Robertson Cup Division Finals Preview
April 18, 2014
The next step in the NAHL Robertson Cup Playoffs has arrived, as just eight teams remain to take part in the Division Finals, which begin Friday across the four divisions. Two of the four match-ups are repeats of the Division Finals from a year ago. Throughout the course of the next two weeks a divisional playoff champion will be determined, which will then lead to the NAHL’s final four teams.
Once that happens, the four remaining divisional winners shall be seeded 1-4 based upon their finish in the NAHL regular-season standings. The Club seeded first will compete in a best-of-three series with the fourth seeded Club. The Club seeded second will compete in a best-of-three-series against the Club seeded third. The Robertson Cup Semi-Finals may begin no earlier than Thursday, May 1, 2014 and must conclude no later than Sunday, May 4, 2014.
Watch every Divisional Finals Game live on FASTHockey
Central Division Finals
#1 Austin Bruins vs. #3 Bismarck Bobcats – There is a high level of familiarity between Austin and Bismarck, who will meet in the Central Finals for the third straight season. Both times in the past two years, Bismarck has come away with 3-1 series wins, having taken at least one of the first two games in Austin and then both games in Bismarck. Bismarck is coming off a dominant three-game sweep of the Aberdeen Wings and they have won the Central Division playoff title the last five years in a row. Meanwhile, the Bruins have had a short window to recover from their Game 4 marathon in Minot last weekend, in which they won the longest game in NAHL modern history to win their series and advance to this point. The regular season series was dead even, with each club winning five games, however, the Bruins took three of four games from the Bobcats in March, including a series sweep in Bismarck during the final weekend of the regular season
Midwest Division Finals
#1 Fairbanks Ice Dogs vs. #3 Wenatchee Wild – For the sixth straight season, the Fairbanks Ice Dogs and Wenatchee Wild will meet in the playoffs with a spot in the Robertson Cup Semi-Finals on the line. Last year, the Wild defeated Fairbanks in five games to advance to the Robertson Cup Tournament. The two years prior to that, it was the Ice Dogs defeating the Wild to advance. In 2011, Fairbanks defeated Wenatchee in the divisional finals to eventually win their only Robertson Cup Championship to date. Fairbanks controlled the regular season series between the two clubs, winning eight of the 12 games played against one another. With the new playoff format this season, the #1-seeded Ice Dogs, who had the top record in the NAHL during the regular season, know that if they keep winning, the road to winning the Robertson Cup has to go through Fairbanks. Because of the travel distance between the two clubs, it is possible for the first three games to be played in Fairbanks if the series is tied after two games, or if Wenatchee wins the first two games. If Fairbanks wins the first two games this weekend, the next three are scheduled in Wenatchee.
North Division Finals
#1 Port Huron Fighting Falcons vs. #2 Michigan Warriors – In a contrast of travel, two teams that are separated by just over an hour and 60 miles will battle for the right to be called North Champions as Port Huron faces Michigan. Both teams have been North Champions before. Port Huron won the title back in 2012 and Michigan won the title back in 2011. The Warriors lost in the Robertson Cup Championship Game that season to the Fairbanks Ice Dogs. Both teams looked good the Semi-Final round, sweeping their respective opponents. Michigan won eight of the 12 games that the two clubs played during the regular season, but the series was much closer than that. 10 of the 12 games were decided by two goals or less and five were decided in overtime or a shootout. The last time the two teams met in the playoffs was back in 2012 when Port Huron beat the Warriors 3-1 in the best of five North Division Semi-Finals. It should be quite a series with both teams fresh from a quick first round, not much travel to deal with and both having good goaltending through the first round.
South Division Finals
#1 Amarillo Bulls vs. #2 Topeka RoadRunners – Both Amarillo and Topeka swept their way through the South Semi-Finals, looking impressive in the process. One thing is for sure, as the #2 and #3 seeds overall in the Robertson Cup Playoffs, the winner of this South Finals series knows for sure that they will be hosting one of the Robertson Cup Semi-Final Series, no matter who wins. That may put even more importance on this series as the Bulls try to become the first team since the 2008, 2009 St. Louis Bandits to successfully defend their title. The two clubs last met in the playoffs two years ago in the South Finals when the Bulls came away with a 3-1 series win. In 2011, the two clubs also met in the South Finals, with the Bulls claiming a 3-2 series win. In the 12 games played against one another during the regular season, Topeka held a 7-5 advantage in wins, with the Bulls winning the first five in a row, followed by seven straight wins by the RoadRunners. Expect the series to be low-scoring and physical.