Lots of important hockey around here in the next two weeks.
The Nitehawks and Rebels host home opening games tonight in the first round of the KIJHL post season, against Spokane and Nelson.
Beaver Valley and Castlegar were the top two KIJHL teams in the regular season, and should be favoured to move ahead to the big battle in the Kootenay Conference this playoff season. If and when that happens, the rest of the league will be happy not to have to deal with whomever is knocked out.
The scenario is plausible enough, given that Beaver Valley ran away with the league title and outscored every other team by at least a goal a game, while Castlegar, despite having to play the Nitehawks a lot, tied for second overall and had the best defense in the league.
It isn’t likely that Spokane will handle Beaver Valley. It is, however, a long way from dead certain the the Rebels will take the Leafs.
It’s true Nelson finished 13 points behind Castlegar, but, the Leafs were playing very well as the season ended, even handed Beaver Valley its only loss in the final month.
A momentary loss of concentration on the task at hand, beating Nelson, in order to look forward to playing the Nitehawks, a team Castlegar actually racked up a four-game winning streak against this year, could be deadly for the Rebels.
It all should work out well for Beaver Valley. The Nitehawks should have a fairly comfortable ride into the next round. Castelgar and Nelson, bitter foes with evenly-matched rosters, could play a series that grinds up the winner ahead of that squad taking on Beaver Valley.
The Smoke Eaters, despite being destined for the BCHL basement, have some games of importance of their own on tap.
Last night they took on the dominant Penticton Vees, who have not lost in three months. Most of the kids, being kids, don’t know it, but Trail hockey fans would relish their team throwing a stick into the spokes of the (any) Penticton team.
Then it will be off to Merritt, which is battling to hold on to second spot’s home advantage, and a game against fellow interior also-rans Westside.
After that, the games will all be against teams which need points to enhance their playoff prospects. These last 10 games will give the Smokies a chance to play for pride.
We will see what we will see.