By now every player and organization in the NB/PEI Major U-18 AAA Hockey League have grown accustomed to unpredictability and uncertainty given everything that has gone on this past season.
Every regular season stat goes all go away, everything is a new when the playoffs start. Unpredictable and uncertain anything can happen in the postseason.
There’s always going to be favorites and underdogs when it comes to the playoff match ups in the first round of any playoff structure.
The matchups are set as the best in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island look to punch their ticket to Paradise, Paradise, Newfoundland to be exact for the 2022 Atlantic Championship.
The highly touted Moncton Flyers are taking on a very young talented group in the Northern Moose while the always dangerous Fredericton Caps take on the big heavy talented Saint John Vito’s.
The young hard working Kensington Wild team who have played some inspired hockey as of late will face the powerhouse Charlottetown Knights in the PEI U-18 Major AAA Provincial final.
There hasn’t been enough said about the resiliency of the players this season. The overall caliber of play in the league has been extraordinary given the circumstances surrounding the year.
To say it was tough on the players mentally and physically would be an understatement. The continuous stops and starts undoubtedly took a toll on each and every player and their family. Their persistence and perseverance is incredibly noteworthy. This past two seasons has given QMJHL and MHL scouts a deeper look into the character and makeup of each and every player.
There were some memorable individual and team performances throughout the season, but it’s the team that will come together and play as a cohesive unit that will ultimate represent their province in Newfoundland.
The allure of playing for a National Championship is fuel to the fire, but it’s far too early to be concerned about that, the first step on that journey starts this weekend.
Playoff time provides scouts with even more intel on players and how they handle high pressure situations. Speaking of pressure, one could only imagine what draft eligible players have experienced this season. Playing to their identity, enjoying and embracing the process is extremely difficult especially come playoff time. The draft seems so far away, but yet so close for so many of these players and their families. Obviously, right now the playoffs should be the only thing on the players mind, but the draft pressure is even more magnified than before. Every player handles the pressures differently, but at the end of the day hopefully every player going through the pressure cooker is still having fun playing the game they love.
From an Island perspective the Wild will undoubtedly have their hands full with the Knights, but if the Wild bring their skating game and play a discipline tight checking brand of hockey it could cause the Knights some issues. The Knights transition the puck very well so the Wild will have to do the job on the forecheck if they want to slow down their vaunted attack. Speaking of discipline, the Knights will have to stay discipline. Charlottetown love to play a hardnosed in your face gritty game at times that costs you penalties. The Wild will have capitalize on a lot of their chances on the man advantage to be successful. Obviously, every team’s playoff success starts between the pipes. Both teams more than capable netminders that can steal games. The Wild have a young backend that have grown a lot over as the season progressed. The Knights have an incredibly versatile backend that play any style. The Wild will need to score by committee, while the Knights will lean on offensive depth to provide the scoring punch.
Anything is possible in the playoffs, if the Wild come out and play with tons of desperation they will give the Knights a tough challenge.
The Moncton Flyers are perhaps the deepest they have been in quite sometime. The Northern Moose will also have their hands full dealing with the Flyers depth. The Herd will have to get outstanding netminding which they have had throughout the year to compete with the Flyers. Northern have a lot of speed up front and if they play a chip and chase game coupled with a well thought out forecheck they could give the Flyers some issues. Obviously, any skilled team doesn’t like their time and space taken away from them. The Moose will have to really play a tight checking game and limit the Flyers odd man rushes if they are to be successful against the ultra talented Flyers.
Perhaps the most intriguing 1st round series will be Fredericton and Saint John. This series will be physical, both teams like to hit and play a heavy style of game. Obviously, on paper the Vito’s may have the deeper of teams, but paper doesn’t mean anything come playoff time. This series will come down to puck management, handling the physicality and skating. The team that manages the puck the best and brings their skating game will win the series. The Caps have skill up front but will have to score by committee. The Vito’s have more scoring depth which gives them an advantage. Both teams will come out hitting hard, but at the end of the day the team that controls their emotions and sticks to their structure while moving the puck effectively and efficiently will prevail. Both the Caps and Vito’s are dangerous teams when they stick to their structure and team systems. Goaltending isn’t going to be an issue for both clubs, they have had solid netminding all season long which is fantastic to see. Every netminder in this series can steal a game which only adds to the excitement of this series.
If you haven’t been able to get out to the rinks across NB or PEI or are unfamiliar with this league and brand of hockey now is the time to get out and support the teams and they certainly deserve it.