SIJHL playoff format almost set

With just over six weeks left in the regular season, the Superior International Junior Hockey League is on the verge of announcing the format for its inaugural playoffs.
SIJHL president Jerry Blazino said Friday morning from Thunder Bay it was “all but official” that the post-season will involve the top four teams squaring off in best-of-seven semi-final series (first versus fourth and second against third) in mid-March.
Those two winner then would advance to the best-of-seven final.
The official format will be set during a league executive meeting Monday night in Thunder Bay.
The league winner then will move on to face the Northern Ontario Junior ‘A’ Hockey Assoc-iation champ, with a berth to the Royal Bank Cup—Canada’s Junior ‘A’ championship—on the line.
The Dryden Ice Dogs (18-9-7), Borderland Thunder (17-7-8), and Feathermen Hawks (16-9-4) already have clinched playoff berths.
The Thunder Bay KC Bulldogs (15-14-3) will be awarded the fourth-and-final spot because the two American-based squads—Iron Range Yellow Jackets (8-7-2) and Northwest Wisconsin Knights (6-7-4)—only are playing an exhibition season of 24 games and thus are ineligible for post-season play.
The Thunder Bay Snowplowing Wolves remain buried in the standings with a 2-29-2 record.
Meanwhile, the Thunder have a chance to move into first-place on Friday as they begin a three-game series against the Hawks.
The first game is being played at the Ice for Kids Arena at 7:30 p.m., with the other two being staged in the Hawks’ new arena outside Thunder Bay.
The Thunder have two games in hand over the first-place Ice Dogs, who are idle this weekend.
While the Thunder are riding a league-high 13-game unbeaten streak, they’re only 1-2-2 against the Hawks so far this season.
In related news, Thunder captain Josh Baxter was named the SIJHL’s offensive player-of-the-week earlier this week.
The 19-year-old had a three-point night against the Thunder Bay KC Bulldogs last week. He currently is fourth in team scoring with 24 points (11 goals/13 assists).
Shaun Szachury of the Dryden Ice Dogs won defensive player-of-the-week. Thunder goalie Rob Hrabec was in the running for his four such award.