off a win, and the Aces will be looking for a better result than a 5-3 loss to the Timberwolves on January 19th.
Friday’s action is highlighted by a number of divisional games. Summerside hit the road to face Campbellton. The Tigers trail the Western Capitals by eight points in the division, and lead the third-place Edmundston Blizzard (20-13-4-0) by five points entering the week. This is one of four remaining games between these clubs before the season is out. Summerside have won all three games so far, although two of those wins came in overtime. This is also the MHL Game of the Week, and free to watch on HockeyTV.
Amherst and Yarmouth play the first of back to back games at Mariners Centre. The Ramblers have taken three of four matchups, including a pair of 6-1 wins and then a 6-3 victory on January 18th. The Mariners have just four wins in their past ten games, a slump by their standards this season, and could end the weekend in second place should the Ramblers continue to pour in goals. Valley (6-27-4-0) are on the road to play South Shore. The Wildcats dropped a pair of games last weekend, to Campbellton and Yarmouth, by a combined score of 12-1, and are looking to steal two points from the Lumberjacks. South Shore have won three of five games this season. Finally, Edmundston are on home ice against the Aces. The Blizzard play their next five games at Centre Jean Daigle, and want to at least keep pace with Campbellton for what is likely to be a first-round playoff matchup in the North. St. Stephen, however, enter this game having taken four of five from Edmundston this season.
Ten of twelve teams are in action on a busy night Saturday. Summerside play their third game in four days as they host Miramichi. Grand Falls head to Campbellton looking to avenge a 10-1 loss to the Tigers last month. Then we have three South division pairings as Pictou County hit the road to face Valley, South Shore and Truro meet at the Rath Eastlink Community Centre for the second time in three days, and the Ramblers and Mariners battle again in Yarmouth.
All games are available to watch on HockeyTV.
|Wed, Jan 30||Amherst||Truro||Rath Eastlink Community Centre||7:00 pm|
|Wed, Jan 30||Pictou County||Summerside||Credit Union Place||7:00 pm|
|Thu, Jan 31||Truro||South Shore||Lunenburg County Lifestyle Centre||7:00 pm|
|Thu, Jan 31||Grand Falls||Pictou County||Pictou County Wellness Centre||7:00 pm|
|Thu, Jan 31||St. Stephen||Miramichi||Miramichi Civic Centre||7:30 pm|
|Fri, Feb 1||Valley||South Shore||Lunenburg County Lifestyle Centre||7:00 pm|
|Fri, Feb 1||Amherst||Yarmouth||Mariners Centre||7:30 pm|
|Fri, Feb 1||Summerside||Campbellton||Campbellton Memorial Civic Centre||7:30 pm|
|Fri, Feb 1||St. Stephen||Edmundston||Centre Jean Daigle||7:30 pm|
|Sat, Feb 2||South Shore||Truro||Rath Eastlink Community Centre||7:00 pm|
|Sat, Feb 2||Pictou County||Valley||Kings Mutual Century Centre||7:00 pm|
|Sat, Feb 2||Miramichi||Summerside||Credit Union Place||7:00 pm|
|Sat, Feb 2||Amherst||Yarmouth||Mariners Centre||7:30 pm|
|Sat, Feb 2||Grand Falls||Campbellton||Campbellton Memorial Civic Centre||7:30 pm|
With the final third of the regular season underway, and playoff races heating up, let’s take a look at the teams with the toughest remaining schedule:
|Team||Games Remaining||Opponent Win %|
The Timberwolves have the toughest road left, and it’s not hard to see why. Of their thirteen remaining games, they play three each against Summerside and Campbellton, as well as one against Edmundston.
Truro barely edges out South Shore for the second toughest schedule left in 2018-19, which seems fitting as those two teams will face off four times before the season is out (including two times this week, as highlighted above). The Bearcats also have four games remaining against Amherst and two versus Yarmouth.
For their part, this is the next ten games for South Shore: four each against and Yarmouth, and one each against Valley and Summerside.
St. Stephen are the only team with a combined opponent winning percentage under .500, and they also have the fewest games remaining at 12. That’s due to three games with Miramichi and two against Grand Falls, all teams under .500 but who are all battling for that final playoff spot in the Eastlink North.