The Fairbanks Ice Dogs, Mahoning Valley Phantoms and Topeka RoadRunners all skated to wins in their respective best-of-five Robertson Cup Playoffs divisional finals series on Thursday night.
In the North Division, goaltender Jordan Tibbett stopped all 32 shots as the Phantoms took a 2-games-to-1 series lead over the U.S. National Team with a 4-0 victory.
NAHL Rookie of the Year Brandon Saad, who returned to the lineup after missing five weeks with an injury, connected for two goals, including the game-winner, and an assist in the win, and Carl Nielsen added two assists.
“It feels great (to be back in the lineup),” said Saad. “I was skating pretty well out there and I knew I had the support of my teammates and that made my playoff debut a lot easier.”
Tibbett improved to 4-2 in the postseason.
“We’re all feeling really good right now,” said the netminder. “We’ve got a lot of confidence heading into Game 4. We know that with the way we played tonight, there’s no excuse to not come out flying (on Friday).”
Steve Schafer’s goal in the second overtime lifted the RoadRunners to a 1-0 win over the St. Louis Bandits in Game 3 the South finals. Goaltender Bryce Merriam made all 33 saves for Topeka, which now trails the series 2 games to 1.
The Ice Dogs won Game 3 of their West Division series over the Wenatchee Wild, 5-3. Five different players scored for Fairbanks, and Michael Juola chipped in two assists. In goal, Joe Phillippi stopped 40 shots. Wenatchee leads the series, 2 games to 1.
The winners of each of the four divisional finals series, along with the host North Iowa Outlaws, will advance to the Robertson Cup Championship Tournament, which will be held April 28-May 3 at the North Iowa Ice Arena in Mason City, Iowa.
The Robertson Cup crowns the NAHL’s playoff champion, which also represents USA Hockey’s Tier II Junior A national champion.
For more information on the Robertson Cup Championship Tournament, visit RobertsonCup.com.