Division Finals Preview: Eight teams battle for final four spots
April 29, 2016
Only eight teams remain alive in the 2016 NAHL Robertson Cup Playoffs as the Division Finals begin this weekend in all four divisions.
As a reminder, the two Clubs in each division that won a division semifinal series shall compete in a best-of-five series against each other. Clubs shall cooperate to schedule division final series competition. The higher seeded Club will have the right to host up to three games. The lower seeded Club must be able to host a minimum of two games. The first Club to win three games in a division final series will be declared the winner of the series and advance to the Robertson Cup Championship Final Four. The first Club to lose three games in a division final series will be eliminated from further playoff competition.
The four divisional playoff champions will advance to the Robertson Cup Championship, which will be held at the Braemar Ice Arena in Edina, Minnesota. Clubs will be seeded 1-4 based upon their finish in the NAHL regular-season standings. If necessary, the tie-breaking policy adopted in the NAHL Rules and Regulations will be applied to determine the final seeding. The game schedule will be as follows: The #1 Seed will face the #4 seed in a best of three series. The #2 seed will face the #3 seed in a best of three series. The two series winners will advance on to a one-game playoff to determine the Robertson Cup Champion. The event will begin on Thursday, May 12th and conclude on Sunday, May 15th.
Central Division Finals (Best of 5 series)
#1 Bismarck Bobcats vs. #3 Austin Bruins – For the fourth time in the last five years, the Bruins and Bobcats will meet one another in a Division Finals series. Each team advanced in four games to get to this point and all eyes in the series will be on the two goaltenders. Bismarck goalie Hunter Shepard just won the NAHL Goaltender of the Year award, while Bruins goalie Kris Carlson has also stepped up his game of late. The regular season between the two teams was dead even, with each team winning four of the eight games. Bismarck won the first three games, while Austin claimed four of the last five games. Willie Brown leads the Bobcats in scoring in the playoffs with seven points, while Austin forward Jade Miller leads not only the Bruins in scoring with nine points, but the entire NAHL Playoffs as well.
East Division Finals (Best of 5 series)
#1 Aston Rebels vs. #3 Johnstown Tomahawks – Both the Rebels and the Tomahawks swept their way into the East Finals and show no signs of slowing down, so the series should be a good one between the two Pennsylvania rivals. The Rebels allowed just five goals in the three wins against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and NAHL All-Rookie Team goalie Darion Hanson has stopped 74 of 79 shots in the playoffs. Michael Merulla leads the Rebels with three goals. Johnstown has done one better, allowing just four goals in the three wins and goalie Andrew Lindgren has stopped 62 of 66 shots in the playoffs. In the 16-game season series between the two teams, the Rebels won 10 of the games, but seven of the 16 were decided by just one goal.
Midwest Division Finals (Best of 5 series)
#1 Fairbanks Ice Dogs vs. #3 Minnesota Wilderness – The series between the Wilderness and Ice Dogs is a rematch of the Midwest Division Finals from last year as the Wilderness swept Fairbanks on their way to winning the Robertson Cup. However, the circumstances last year were different, with the first two games begin played in Cloquet. This year, the Wilderness have to start the series in Fairbanks. Depending on how the series goes, Game 3 will be either Sunday in Fairbanks or next Friday in Cloquet. The Wilderness are being led in the playoffs by Casey Gilling, who has six points and Luka Kania is playing well in goal. Minnesota is trying to become the first team since the 2007-09 St. Louis Bandits to win back-to-back Robertson Cup titles. NAHL MVP and Forward of the Year Todd Burgess is leading the Ice Dogs with seven points. Fairbanks has allowed just two goals in their last three playoff games. Fairbanks won three of the four games against the Wilderness during the regular season.
South Division Finals (Best of 5 series)
#1 Wichita Falls Wildcats vs. #3 Topeka RoadRunners – The rivalry between the Wildcats and RoadRunners has been active since the 2004-05 season and comes to a peak this weekend with a trip the Robertson Cup on the line. Topeka had 10 played score at least a goal in their South Semi-Finals win over Lone Star. Forward Quinn Preston leads the team with three goals in the playoffs. The Wildcats cruised to a sweep of Odessa in their Semi-Final. Goalie Justin Kapelmaster has stopped 98 of 104 shots in the playoffs and forward Austin Albrecht has seven points in three games. The Wildcats had the edge in the season series during the regular season, winning seven of the 10 games.