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Three teams jump out to 2-0 leads

April 6, 2009
by By Brian McDonough | NAHL.com

With two wins over the Wildcats last weekend, the RoadRunners will head to Wichita Falls for Game 3 on Friday night.

Three teams have jumped out to 2-0 series leads in the best-of-five divisional semifinals of the Robertson Cup Playoffs, including the Owatonna Express, who won Games 1 and 2 on the road over the North Iowa Outlaws in their Central Division series last weekend.

“Both games were very close and could have gone either way,” said Express head coach Pat Cullen.  “Our special teams have been a big factor for us up to this point.”

Chris Darnell
’s power-play goal in the second overtime – his second of the game – lifted the Express, the No. 3 seed in the division, to a 7-6 victory over the No. 2-seeded Outlaws on Friday.  Chris Bournazos added three assists for Owatonna, and goaltender Fredrik Bergman turned aside 44 shots.

The next night, Air Force recruit Stephen Carew struck for a shorthanded goal and an assist and Darnell again notched the game-winning marker with the man-advantage as the Express skated to a 4-1 triumph.  Bergman made 38 saves.

“We put ourselves in this situation and it’s up to us to get out of it,” said Outlaws assistant coach Garrett Strot. “There were some things we did right last weekend, but we just didn’t do enough of them and Owatonna took advantage and stole a pair on the road, which is inexcusable for us.”

Game 3 of the series is scheduled for Tuesday, April 7 in Faribault, Minn. (7 p.m. local time).

“Our focus for Game 3 is to continue to do what we’ve done to this point,” said Cullen.

In the West, the Fairbanks Ice Dogs, the division’s top seed, also took a commanding 2-0 series lead with a pair of wins over the Kenai River Brown Bears.

In Game 1 on Friday, Paul Kirtland (two goals), Jared Larson (two assists) and Michael Juola (two assists) each fashioned two-points nights at the Ice Dogs skated to a 4-1 victory.  Between the pipes, Joe Phillippi made 28 saves.

Nebraska-Omaha recruit Andrew McCabe (two goals, assist), Juola (two goals, assist) and Drew Darwitz (three assists) all put up three points in a 7-1 Game 2 win on Saturday.  Goaltender Phil Cook turned back 31 shots to pick up the win in net.

“Kenai had good scoring chances and we were very fortunate to get great goaltending from Joe and Phil,” said Ice Dogs head coach Josh Hauge.  “Although we only gave up two goals, I think we still need to tighten up defensively."

The series shifts to Kenai River for Game 3 on Friday, April 10 (7:30 p.m.).

“We’re going to need a solid road effort to go in there and get a win,” said Hauge.

Two wins over the No. 3-seeded Wichita Falls Wildcats has given the Topeka RoadRunners, the division’s No. 2 seed, a 2-0 lead in their South semis series.

Jordan George
, a Bemidji State University recruit, potted two goals, including the game-winner, and Andy Inderieden added a goal and an assist in Topeka’s 3-2 victory in Game 1 on Friday.  In goal, Bryce Merriam turned aside 12 shots.

In Game 2 the next night, Andrew Blazek connected for a pair of goals and Matt Hartmann and Steve Shafer each chipped in a goal and an assist as the RoadRunners doubled up the Wildcats, 6-3.  Merriam made 29 saves.

“Both games have been hard-fought,” said RoadRunners head coach Scott Langer.  “We’ve needed solid efforts to get both wins and will need the same type of efforts headed into this weekend. Anything can happen in a best-of-five series.”

Four series are knotted at 1-1, including both North Division semis pitting the No. 1-seeded U.S. National Team against the No. 4 Alpena IceDiggers and the No. 2-seeded Mahoning Valley Phantoms against the No. 3 Traverse City North Stars.

The Phantoms-North Stars series resumes on Thursday, April 9 in Traverse City (7:05 p.m.), while the USA-IceDiggers series continues in Alpena on Friday, April 10 (7 p.m.).

In the other Central semis, the No. 1-seeded Bismarck Bobcats and the No. 4 Alexandria Blizzard are also tied at 1-1.  That series moves to Alexandria for Game 3 on Friday, April 10 (7 p.m.).

In the West Division, the Alaska Avalanche and the Wenatchee Wild each won a game in their series last weekend, with Game 3 scheduled for Friday, April 10 in Wentachee (7:05 p.m.).

In the only series to play three games last weekend, the South Division champion St. Louis Bandits hold a 2-games-to-1 lead over the No. 4-seeded Springfield Jr. Blues.  Game 4 of that series is slated for Friday, April 10 in Springfield (7:30 p.m.).
 
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