2016 NA3HL Silver Cup: How they got here
March 29, 2016
This week’s Silver Cup Championship concludes what has been a memorable season for the NA3HL. It seems hard to believe that just over six years ago, the NA3HL took formation and in a very short period of time has become the premier USA Hockey Tier III junior league, leading the way in advancement and development of its players, both on and off the ice.
This weekend will be a true test of the best of the best that the NA3HL has to offer. Five of the six teams who won their division during the regular season will be represented at this week’s Silver Cup. All eight teams won at least 30 games or more during the regular season and three of the eight teams (North Iowa, Metro and Great Falls) are making a return trip to the event, having played in the Silver Cup in 2015.
While we will preview the NA3HL Silver Cup on Wednesday before the games begin, let’s take a look back at how the eight teams qualified for the event:
#1 North Iowa Bulls: North Iowa qualified as the Central Division playoff champion thanks to their weekend sweep of the La Crosse Freeze. North Iowa has dominated the competition this season and is one of the favorites heading into the event. With five players from the current roster committed to NCAA schools, the Bulls are talented and deep. They have two all-league goaltenders who helped combine for 13 shutouts this season and they have the league’s top scorer in Brett Gravelle. What can stop them? As proven in last year’s Silver Cup Final, all it takes is one game and by the time the Semi-Finals and Finals roll around, it is a winner take all.
#2 Metro Jets: Just as hot as the Bulls coming into the Silver Cup are the East Champion Metro Jets, who cruised through the first two rounds of the playoffs. Like North Iowa, Metro has a potent offense with several lines that can score, including high-scoring forwards Kevin Shand and Mathias Tellstrom. Shand leads the Silver Cup playoffs in scoring entering the event with 11 points. They also have veteran Kam Limburg in goal and the experience of having played in the event last year.
#3 St. Louis Jr. Blues: The Jr. Blues were pushed to the three-game limit in the Midwest Division Finals by Nashville, but came through with a shutout in the final Game 3 to advance back to the Silver Cup. No one has won more Silver Cup (Hurster Cup) Championships than St. Louis with eight, with the last one coming in 2010. Players to keep an eye on include forward Ezekiel Stradad and goaltender Jacob Weatherly, who joined the Jr. Blues late in the season after playing all season in the NAHL with Amarillo. Defenseman Joe Nolan is one of the league’s best blue liners.
#4 Point Mallard Ducks: The Ducks swept their way through the South Finals against Texas and did it with defense, allowing just two goals in the two games. Goaltender Cooper Seedot is one of the league’s best and will be called upon to try and get the Ducks one of the two spots in the division to advance to the Semi-Finals. Forward Jake Cox is tied for 2nd in playoff scoring with 10 points. Forward Justin Clark has four goals in the playoffs, including two game-winners.
#5 Great Falls Americans: The Americans are one of three teams at the Silver Cup that did not win their division during the regular season, but played well when it counted and qualified with a Frontier Division Finals sweep of the Yellowstone Quake. The Americans also have the benefit of playing in the event last year and hope to use that experience this time around. The Americans will likely look to Jake Stephan in goal, who has been lights out in the playoffs, allowing seven goals in four wins. Forwards Josh Larson and Tanner Congdon lead the way with six points each.
#6 Twin City Steel: Thanks to the Steel knocking off the Granite City Lumberjacks in two straight games in the West Finals, they guaranteed there will be a new champion this season. The Steel were pushed pretty hard in the Semi-Finals by Breezy Point, but tightened things up in the Finals, allowing just four goals in the two wins. The key to the Steel’s success to this point has been balance with seven players having scored two or more goals in the five games and also the play of goaltender Nathan Siclovan, who was very good in the series against Granite City.
#7 Texas Jr. Brahmas: The Brahmas were swept in the South Finals by Point Mallard, but qualified thanks to being one of the two wild card teams with the best regular season record. They had the same record and points as Yellowstone, but a better goal differential and thus earning the #7 seed. When the Brahmas are playing at the top of their game, they are very good and should be considered a threat to advance as one of the two teams out of their pool. They have the best penalty kill in the league, take the fewest penalties, allowed the 2nd least amount of goals and have a top 6 ranked offense and power play.
#8 Yellowstone Quake: The Quake are a top 10 team in both offense and defense and were the Frontier Division regular season Champions. Their loss in the Frontier Finals was not only due to playing a red-hot Great Falls team, but the Quake had a very long and dramatic series in the Semi-Finals against Gillette. The Quake had the same record as Texas coming into the event, but their goal differential was not as good, thus earning the #8 seed. The Quake will have to come to play early as the opening game is against North Iowa. Jake Dickison and Reed Kelly can put the puck in the net, but the Quake will also have to decide who starts in goal.