The last time the two teams met in the playoffs was in 2003 when Saskatchewan earned a 37-21 road victory. The Riders also beat the Bombers in the 2007 Grey Cup in Toronto.
Home field should be a big advantage for Saskatchewan, which was 6-3 at Mosaic Field before its rabid fans. Winnipeg was 4-5-0 on the road.
The Tiger-Cats (8-10) head into the East semifinal riding a three-game losing streak. Two of those defeats were to Ottawa, which cemented first in the East Division and home field for the conference final Nov. 18 at TD Place.
Hamilton and B.C. (9-9) split the regular-season series 1-1, each team winning at home. The Lions captured a 35-32 victory at B.C. Place Stadium on Sept. 22 but the Ticats won the rematch, 40-10 at Tim Hortons Field the following week.
In that contest, Brandon Banks hauled in two Jeremiah Masoli touchdown passes for Hamilton. Trouble is, Banks suffered a season-ending broken clavicle in the club’s 35-31 loss to Ottawa on Oct. 19.
The loss of Banks is a serious blow to Hamilton, considering the five-foot-seven, 157-pound dynamo has 94 catches for 1,423 yards and 11 TDs. And the Ticats are 0-3 since Banks was injured.
B.C. makes the trek to the East as the crossover team, meaning it will have to go the long way to give head coach Wally Buono a championship in his final season on the Lions’ sideline. Unfortunately, history won’t be on the club’s side as no crossover team has ever reached the Grey Cup, let alone won it.
Buono has 18 career playoff wins — second only to behind Frank Clair (22). He’ll make his 23rd playoff appearance in 25 years of coaching.
The Lions’ defence has been a big part of the club’s success this season, and it could be boasted by the return of linebacker Solomon Elimimian. He’s been sidelined with a wrist injury since the fifth week of the season but has taken the majority of reps this week in practice.
But life on the road this season hasn’t been kind to the Lions, who were just 2-7 away from B.C. Place. Then again, Hamilton didn’t exactly light it up at Tim Hortons Field, either, with a 4-5-0 mark.
Hamilton will play a home playoff game for the fifth time in six years and owns a 27-17 (.614) home playoff mark. Meanwhile, B.C. is 11-23 on the road in the post-season.
The Lions are a crossover team for the fifth time. Hamilton hosted the Lions in the 2009 East semifinal, earning a 34-27 overtime decision.