The playoffs are all but set in the AJHL, with just a few matchups to be determined.
Bonnyville Pontiacs (37-11-9—83 points—4th in the North)
The Pontiacs have already wrapped up home ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs but can still catch Whitecourt and Lloydminster, who are just three points ahead of Bonnyville. The Pontiacs will play just once this weekend as they host the Fort McMurray Oil Barons on Friday night. Bonnyville has won all five games in the season series so far with only one of those games going to overtime.
Drayton Valley Thunder (22-30-4—48 points—6th in the North)
The Drayton Valley Thunder can go no higher or lower in the standings and will get one of either Whitecourt, Lloydminster or Bonnyville in the first round. Drayton Valley will play twice this weekend starting on Friday night in Spruce Grove. Friday will be the final meeting of the season between the two teams. The Thunder are 1-4 against Spruce Grove with the lone winning coming in a shootout on November 27th. Sunday Drayton Valley returns home to take on the Canmore Eagles for the second and last time this season. Drayton Valley edged the Eagles 3-2 in their first matchup.
Fort McMurray Oil Barons (10-36-9—29 points—7th in the North)
The last playoff spot to be determined in the AJHL is that of the final spot in the North. Fort McMurray enters the weekend with a seven point lead on the Grande Prairie Storm. With a win or a Grande Prairie loss, the Oil Barons will clinch the final playoff spot. Fort McMurray will play three games in two in a half days this weekend. All three games will be the final matchup of the season against their opponents. Friday they will be in Bonnyville, the Pontiacs have won all five games thus far. Saturday it's off to Sherwood Park, where the Crusaders have won four of the five games against the Oil Barons. Sunday it's off to Whitecourt to finish off the weekend. The Wolverines have taken all five games against the Oil Barons with only one of those games going to a shootout.
Grande Prairie Storm (9-43-4—22 points—8th in the North)
Grande Prairie will play just one game this weekend when they travel to Whitecourt on Friday night. The Storm need to win their remaining four games and have Fort McMurray lose their last five games to avoid missing the playoffs for the third straight season. Friday's game in Whitecourt will be the final matchup of the season between the two clubs. The Storm are 0-4-1 against the Wolverines this season.
Lloydminster Bobcats (42-13-2—86 points—tied for 2nd in the North)
The Lloydminster Bobcats enter the weekend tied with the Whitecourt Wolverines for second in the North, Whitecourt currently holds down that spot as they have a game in hand. The other thing the Bobcats have to keep their eye on is the Bonnyville Pontiacs. Lloydminster will play just once this weekend, and it will be on Saturday when they host the Brooks Bandits. It will be the third and final meeting of the season between the two teams. Brooks has won the last two games by a combined score of 9-4.
Sherwood Park Crusaders (36-18-2—74 points—5th in the North)
The Sherwood Park Crusaders can go no higher or lower in the North Division standings but can play spoilers this weekend as they get set for the playoffs. The Crusaders will play twice at home. Friday the Brooks Bandits come to town for the second and final time this season. Brooks hammered Sherwood Park 10-1 in their previous meeting. Saturday the Fort McMurray Oil Barons come to town for the final time this regular season. The Crusaders are 4-1 against the Oil Barons in their first five meetings.
Spruce Grove Saints (46-7-4—-96 points—1st in the North)
The Spruce Grove Saints are in a battle with the Brooks Bandits for the top spot in the AJHL. The Saints will need to win their final three games and get some help out of town to win the regular season title. Spruce Grove will play twice at home. Friday Drayton Valley comes to town for the final time in the regular season. Spruce Grove is 4-0-0-1 against the Thunder this season. Saturday it will be the Canmore Eagles coming to the Grant Fuhr Arena. Spruce Grove drilled Canmore 12-2 in their first meeting of the year.
