Six teams begin their quest for the Robertson Cup on Thursday and no matter what happens, some history is going to be made. In the last eight years, four teams have won the cup and all four of those teams (Bismarck, Fairbanks, St. Louis and Texas) will be present at this year’s Robertson Cup Tournament. Texas won the cup three consecutive times (2004-06) and won the last time the Robertson Cup Tournament was played in Frisco (2004). St. Louis, won the cup three consecutive times from (2007-09) and is making their fifth cup appearance in the last six years. Bismarck won the cup back in 2010, defeating Fairbanks in Wenatchee, WA. Finally, there is the defending champion Fairbanks Ice Dogs, who return to Frisco to defend their Robertson Cup title.
Perhaps the most intriguing are the teams who are seeking their first Robertson Cup title, Amarillo and Port Huron. The Bulls are making their second trip to the Cup in just their second year of existence. They finished 3rd in 2011 and this season, the won the league’s regular season title with an all-time record of 99 points. The Port Huron Fighting Falcons are at the tournament after winning the North Division regular season and playoff divisional title. They have come a long way since their six wins during the 2010-11 season, and have plenty of firepower to contend for the title.
This may the one of the best Robertson Cup line-ups in recent memory. All five division winners during the regular season also won their divisional playoff, marking one of the rare times that all the #1 seeds have all advanced to the Cup. Meanwhile the host Tornado enter the Cup rested and ready. They are comfortable playing at home and enter the tournament as the active team with the most Robertson Cup Championships (4).
Here is a look at the Day 1 match-ups on Thursday:
#3 St. Louis vs. #4 Fairbanks, 12:30pm: Believe it or not, these two teams played one another all the way back on September 16th at the NAHL Showcase. St. Louis put together a dominating performance, but the resilient Ice Dogs stormed back with three goals in the final four minutes to tie the game and ultimately win in a shootout, 5-4. Fairbanks is 6-0 in the playoffs this year, sweeping Kenai River and Wenatchee, both in three games. The Bandits are 5-1, having sweep Coulee Region 3-0 and defeating Springfield in the Midwest Finals, 3-1. This game should feature plenty of scoring as it features the top three scorers during the 2011-12 NAHL regular season in the Bandits Joe Kalisz/UCONN (91 pts.) and Fairbanks Gabe Levin/Denver (90 pts.) and JT Osborn (81 pts.)
#2 Bismarck vs. #5 Port Huron, 3:30pm: Each team enters the game with a 6-2 playoff record having won their respective divisional semi-final series 3-1 and their divisional finals series 3-1 as well. Bismarck, who lost out in the Robertson Cup play-in game last season, is looking to get their names back on the Cup after winning the title in 2010. The Bobcats had the NAHL’s second-best record during the regular season. They have had some success in Frisco, as the lost in the National Title game the last time the tournament was played in Texas back in 2004. Port Huron, defeated Michigan 3-1 in the divisional semi-finals and then defeated Kalamazoo 3-1 in the division finals. The biggest factor for the Fighting Falcons may be the unknown of the tournament itself. The rest of the teams in the field have Robertson Cup experience, however Port Huron is making their first appearance.
#1 Amarillo vs. #6 Texas, 7:30pm: The two South Division rivals will face-off in the final game on Thursday night. Amarillo comes into the Robertson Cup with the league’s best record, finishing the year with 99 points and the South division championship. After knocking off Odessa in the first round of the playoffs, Amarillo beat Topeka to advance to the Robertson Cup. Texas has been off for almost three weeks after being swept by Topeka in the South Semi-Finals, 3-0. Texas and Amarillo met eight times in the regular season, during which the Tornado posted a 3-4-1 record. In their most recent weekend series, however, the Tornado completed a road sweep of the Bulls with a 7-3 victory on March 9th and a 2-0 shutout win the following day. This match-up features two of the better offensive players in the league in Texas’ Jack Prince and Amarillo’s Brooks Behling, both members of the All-South Division Team.
Watch all the games live on FASTHockey
Following the games on the Day 1 scoreboard