MWJHL’s playoff contenders almost set
As the Midwest Junior Hockey League's regular season comes down the home stretch, it appears the only questions to be resolved for the league playoffs is which team will finish second and start the opening round at its home arena.
The defending champion Traverse City Hounds (in Hartland a year ago) had already secured a playoff spot and likely locked up first place with 59 points through the week ending Feb. 9.
The second-place Soo Firehawks were 10 points behind the Hounds, at 49, with both having seven games to play, and only one head-to-head contest when the Soo visits Centre Ice in Traverse City March 1.
Only the top four teams qualify for post-season play and Round 1 will open March 21, at the home arenas of the first and second place teams in a best of three series.
The third-place Detroit Fighting Irish still have a fighting chance at second place with four games in hand on the Soo and only six points behind them with 43 points. The two are scheduled to square off the final weekend of play, March 14-15, at the Soo's Big Bear Arena.
The Alpena Streetcats were getting close to locking up the fourth and final playoff spot having 38 points and a 13-point lead over fifth place Bloomington Jr. Blaze. They were headed to Bloomington for a three game series the Feb. 14-16 weekend.
It is likely the Streetcats will open at Traverse City if things stay as they are now.
The winners of Round 1 will go on to play at the home of the higher seed for the MWJHL Championship the weekend of March 28-30, again a best-of-three affair.
January Players of the Month
Forward of the Month: Andrew Holder, Soo Firehawks, is a two-time MWJHL Forward of the Week this season. Holder, 20, of Grosse Pointe, recorded 21 points in January on 11 goals and 10 assists in six games. On the season, Holder has 29 goals and 51 points.
Defenseman of the Month: Michael Cruse, Detroit Fighting Irish captain, 19, of Plymouth, played in three games, all victories for Detroit, and tallied a goal and three assists while also playing 30 minutes a game, usually against the opponent's top forward line, as well as on special teams. Overall, Cruse has posted two goals and 11 assists in 25 games.
Goaltender of the Month: Bryce Goulah, Traverse City Hounds, who signed with the team Jan. 3, won his first three games. Goulah, 18, of Howell, recorded back-to-back shutouts on Jan. 4, against Michigan (18 saves) and on Jan. 10, against Alpena (25 saves) before ending the month with a 26-save outing Jan. 31, in a shootout win over the Soo.
Rookie of the Month: Adam Jonak, Berkley Bruins/Traverse City Hounds, starting the month in Traverse City and ending in Berkley, Jonak registered nine goals and five assists for 14 points in January. The 19-year-old Plzen, Czech Republic native rang up four goals and nine points in three contests with the Hounds and, after getting traded to Berkley on Jan. 24, he scored five goals in his first three games with the Bruins. Jonak has 18 goals and 16 assists for 34 points in 18 games this season.