NA3HL Silver Cup Playoff Preview
March 17, 2016
The NA3HL Silver Cup Playoffs begin this weekend. After 47 regular season games, which began back in September, the field has been narrowed down to 24 teams remaining in the hunt for the Silver Cup.
The teams will face off this weekend in the Divisional Semi-Final Round. As a refresher, the Club seeded first in each division will compete in a best-of-three series with the fourth seeded Club in the same division. The Club seeded second in each division will compete in a best-of-three-series against the Club seeded third in the same division. The #1 and #2 seeds will have home ice advantage in the first round. The higher seed shall have the right to host two of the three games. The first club to win two games in a division semifinal series will be declared the winner of the series and advance to the next round of playoff competition, which will be the Division Finals next weekend.
As another reminder, the overtime rules change for the playoffs. If teams are tied after regulation, they will play as many 20-minute overtimes as needed until a sudden death goal is scored.
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#4 Rochester Ice Hawks vs. #1 North Iowa Bulls – The Bulls have the comfort of knowing that thanks to the playoff format with two wild-card teams getting into the Silver Cup in addition to the divisional playoff champions, that all they need to do to secure their spot at the Silver Cup is win their series against Rochester. North Iowa had the best record in the league and set an all-time record for shutouts in a season. They were 6-0 against the Ice Hawks this season, outscoring them 52-6.
#3 Wisconsin Whalers vs. #2 La Crosse Freeze – This series has the makings of a really good one. La Crosse is going to have to put the clamps on Wisconsin forward Peter Henderson, who finished 2nd in league scoring with 98 points. Each team won four of the eight games played against one another, with La Crosse winning the last two, including a 5-2 win on March 6th. The Whalers finished two points behind the Freeze in the standings.
#4 Wooster Oilers vs. #1 Metro Jets – With the 2nd best record in the league, the Jets, like the North Iowa Bulls, know because of the format that if they manage to win their series against Wooster, they will be in the Silver Cup Tournament. The Jets won eight of their last nine games and had six wins in eight games against the Oilers this season, which included a weekend sweep last weekend. For the Oilers to have a chance, they will need to keep the score low and shut down Metro’s high-powered offense.
#3 West Michigan Wolves vs. #2 Toledo Cherokee – Toledo finished the season on a roll, winning their last five games and seven of their last eight. Toledo held a 5-3 edge in the season series, but six of the eight games were played in 2015. West Mcihigan won the last match-up back on February 13th by a 2-1 score. The Wolves finished the season on a high note, winning 12 of their last 15 games.
#4 Gillette Wild vs. #1 Yellowstone Quake – It is the battle of Wyoming as the Wild, who made the playoffs on the final day of the regular season, will face the champs from Yellowstone. The Wild won their last four games and seven of their last nine to get into the playoffs by two points, while the Quake won the division by three points. The season series was a close one, with each team winning three games. The Quake have won the last two match-ups.
#3 Bozeman Icedogs vs. #2 Great Falls Americans – For the first time in 10 years, the Icedogs are back in the playoffs and will face the Americans, who represented the Frontier Division at last year’s Silver Cup. In this battle of teams from Montana, the Americans enter the weekend on a hot streak, winners of eight of their last nine games. However, the season series was even between the two teams, with each club winning three of the six games. This is shaping up to be a great series as all six games during the regular season were decided by a goal. Bozeman enters the weekend winners of seven of their last 10 outings. Goaltending could be key in the series.
#4 Cincinnati Thunder vs. #1 St. Louis Jr. Blues – The Jr. Blues had the division wrapped up a while ago and the Thunder have know they were playoff bound for a while too, so now the real action begins. The Thunder are going to have to do what they haven’t done all season long, which is beat St. Louis as the Jr. Blues won all eight games. However, all eight games were played on of before January 10th and two were decided in overtime. The Thunder will have to find a way to keep the game low-scoring.
#3 Nashville Jr. Predators vs. #2 Peoria Mustangs – Thanks to a win on the final day of the regular season, the Mustangs secured the #2 seed in the division. Peoria went 5-0-1 in their last six games and have been helped by the emergence of forward Anthony Iacullo. The Jr. Predators have to try and take Game 1 in Nashville on Thursday as it will be their only home game of the series. Nashville was dominant in the season series, winning six of the eight games played, including three of the four games in Peoria.
#4 Sugar Land Imperials vs. #1 Point Mallard Ducks – Because of the significant travel distance between the two clubs, all three games will be played in Point Mallard. The Ducks narrowly won the South Division thanks to owning the tie-breaker against Texas. Point Mallard was one of the hottest teams down the stretch, winning 15 of their last 17 games. The Ducks only played the Imperials four times during the regular season and won all four games by a combined 23-9 score.
#3 Atlanta Capitals vs. #2 Texas Jr. Brahmas – Like the other South series, because of travel distance, all three games of the series will be played in Texas. The two teams finished one point from one another in the regular season standings and it could shape up to be on the best first round series in the NA3HL. Defenses need to be on high alert as the two clubs were two of the top scoring teams in the NA3HL during the regular season. Atlanta won three of the four games during the regular season, which included two that went to either OT or a shootout.
#4 Alexandria Blizzard vs. #1 Granite City Lumberjacks – The Blizzard and the Lumberjacks meet yet again in the playoffs, which amazingly will be the fourth straight season they have done so. Granite City finished the season on a 9-1-2 run on their way to the West title. They are also the defending NA3HL Silver Cup Champions. The Blizzard won their last three games of the regular season and gave the Lumberjacks some tough games during the regular season, but Granite City won six of the eight games. The teams split a home-and-home series back on February 26-27.
#3 Breezy Point North Stars vs. #2 Twin City Steel – The Steel were in the mix for the division title until the final couple days of the regular season and if their offense is clicking, they have a chance to go a long way in the playoffs. After a tough stretch of hockey in January and February, the North Stars won three of their last four games. Twin City won five of the eight games played between the two teams during the regular season.