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NA3HL Silver Cup Division Semi-Finals recap

March 22, 2016
The opening round of the 2016 NA3HL Silver Cup Playoffs is in the books and it was an exciting weekend that for the most part, went true to form with a few upsets sprinkled in.
We will review division by division, but as a reminder, the winner’s of the six NA3HL Division Finals set for this upcoming weekend all qualify for the NA3HL Silver Cup Championship Tournament, which will be held from March 30-April 3 at Canlan Ice Sports in Romeoville, Illinois.
Division Finals: The two Clubs in each division that won a division semifinal series shall compete in a best-of-three series against each other in the division finals. The higher seed shall have the right to host games one and three. The lower seed shall have the right to host game two. Teams may agree to an alternate arrangement upon mutual agreement. The Division Finals may begin no earlier than Thursday, March 24, 2016 and conclude no later than Sunday, March 27, 2016. The first Club to win two games in a division final series will be declared the winner of the series and advance to the Silver Cup Championship Tournament.
Silver Cup Wildcard: At the conclusion of the Division Finals, the six teams that lost Division Final series shall be ranked from 1-6 based on their regular season point totals. The regular season tiebreaking procedures will be used if necessary. The two top ranked teams shall be declared the Silver Cup Wild Card teams and shall advance onto the Silver Cup Championship Tournament as the seventh and eighth seeds, respectively.
Central Division
#1 North Iowa Bulls vs. #4 Rochester Ice Hawks (North Iowa wins series, 2-0)
The #1 North Iowa Bulls rolled to a sweep of their series against the #4 seeded Rochester Ice Hawks. The Bulls outscored the Ice Hawks 22-4 in the series. Because North Iowa is the #1 overall seed in the playoffs, they have automatically qualified as one of the eight teams for the Silver Cup. If they win the Central Finals they will be in and if they lose the Central Finals they also qualify based on the fact they will be guaranteed to have one of the best two regular season records of division finalists that did not win.
#2 La Crosse Freeze vs. #3 Wisconsin Whalers (La Crosse wins series, 2-0)
The high-powered Whalers offense got shut down, scoring just three goals in the two games as the Chill rolled to the weekend sweep with wins of 3-2 and 5-1. Freeze goalie Will Graves was the star of the series, stopping 59 of 62 shots faced. The Freeze held Wisconsin leading scorer Peter Henderson, who had 98 points during the regular season, without a point in the series.
East Division
#1 Metro Jets vs. #4 Wooster Oilers (Metro wins series, 2-0)
Thanks to 22 goals in two games, the Jets offense dominated in their sweep of the Wooster Oilers by scores of 10-5 and 12-0. Like North Iowa, the win guaranteed the Jets a spot in the Silver Cup Tournament. Because Metro is the #2 overall seed in the playoffs, they have automatically qualified as one of the eight teams for the Silver Cup. If they win the East Finals they will be in and if they lose the East Finals they also qualify based on the fact they will be guaranteed to have one of the best two regular season records of division finalists that did not win.
#2 Toledo Cherokee vs. #3 West Michigan Wolves (West Michigan wins series, 2-0)
As opening round upsets go, this one was the biggest of the two that occurred. The Wolves, who finished eight points back of Toledo in the regular season standings, put on a dominant performance in the series, sweeping the Cherokee and holding them to three goals in the two games. Wolves goalie Samuel Woznicki was the star of the series, making 77 saves on 80 shots in the two wins of 4-1 and 5-2.
Frontier Division
#1 Yellowstone Quake vs. #4 Gillette Wild (Yellowstone wins series, 2-1)
As far as excitement for the opening round series in the NA3HL playoffs, this one took the cake and had a little bit of everything. It had scoring, it had overtime drama, it had wins on the road and the Wild gave the regular season champion Quake all they had. After taking Game 1 in overtime, Gillette was ripe for the upset, but the Quake won Game 2 6-4 in Gillette and then got an overtime-winner from Reed Kelly in Game 3 to advance.
