The snow is still falling but spring is just around the corner and hockey playoff fever is in the air for the Men’s Rec League.
Clenching first place with a bulldog-like grip, the Black’s Pub Marmots are in familiar territory, having managed to finish their last four seasons with a top-three position.Led by power forwards John Lanteigne and Adam Livingstone, the Marmots went 4-1 over their last five match-ups, the one loss coming at the hands of the second-place Blackcomb Blackhawks.
You may recall the Marmots and the Blackhawks faced off last season for all the marbles in a best-of-five series swept by the Marmots. Despite losing in three straight, the Blackhawks made it one of the most exciting series in a decade, losing Games 1 and 3 by one goal and forcing overtime in Game 3 before capitulating.
As they say, however, the biggest mistake a general can make is fighting the last war, and with that in mind the Marmots will need to stay focused on their 2013 campaign. Who knows? We may have a classic rematch in the making — Ali and Frazier had their ‘Thrilla’ — so perhaps a Round 2 of a Marmots versus Blackhawks final will be one for the ages. No pressure, boys.
On the other end of the spectrum, the race for the final playoff spot is coming down to bean-counting and luck. As it stands, the Walsh Restoration Shooters hold onto that spot, awaiting the results from ninth-place Dusty’s in their final game against the Pemberton Chainsaws, and the final two games of Tapley’s Rooftop, who are four points behind the bunch.
Regardless of the outcome, the ‘lucky eighth’ team will face the Marmots in a ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ best-of-three in the first round.
Other notables in the playoffs include the ever-dangerous Chainsaws, who have youth on their side but are also somewhat streaky in their play. Behind them, Summitsport will be trying to find its legs for the big push to the finals. They have the experience with many former A League veterans peppering the roster; however, what’s left in the tank will decide their playoff success. That said, most 40-something hockey players in Whistler could give the younger lads a good run for their money, as their active mountain lifestyle hides their true age well.
The Timber View Bruins — provided they can come up with their final league fees and continue their season — could very well be giant-killers in the end if they get on their game early. Finally, the Fairmont Flyers will be working on their neutral zone trap in order to advance to the next round. Leading goal-scorer and defenceman Nic MacDonald will try and quarterback his team to some measure of while also moonlighting on his A League squad, the Longhorn Outlaws. He’ll be getting his nap time in to save his energy for the next three weeks as the A League also gets underway with its playoff series round-robin schedule.
In the four-team ‘boutique’ league commonly known as the A League, the first round-robin playoff games start Sunday (March 3) with the Longhorn Outlaws HC facing the Mongolie Grillers, and the Tapley’s Winterhawks taking on the Ice Wizards Hockey Club at 8 and 10 p.m.
In the final A League standings, the Wizards managed a 22-win and two-loss season, basically playing with one hand tied behind their backs with the two losses suffered. This playoff series will essentially come down to which team will play the ‘Wiz Kids’ in the semis — or perhaps who avoids playing them.
Whoever matches up with the Wizards in the final will need to hope that the hockey gods have a sense of humour — not a likely situation, but then again, anything can happen in sport.
Here’s a toast to uncertainty in the A League — it needs a shakeup. Hockey gods, are you listening up there?