Weekend Preview: Divisional Semi-Finals continue
April 22, 2016
The 2016 NAHL Robertson Cup Playoffs resume this weekend with the culmination and conclusion of the Divisional Semi-Finals. After this weekend (possibly Monday) only eight teams will remain in the quest for the Robertson Cup Championship.
There are several teams with the change to clinch and advance with games on Friday, but just as many teams looking to stave off elimination.
The winners of each of the two Divisional Semi-Finals will then advance to the Division Finals, which will take place the next two weekends and will be a best of five series.
Central Division Semi-Finals
#1 Bismarck Bobcats vs. #4 Brookings Blizzard (Bismarck leads series, 2-0) – Bismarck handled Brookings in Games 1 and 2 and now have up to three chances to win the series, beginning Friday night in Brookings. Bismarck forward Willie Brown has led the way with six points in the first two games and Aaron Herdt has three goals. Brookings faces a tough task with having to win three straight, but must just worry about Friday’s Game 3. Mikael Hakkarainen and Nick Ford have four of the team’s five goals in the series. Josh Kuehmichel is going to have to take his game to the level it was at towards the end of the regular season as he has just a 87.9% save percentage in the first two games.
#2 Minot Minotauros vs. #3 Austin Bruins (Series tied, 1-1) – Having knocked the Minotauros out of the playoffs the last three years and having taken Game 2 in Minot, the momentum has shifted towards the Bruins for Games 3 and 4 in Austin. Jade Miller has led the Bruins through two games with four points and goalie Kris Carlson has stopped 59 of the 63 shots in the first two games. Two of the four Minotauros goals in the series have come from Jack Murphy and goalie Gunner Rivers has allowed just four goals on 50 shots in the series.
East Division Semi-Finals
#1 Aston Rebels vs. #4 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights (Aston leads series, 2-0) – The Knights have given the Rebels all they can handle in the opening two games of the series, but find themselves in an 0-2 with Games 3 (and maybe Game 4) in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Michael Merulla has picked up right where he left off in the regular season for the Rebels, scoring half the team’s goals in the first two games, while also scoring both game-winners. The Knights have got to find a way to get more shots on goal with just 45 shots in the first two games of the series. The Knights will also have a decision to make with who gets the start in goal.
#2 New Jersey Titans vs. #3 Johnstown Tomahawks (Johnstown leads series, 2-0) – On paper, New Jersey faces the toughest task of any of the team this weekend, which is to try and pull out two road wins in order to force a fifth and decisive game back home. The New Jersey offense has gone cold at the wrong time with just three goals in the first two games. New Jersey’s top three scorers in the regular season have yet to record a point in the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Tomahawks are sitting in the driver’s seat, trying to lock up the series at home in what will be in front of a large partisan crowd. Tomahawks goalie Andrew Lindgren has stopped 40 of 43 shots in the series.
Midwest Division Semi-Finals
#1 Fairbanks Ice Dogs vs. #4 Coulee Region Chill (Fairbanks leads series, 2-1) – The Chill have the Ice Dogs back in their barn for Game 4 and potentially a Game 5, but will have to try and win the series without the services of leading scorer Dominik Florian, who is out for the remainder of the series with an injury. After a 6-1 drubbing in Game 1 by the Chill, the Ice Dogs allowed just one goal in Games 2 and 3 to take a 2-1 series lead. Defenseman Jakob Stridsberg has scored twice in the series and leading scorer Todd Burgess is leading the way with six points in the first three games of the series. Four of the Chill’s seven goals in the series have come from forward Larry Jungwirth or defenseman Nico Luka. The Chill have lost five of their last six playoff games.
#2 Janesville Jets vs. #3 Minnesota Wilderness (Series tied, 1-1) – On paper and from a recent historical perspective, the series between the Jets and Wilderness has all the makings of another classic one. The defending champ Wilderness did what they needed to do in winning a game in Janesville and now will try and take the next step towards their defense with Games 3 and 4 on home ice. Jets defenseman Andrew Roye has two goals in the series. The Wilderness will likely go with Luke Kania in goal for Game 3, who was solid in the Game 2 win. Wilderness forward Casey Gilling has four points in the first two games, while no one else has more than one.
South Division Semi-Finals
#1 Wichita Falls Wildcats vs. #4 Odessa Jackalopes (Wichita Falls leads series, 2-0) – The season is on the line for the Jackalopes on Friday as they take the series back home in Odessa to try and extend things. After opening up a 3-0 lead in the 1st period of Game 1, the Jackalopes have since been outscored 11-0 in the series. Odessa’s top four leading scorers from the regular season have yet to record a point and are a combined -13 in the first two games. Three players have four points each for the Wildcats in the first two games, who include Nikita Litviak, Austin Beaulieu and Austin Albrecht.
#2 Lone Star Brahmas vs. #3 Topeka RoadRunners (Series tied, 1-1) – The RoadRunners head back home with home ice advantage thanks to an overtime win in Game 2. Topeka has scored just three goals in the first two games, but goalie Juho Niku has played well, stopping 52 of the 56 shots in the first two games. The Brahmas have just four goals in the first two games, two of which were scored by forward Carson Kelly. The Brahmas top two point producers in the regular season have yet to record a point in the series. Goalie Corbin Kaczperski has allowed just three goals on 38 shots.