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NAHL Weekend Preview

April 14, 2017
It is the most wonderful time of the year! It is Christmas time for NAHL hockey fans and players… the 2017 Robertson Cup Playoffs are finally here.
16 teams have the opportunity to participate in the month-long war of attrition that is all focused on getting their name on the Robertson Cup.
This weekend features the Division Semi-Finals, which are a best of five series taking place the next two weekends. The first team to win three games, will advance to the Division Finals.
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Central Division Semi-Finals (best of 5 series)
#1 Minot Minotauros vs. #4 Aberdeen Wings – The end of the regular season was mainly average for both teams with Minot winning 6 of their last 10 and Aberdeen winning 5 of their last 10.  Minot controlled the season series, winning 9 of the 12 games, but the two clubs haven’t faced off since January 26th. Neither team has been to a Robertson Cup in their existence so the winner will be entering uncharted territory.
#2 Minnesota Wilderness vs. #3 Brookings Blizzard – This series couldn’t be more even, with each club winning four games during the regular season series. Both teams were 5-5-0 in their last 10 games of the regular season. The Wilderness won the Robertson Cup back in 2015 and the Blizzard are still looking for their first. 
East Division Semi-Finals (best of 5 series)
#1 Aston Rebels vs. #4 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights – On paper, the Rebels should be able to handle the Knights. The Rebels had the best record during the NAHL’s regular season and finished with 30 more points than the Knights. However, the Knights enter the series with a 7-1-2 record in their last 10 and haven’t lost a game in regulation since March 18th. The Rebels won 10 of the 12 games this season, but the two teams have only played twice since the New Year.
#2 Johnstown Tomahawks vs. #3 New Jersey Titans – This series has all the makings of a classic playoff war. The Tomahawks enter the playoffs having won seven of their final 10 games, while the Titans won just three of their final 10.  The Tomahawks won 8 of the 12 games in the series, including the last four. Neither team has made it to a Robertson Cup in their brief histories.
Midwest Division Semi-Finals (best of 5 series)
#1 Janesville Jets vs. #4 Coulee Region Chill – Less than 3 hours separates these two Wisconsin rivals, so travel will not be an issue. The Chill have been in a race for the playoffs for the past two months, while the Jets coasted to a division title and have had the #1 seed for over a month. The series has all the markings of a high-scoring one with two of the top offensive teams squaring off. The Jets had a slight edge in the season series, winning 7 of the 12 games.
#2 Fairbanks Ice Dogs vs. #3 Minnesota Magicians – It should come as no surprise that the Ice Dogs enter the playoffs as the hottest team in the league, winners of nine in a row.  The defending champions are not about to let go of the Robertson Cup that easily. While the two teams finished the same number of points, the Ice Dogs had two more wins and secured the #2 seed. With the series starting in Minnesota for the first two games, the Magicians must take advantage of being at home. Despite being in the same division, the two teams only played four times this season, with the Ice Dogs winning three of those.
South Division Semi-Finals (best of 5 series)
#1 Lone Star Brahmas vs. #4 Wichita Falls Wildcats - The Brahmas have known their fate for a while and look to get to the Robertson Cup Championship, which has eluded them the past few seasons. The Wildcats, who won the South Division last season and advanced to the title game against Fairbanks, finished a full 25 points and 15 wins behind the Brahmas in the standings. The Wildcats are on a 10-game losing streak entering the playoffs with their last win coming on March 10th. The Brahmas won eight of the nine match-ups this season.
#2 Shreveport Mudbugs vs. #3 Corpus Christi IceRays – Maybe the most intriguing playoff series is the Mudbugs vs. the IceRays. The rivalry dates back to when both teams played in the professional minor league ranks and continues this weekend in the NAHL. Both teams had very good regular seasons and both feature NCAA Division I committed goaltenders, so it could come down to that. If people are looking for an edge in the series, the IceRays did win 9 of the 12 games during the two clubs during the regular season. Because of ice availability, Game 5 would not be until Tuesday, April 25th, so whoever wins will want to wrap it up in four games or less for maximum rest.
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