The 2015-16 hockey season will get underway this weekend as the Hanover Tache Junior Hockey League (HTJHL) begins its 29th season in Manitoba. Six teams will compete this season as the Niverville Clippers are going on hiatus – taking a season off. Lorette Comets, Mitchell Mohawks, Red River Mudbugs, Springfield Xtreme and Steinbach Jr. Huskies will battle defending champion Grunthal Jr. Red Wings for a league championship.
Last season was one to remember for Grunthal Jr. Red Wings, capturing their fourth league title after a near-perfect 21-1-0-0 regular season. The veteran-filled roster, led by league MVP Riley Hunter (24 G, 16 A) and top goaltender John Laninga (1.17 GAA, .949 save%), outscored opponents 128-31 in 22 games before winning eight-of-nine playoff games, scoring 42 goals while giving up just 13. Grunthal swept Steinbach in the finals, picking up two shutouts in the four game series.
Runner-up Steinbach Jr. Huskies had another solid season with a berth to the league finals following a 14-6-1-1 regular season. They handed the Jr. Red Wings their lone loss of the regular season, winning 4-1 on November 18. Eight-time league champions, the Jr. Huskies will look to bounce back and finish on top in 2015-16.
Red River Mudbugs were 11-9-0-2 last season, good enough for third place. The Mudbugs were knocked out of the HTJHL playoffs early though, upset by sixth-seeded Lorette in five games.
Advancing to the semifinals, Springfield Xtreme knocked out Niverville in the quarterfinals before meeting the Jr. Huskies. They will look to improve on their 10-11-1-0 record.
Lorette Comets finished in sixth place at 9-11-0-2, but were just four points back of third place Red River. A 4-3 overtime victory in Game 5 over the Mudbugs earned the Comets a spot in the semifinals, where they were the only team to defeat Grunthal (3-2 in Game 3) in the playoffs.
Returning from a two season hiatus, Mitchell Mohawks struggled through a 2-19-0-1 season. The Mohawks were swept in three-straight games by Steinbach in the opening round of the playoffs. The club showed enthusiasm and had the league Rookie of the Year in Nathan Woerlen. The two-time league champions will continue to rebuild in hopes of climbing the league standings.
The new HTJHL season begins on October 17 with two games scheduled. See complete league schedule here: http://htjhl.com/schedule.php
Keep up with all HTJHL news, scores and stats by following the league website and on Twitter @HTJHLcom