The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) has announced a significant change to the format of their upcoming Kootenay Conference playoffs.
Due to eight Kootenay Conference teams qualifying for the postseason, the league has decided that the Creston Valley Thunder Cats will be moved from the Eddie Mountain division into the Neil Murdoch division and be seeded according to their regular season record.
Creston Valley currently are in third place in the Neil Murdoch Division, behind the Nelson Leafs and the Beaver Valley Nitehawks, and ahead of the Castlegar Rebels and Grand Forks Border Bruins.
This means that were the playoffs to begin at the time of writing, the Leafs and Rebels would play each other in a first vs. fourth place series, and the Nitehawks and Thunder Cats in a second vs. third place series.
KIJHL commissioner Jeff Dubois said it was never the intention to deviate from the playoff format announced back in October, it became clear over the last two months of play that the season could produce a first-round series between a West Kootenays team and the Golden Rockets, which would necessitate heavy travel time and financial expense.
A change to the league’s usual playoff format was needed for this season, after it was determined the Spokane Braves would be unable to compete, leaving nine teams in the Kootenay Conference.
“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,” Dubois said.
Golden, who would have moved into the Neil Murdoch division under the existing format, will now stay put as the fourth seed in the Eddie Mountain division and have to play the division leaders in the first round of playoffs, which will either be the Kimberley Dynamiters or the Columbia Valley Rockies.
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 begin Tuesday, Feb. 22.