NPHL Playoffs: East Division Preview

PEACE RIVER — Playoff hockey is set to get underway on Tuesday night in the North Peace Hockey League.

After a hard-fought 2018/2019 regular season, the NPHL will kick off it’s post-season tomorrow with a pair of semi-final series from the East Division, while the lone West Division match-up is also set to begin on Tuesday.

By finishing with the NPHL’s best regular season record the Dawson Creek Canucks have earned a bye in the semi-finals, and will now face the winner of Grande Prairie and Fort St. John in the West Division finals. As for the East, the league’s top team the Falher Pirates will open the NPHL 2019 Playoffs with a showdown against High Prairie, while Manning and Grimshaw will face-off as the East’s number two and three seeds.

Manning Comets(2) vs Grimshaw Huskies(3)

Grimshaw heads into tomorrow night’s post-season opener against Manning after edging the Comets in their season-series four games to two, while also out-scoring Manning 39 to 21 over six games head-to-head. This would include a two game stretch in January when the Huskies would put together back-to-back ten goal efforts against the Comets, blowing them out by identical 10-3 scores on January 10th and 24th. The Huskies are coming off a season that saw them earn a 7-9-0 record, while Manning put together a 5-9-2 record in their 2018/2019 campaign.

For the Huskies they’re led by the NPHL’s top-scorer from the 2018/2019 season, Ty Wiebe.

Wiebe would finish the season at over a goal-a-game pace, lighting the lamp 25 times in 24 games played. Wiebe would conclude the 2018/2019 campaign atop the NPHL in Points(56) and Assists(31), while also leading the league in game winners. Other dangerous offensive threats for the Huskies include Brendan and Bond Hawryluk, who registered 41 points and 34 points this season respectively. While Brendan would hit the twenty-goal mark for the Huskies, Bond Hawryluk would finish the season leading the entire league in powerplay goals.

For Manning they would finish the season without any players in the league’s top-15 in scoring, with the Comets finishing dead-last in team scoring with 58 goals for this season. In contrast to Grimshaw however, the much-lower scoring Comets only allowed 94 goals this season opposed to the 118 surrendered by the Huskies. The Comets score by committee, but are often led offensively by Josh Rutherford, Taylor Paulovich and Tyler Dillman and Michael Gillen.

For Manning in goal they’ll look to the man who started every game for the Comets this season, goaltender Braden Gamble. Gamble suited up for a combined 1430 minutes played between the pipes this season, and it is yet to be seen if the hefty workload will catch up with the Comets goaltender heading into tomorrow night. In 24 games this season Gamble earned a 10-14 record with no shutouts and a 5.62 goals against average. Grimshaw on the other hand saw a total of five different goaltenders earn starts this season, with Bud Dyck being the only goaltender on the Huskies to earn a winning-record.

PREDICTION: Huskies in Six.

Falher Pirates(1) vs High Prairie Regals(4)

The Falher Pirates finished the 2018/2019 NPHL season with the best record in the East Division, earning them a first round match-up with the High Prairie Regals. High Prairie and Falher don’t have to look too far when it comes to recent playoff history, as the two teams met in last year’s East Division final with the Pirates taking the series four games to two. This time around the Regals will be in tough against the East’s top team, after High Prairie finished the 2018/2019 season with a miserable 2-12-2 record this season while also surrendering a league-worst 144 goals against. The Pirates on the other hand were the only team in the NPHL this season to register over 100 goals for, filling the net 118 times over their sixteen game schedule.

Falher would also finish the regular season with three skaters in the league’s top-5 in scoring. Dallas Brochu and Pat Rowan would both hit the twenty goal mark this season with both registering 51 points in 24 games, while forward Darren Kramer would win the league’s goal scoring title with 26 on the year. Kramer would also finish with the most short-handed goals in the league, notching four for the Pirates this season.

The Regals wouldn’t have a terrible year offensively themselves despite finishing last in the East Division, but their league-worst 144 goals against does not bode well against a team with as much fire-power as Falher. High Prairie’s Hector Lamouche finished as the teams top scorer during the regular season, notching 24 points in 23 games for the Regals.

Between the pipes goaltender Matt MacMinn handled the majority of the load for the Regals this year, surrendering 95 goals over fourteen games of action and mustering two wins and twelve defeats. MacMinn would be one of six goaltenders to suit up for High Prairie this season, as the team would struggle to find an answer between the pipes. For the Pirates starting goaltender Dyson Loewen would lead the Pirates to the top of the East, earning an 8-6 record and 4.40 G.A.A. this season.

PREDICTION: Pirates in Four.

–Alex Rodgerson, Trending 55 News

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