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NAHL Weekend Preview

April 19, 2024

The Robertson Cup division semifinals begin tonight as 16 teams remain in contention for the NAHL’s greatest prize.

Another handful of players made NCAA plans which brings the total number of commitments to 256 with 225 of them being of the Division I variety.

Let’s take a look at whats on tap this weekend…

In the Central, the top seeded Minot Minotauros take on the Austin Bruins with the series beginning in Minot tonight. The Tauros took the season series 9-3 over Austin as the Robertson Cup runner-up from a year ago looks to make it back to the final game of the season. Jack O’Hanisain and Joel Lehtinen led the offensive attack this season for the Minotauros with 61 and 51 points respectively. Austin Salani, Dylan Cook and Ocean Wallace are the top point getters from the Bruins and all played key roles in their Robertson Cup run a year ago.

In the other Central Division semifinal, Aberdeen will come into Bismarck to take on the Bobcats. The Cats owned the season series 10-2 and will look to continue their strong play against the Wings. Tommy Cronin, Evan Hunter and Julian Beaumont all registered over 50 points for Bismarck this season and will be the main catalysts for the Bobcats offense. The Wings will look to counter with their top performers Leonid Bulgakov, Logan Gravnik and Riley Sharun. They all had over 40 points during the regular season.

In the East Division, the top seeded Maryland Black Bears begin their playoff run against the New Jersey Titans. The Titans already have a pair of postseason games under their belt as they swept the Johnstown Tomahawks in the division play-in series. Dimitry Kebreau led the Black Bears with 52 regular season points while Jeremy Tremblay found the back of the net 22 times. Playoff veterans Jesse Horace, Kareem El Bashir and Samuel Stitz are all yearning to get back to the Robertson Cup for the second consecutive year. New Jersey is led by one of the leading scorers in the league as Dominik Bartecko takes his 83 points into their second round playoff series. Dominick Rivelli netted 31 goals in the regular season and chipped in three points in the two games against the Tomahawks. The teams split the season series 4-4.

Moving over to the series between Rochester and Maine, These teams also split their season series 4-4. Maine has been waiting for their opponent while Rochester swept Northeast last week in their play-in series. Charles Tardif, Jake Bernadet and Kellen Murphy each had over 50 to lead the offensive onslaught for Maine. The Jr. Americans may have even more firepower on their side of the ice as Matteo Disipio and Massimo Gentile had 81 and 75 points respectively in the regular season. Luca Leighton also put up 60 points for Rochester.

In the Midwest, the first place Anchorage Wolverines host the Minnesota Wilderness this weekend. Despite being the four seed in the division, the Wilderness won the season series 4-2 and have played well in their trips to Alaska. Peteris Purmalis led the team with 45 points while Daniel Astapovich had 40 and Nick Blood ended the year with 38. The Wolverines finished the year with a 6-1-3 record to give them the top seed in the division. Fyodor Nikolayenya and Bryce Monrean had over 60 points while Oliver Salo and Cole Christian each topped the 50 point plateau.

The Jets and the Windigo hook up in the battle of Wisconsin. The Windigo have owned the season series, winning seven of the 10 head to head meetings. Max Martin not only leads Wisconsin in goals and points but he is also the league leader in each of those categories. It’s not just him though that the Jets need to be on the lookout for. Tyler Grahme, Will Schumacher, Jacob Jastrzębski and Everett Pietila all had over 50 points during the regular season. For the Jets, they will rely on Haden Kruse, Conner Brown and Nick Sajevic offensively. Brown led all NAHL defenseman in points this season with 67.

Finally we check out the South Division, the number one overall seed Lone Star Brahmas get back on the ice to take on the New Mexico Ice Wolves. The Brahmas haven’t played in three weeks due to have a bye week during the last week of the regular season in the South Division and because they got to bypass the play-in series as the top seed. They come in with four different 20 goal scorers in Ivan Zadvernyuk, Brock James, Justin Kerr and Jacob MacDonald. The Ice Wolves are coming off a sweep of Amarillo in the play-in series and are led by Yusaku Ando and Graham Harris. Ando led the way with 62 points with Harris right behind him with 59. Ryan Johnson and Michael Schermerhorn each had over 50 points as well for the Ice Wolves.

Then in the other series we’re got El Paso taking on Shreveport. The Mudbugs won the season series 3-1 as the clubs split the last series of the regular season in Shreveport just two weeks ago. Ryan Burke and Hayden Nichol are the top Bugs as they each had over 20 goals on the year. Tory Lund, Frank Tafelski and Medrick Bolduc all reached the 20 goal mark for the Rhinos. Shreveport has the experience advantage as they’ve been in the playoffs every year that the Robertson Cup playoffs have been held in their existence while El Paso is making their first trip to the postseason. The Rhino got a small taste of playoff hockey last weekend as they came back to win the play-in series two games to one over the Oklahoma Warriors. Surviving an overtime thriller in Game 2 and winning the winner-take-all Game 3 the following evening.

We’re guaranteed to have a new champion in 2024 after the Warriors were bounced last weekend. Only six of the remaining 16 teams have ever won a Robertson Cup. (New Jersey - 2022, Shreveport - 2021& 2018, Aberdeen - 2019, Lone Star - 2017, Minnesota - 2015 and Bismarck - 2010) We are just four weeks away from the final four arriving in Blaine for the Robertson Cup championship!

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