Whitecourt Wolverines (40-10-6—86 points—tied for 2nd in the North)
The Whitecourt Wolverines will host the bottom two teams in the North. This is a golden opportunity for the Wolverines to take sole possession of second place from the Lloydminster Bobcats. Friday the Grande Prairie Storm pay their final visit to the Scott Safety Center. Whitecourt has won all five games in the season series with one of those games being a win in overtime. Sunday it will be the final time the Wolverines will take on the Fort McMurray Oil Barons for the final time this regular season. This could potentially be a first round preview. Whitecourt has won all five games in the season series with one of those going to a shootout.
Brooks Bandits (46-7-2—94 points—1st in the South)
The Brooks Bandits enter the weekend two points behind the Saints for top spot in the AJHL with two games in hand. Brooks will travel north for a pair of games this weekend. Friday they will be in Sherwood Park for the second matchup of the year. Brooks picked up a 10-1 victory in their other meeting. Saturday it will be the final meeting of the regular season against the Lloydminster Bobcats. Brooks is 2-0 against Lloydminster this season.
Calgary Canucks (21-32-3—45 points—6th in the South) Okotoks Oilers (31-24-2—64 points—3rd in the South)
For the first time in four years, the Calgary Canucks are heading to the post season. Meanwhile, the Okotoks Oilers can help determine their first round matchup if they sweep the Calgary Canucks this weekend. The Canucks are riding high however following a 5-2 win over the Oilers last Saturday. The two teams have split the first four games of the season series. Friday's game will be in Calgary while Saturday they will play in Okotoks.
Calgary Mustangs (11-42-3—25 points—8th in the South)
For the first time since 2009, the Calgary Mustangs will not be a part of the post season, but they can still play a little spoiler. Friday will be the final matchup of the season with the Drumheller Dragons. If Calgary can make life difficult for Drumheller with a win on Friday night, however, the Dragons have dominated the Mustangs this season winning all five games including the previous matchup on Tuesday 6-3. Saturday the Mustangs and Grizzlys will play a meaningless game. Olds already knows they will take on Camrose in the first round while the Mustangs will not be going to the playoffs. The Mustangs are 1-3-0-1 against the Grizzlys this season but did defeat them in their last match up by a score of 7-6.
Camrose Kodiaks (35-17-4—74 points—2nd in the South)
For the first time since 2008, the Camrose Kodiaks and Olds Grizzlys will meet up in the playoffs. Camrose will host the Canmore Eagles and can play spoiler for the Eagles home ice advantage hopes when they come to town on Friday night. The Kodiaks currently hold the edge in the season series winning three of five games thus far. One of the two losses for the Kodiaks did come in overtime.
Canmore Eagles (24-25-6—54 points—4th in the South)
The Canmore Eagles will play three games. Canmore can clinch home ice advantage in the opening round with any combination of two wins or two Drumheller losses. Friday Canmore will be in Camrose to battle the Kodiaks. Canmore has 2-3 against the Kodiaks in their previous five games. Saturday they will be west of Edmonton to take on the Spruce Grove Saints. The Eagles will hope for a better game then the first time the two teams played, a game that the Saints won 12-2. Sunday they will take on the Drayton Valley Thunder. The Thunder defeated the Eagles 3-2 in their only other match up.
Drumheller Dragons (23-29-5—51 points—5th in the South)
Drumheller will play just one game this weekend and will be looking for help out of town. Friday will be the final meeting of the season against the Calgary Mustangs. Drumheller can finish anywhere from fourth to sixth in the South Division. To get home ice advantage, the Dragons would have to win two of their remaining three games and have the Eagles lose out. To not drop down a spot, the Dragons would need to win one of their remaining games or have the Canucks lose any one of their remaining four games.
Olds Grizzlys (16-37-3—35 points—7th in the South)
The Olds Grizzlys know that they will take on the Camrose Kodiaks in the opening round of the playoffs but will be looking to snap a 14 game winless streak on Saturday when they play host to the Calgary Mustangs. Olds is 4-1 against Calgary this season with one of those wins coming in a shootout.
Story by Chris Colwell