#2 Great Falls Americans vs. #3 Bozeman Icedogs (Great Falls wins series, 2-0)
Despite the sweep, this series was close and featured some great defense and goaltending. The Americans walked away with two 2-1 wins, but it wasn’t easy. Both goalies shined in the series with Icedogs goalie Stephen Frank stopping 83 of 87 shots that came his way, while Americans goalie Jake Stephan playing out of his mind stopping 64 of 66 total shots. Josh Larson and Ricards Bernhards ended up with the game-winning goals in the series.
Midwest Division
#1 St. Louis Jr. Blues vs. #4 Cincinnati Thunder (St. Louis wins series, 2-0)
After a 4-0 shutout in Game 1, the Jr. Blues were tested in Game 2 as the Thunder took them to overtime. However, Ezekiel Estrada notched his 4th point of the series in the form of the overtime-winning goal to send the Jr. Blues to the division finals. The Jr. Blues have the 3rd best overall regular season record behind North Iowa and Metro, which means a win by either North Iowa or Metro in their respective series puts the Jr. Blues in the wildcard slot, should they happen to lose in the Midwest finals to Nashville.
#2 Peoria Mustangs vs. #3 Nashville Jr. Predators (Nashville wins series, 2-0)
The fact that Nashville finished just one win and two points back of Peoria in the standings makes their sweep of the Mustangs hardly an upset. However, what was surprising was that a Peoria team who managed almost five goals per game during the regular season, was limited to just one goal in the series by the Jr. Predators thanks to wins of 4-1 and 1-0. Nashville is riding the goaltending duo of Ricky Gonzalez and Nicholas Ottembacher, who are both playing well and keeping themselves fresh for a long playoff run. Nashville forward Trent Kulczyk picked up points in both wins.
South Division
#1 Point Mallard Ducks vs. #4 Sugar Land Imperials (Point Mallard wins series, 2-1)
Thanks to a 3-2 win in Game 1, the Imperials gave the Ducks all they could handle in the series, but after a 4-2 loss in Game 2, Sugar Land had nothing left in the tank for Game 3 and the Ducks walked away with a 10-1 and the series. Sugar Land goalie Kevin Mackey was brilliant in Games 1 and 2, stopping 110 of 116 shots. Point Mallard was led by Jake Cox, who had six points, including five goals in the series.
#2 Texas Jr. Brahmas vs. #3 Atlanta Capitals (Texas wins series, 2-1)
After the Capitals claimed a Game 1 win in Texas, the Jr. Brahmas rallied for two straight wins to claim the series and advance. Texas defenseman Nick Nitta and forward Ryan Dunner each lead the team with five points in the series, while forward Bryan Whelan had three goals. Moving forward, the Brahmas will have a decision to make in goal as Brandon Perrone started Game 1 and lost, but Tyler Myers picked up the wins in Games 2 and 3. Atlanta was led by Ross Bartlett, who had three goals in the series.
West Division
#1 Granite City Lumberjacks vs. #4 Alexandria Blizzard (Granite City wins series, 2-1)
For the 4th straight year, the Lumberjacks and Blizzard met in the playoffs and Granite City continued their post-season success against the Blizzard with another series win. After each team picked up a 3-1 win in Games 1 and 2, the defending champs erupted for seven goals in Game 3 in a 7-4 win. Tanner Skaja led the way for the defending Silver Cup Champions as the forward recorded five points in the three games. Logan Nelson had two goals in the series for Alexandria.
#2 Twin City Steel vs. #3 Breezy Point North Stars (Twin City wins series, 2-1)
After 4-3 games in Games 1 and 2, which saw each club win a game, the Steel ran away with Game 3 by a 6-2 score. Game 3 was tied at 2-2 before the Steel rattled off four straight goals to win the game and the series. Yannick Zehnder had a hat-trick in the final game and six points overall in the series. Jay Paul also had three goals and the game-winner in Game 1. The North Stars were led by Jake Tomkowiak and Josh Laven, who each had four points in the series.
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