The North American Hockey League’s (NAHL) Robertson Cup Playoffs commenced on Friday (April 2), with four lower seeds skating to victories in Game 1 of their respective best-of-five divisional semifinal series.
In the North Division, forward Anthony Coles (game-winner) and defenseman Mike Monfredo each tallied a goal and an assist as the No. 4-seeded Motor City Metal Jackets downed the division’s regular-season champion Marquette Rangers in Game 1 of their series, 5-2. Goaltender Phil Graveline made 40 saves for Motor City.
In the other North semis, Lake Superior State University (CCHA) recruit Dan Radke, a forward, notched a pair of goals, including the game-winner, in the No. 2-seeded Traverse City North Stars’ 7-1 triumph over the No. 4-seeded Janesville Jets. Drew Strandberg turned aside 25 shots.
“I liked our energy as the game went on, and the fact that we didn’t have to rely on a one guy or one line to generate chances,” North Stars head coach Anthony Palumbo said. “But make no mistake: Janesville is a team with a lot of pride. They’ll come back tomorrow (in Game 2) with a vengeance. They’re a talented, well-coached team that won’t take this lying down.”
In the South Division, the Springfield Jr. Blues, the No. 4 seed, knocked off the division’s regular-season champion Topeka RoadRunners, 4-1. Forward Jared Rickord, a Bentley University (Atlantic Hockey) recruit connected for a goal and an assist in the win, and goaltender Andrew Martin stopped 42 shots.
Forward James Howard rang up two goals, including the game-winner, as the No. 3-seeded Texas Tornado downed the St. Louis Bandits (No. 2 seed) in the other South semis, 3-2. Between the pipes for Texas, Dan Sullivan made 31 saves.
The Bismarck Bobcats, the regular-season champions in the Central Division, skated to a 4-2 triumph over the No. 4-seeded Albert Lea Thunder in Game 1 of their semifinal series. Forward Dominic Panetta came through with the game-winning goal and two assists for Bismarck, and goaltender Jake Williams stopped 24 shots.
“We’re really excited to get the win here, but this series is far from over,” said Panetta. “Albert Lea is a tough team and they’re going to give us a heck of a time (in Game 2 on Saturday). We’re feeling good, but it’s definitely no time to get cocky.”
Defenseman Tim Smith scored in overtime at the No. 2-seeded Owatonna Express bested the Alexandria Blizzard, the division’s No. 3 seed, 7-6, in the other Central semis. Forward Jake Youso, a University of Minnesota (WCHA) recruit, registered a goal and three assists, including one on Smith’s game-winner, in the victory, and goaltender Matt Hemingway steered aside 25 shots.
In the West Division, the NAHL regular-season champion Wenatchee Wild took down the No. 4-seeded Kenai River Brown Bears, 5-2. Forward Ryan Timar, an Air Force Academy (Atlantic Hockey) recruit, connected for two goals in the win, and forward Jeff Jubinville, who is set to play at Bemidji State University (WCHA), added three assists, including one on Nathan Sliwinski’s game-winning goal. Between the pipes, Brandon Jaeger made 16 saves.
Forward Matt Millis’ overtime goal lifted the No. 3-seeded Fairbanks Ice Dogs to a 2-1 victory over the No. 2-seeded Alaska Avalanche in their West semis. Forward Aaron McGill scored the other Ice Dogs marker, and goaltender Joe Phillippi stopped 29 shots.