The Beaver Valley Nitehawks will face the Creston Valley Thundercats in the first round of the KIJHL playoffs. Photo: Jim Bailey

The Beaver Valley Nitehawks will face the Creston Valley Thundercats in the first round of the KIJHL playoffs. Photo: Jim Bailey

KIJHL playoff change will see B.V. play Creston in first round

KIJHL moves Creston Valley Thunder Cats into Neil Murdoch Division just prior to season’s end

A league playoff change will affect the Beaver Valley Nitehawks’ first round opponent in a big way.

The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) announced a significant change to the Kootenay Conference playoff format last week.

The #2 seeded Nitehawks were set to face the #3 seed Castlegar Rebels in the first round of the Neil Murdoch Division playoff, while Nelson was to face the fourth seed from the Murdoch Division or the fifth seed from the Eddie Mountain Division depending on which team had the best record.

But hold on. With eight Kootenay Conference teams having qualified for the postseason, the league determined that the Creston Valley Thunder Cats will move from the Mountain division to the Murdoch division and be seeded according to their regular season record.

The 19-20-0-0 Thunder Cats bump the 15-22-1-1 Rebels into fourth spot, and now sit third in the Neil Murdoch division behind the Nelson Leafs and Beaver Valley Nitehawks, with the Grand Forks Border Bruins in fifth place out of the playoffs.

As it stands, the Leafs and Rebels will face off in a first vs. fourth seed series, while the Nitehawks and Thunder Cats would meet in a second vs. third place series.

The Nitehawks won their first meeting with the Thunder Cats, 5-1, in October, then lost their second match 6-0 the following month in their only two meetings of the season.

If the change had not been made, according to the original format, the Nelson Leafs would have had to play the fifth place Golden Rockets of the Eddie Mountain Div. in round one, because they have a better record than the Murdoch’s fourth place Border Bruins.

“While it was not our intention to deviate from the playoff format that was announced in October, it had become increasingly likely over the past two months that it could produce a first round series involving significant travel and expense between a West Kootenay-based team and the Golden Rockets, who represent the furthest possible conference opponent,” says Commissioner Jeff Dubois.

“In investigating potential alternatives, there became a clear consensus amongst all of our Kootenay Conference teams, including Golden and Creston Valley, that making this change was the best option competitively and financially for all participating teams from both divisions.”

Meanwhile, the Golden Rockets will remain in the Eddie Mountain division as the fourth seed and play the division winner, either Columbia Valley or Kimberley, in the first round of the playoffs.

A change from the KIJHL’s traditional playoff format was needed after the Murdoch division’s Spokane Braves were unable to compete this season, leaving the division with just four teams and the Kootenay Conference with a total of nine teams.

The Okanagan-Shuswap Division playoff format remains unchanged, with the top four teams from the Doug Birks and Bill Ohlhausen divisions qualifying for the postseason.

The 2022 KIJHL Playoffs and the road to the Teck Cup begins Tuesday, Feb. 22.

Read: Spokane Braves pull out of 2021-22 season

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