2017 NA3HL Silver Cup Championships gets underway
March 29, 2017
Eye on the Prize: 8 teams enter the weekend hoping to become 2017 NA3HL Silver Cup Champions.
When looking up and down the Silver Cup list of 8 teams, one thing is for sure… it is anyone’s tournament. For a variety of reasons, there may not be one clear favorite to win the whole thing and history has taught us that anything can and will happen at the Silver Cup.
Wednesday’s action opens the 2017 NA3HL Silver Cup Championship at Canlan Ice Sports in Romeoville, Illinois. Four of the eight teams have won a Silver Cup Championship heading into the event (Granite City Lumberjacks, Metro Jets, North Iowa Bulls and St. Louis Jr. Blues).
In Pool A, the action gets started with the #1 Metro Jets facing the #8 Granite City Lumberjacks and the #4 St. Louis Jr. Blues taking on the #5 Atlanta Capitals.
In Pool B, the #2 Binghamton Junior Senators take on the #7 Long Beach Sharks, while the #3 Yellowstone Quake face-off against the #6 North Iowa Bulls.
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Here is a look at each team:
#1 Metro Jets: The Jets road in the East Division playoffs to the Silver Cup was anything but easy. After setting all kinds of records and becoming the first-ever NA3HL team to finish the regular season with an undefeated record of 47-0, the Jets were pushed to the limit in both of their playoff series, playing in the maximum six games. They have faced elimination four times this post-season and all four times they have responded. The usual suspects have come through for Jets in the playoffs, including forwards Louis Boudon, Connor Inger and Mathias Tellstrom, along with defensemen Robby Flannery and Stefan Boskovic. In goal, the Jets may have the best tandem in the league with Andrew Kormos and Jake Gwillim.
#2 Binghamton Junior Senators: If it weren’t for the Metro Jets 47-0 record during the regular season, everyone would have talked about the 45-1-1 record that the Binghamton Junior Senators put together. Perhaps the most telling stat of the Junior Sens season is their power play. During the regular season, Binghamton’s power play operated at an astounding 70.7% rate, which was 36% better than the next best NA3HL team. That startling statistic has only gotten better in the playoffs at 72.7%, where they have cruised to four straight wins. The Junior Sens are loaded in offense with the likes of Conor Landrigan, Jeremy Wilber, Dominik Bogdziul and Ryan Flanagan and Sal Lauretta is one of the league’s best goalies.
#3 Yellowstone Quake: For the second straight season, the Yellowstone Quake are in the Silver Cup Championship. The Quake had just four losses in regulation during the regular season and won four of their five playoff games, dispatching of the Great Falls Americans in Game 3 of the Frontier Finals in overtime. Success for the Quake is a team effort, but it has all started in goal with netminder Nick Ottenbacher. After that, the Quake have legitimate offensive threats in players like Max Doner, Jesse Lawman, Max Meyer, Pablo Pantoja and defensemen Hunter Ruschmeyer and Matt Runyon. The Quake are an experienced team and one capable of winning the Silver Cup. They operate great special teams with one of the league’s best power plays and penalty kills in the playoffs.
#4 St. Louis Jr. Blues: The Midwest Division regular season and playoff champions will go as far as their skilled offense and goaltending will take them. During the regular season, the Jr. Blues tied for the top offense in the NA3HL (along with Binghamton). They are also one of four teams in the event who have previously won a Silver Cup (Metro, North Iowa and Granite City being the others). While Nick Balestra has picked up in the playoffs where he left off during the regular season in leading the Jr. Blues offensive attack, the team will need more output in the Silver Cup from the likes of Jack Hatton, Ivan Galaguzov, Alex Werdmuller and Brandon Bornkamp. Joe Nolan is one of the league’s top defensemen. However, the Jr. Blues success may rely on a hot goalie, be it Sawyer Schmidt or Hunter Smith, to get them through the round-robin.
#5 Atlanta Capitals: As the lone team in the Silver Cup not to win their division during the regular season, the Atlanta Capitals may be the event’s biggest secret and anomaly. The Capitals are the perfect case of a team getting hot at the right time. Including the regular season, the Caps have won 15 straight games and swept their way into the Silver Cup Championship, outscoring their opponents 26-9 in the four wins. Particular attention needs to be paid for forward Sascha Figi, who is one of the league’s best scorers. Boomer Miller, Jesse Brown and Ivan Mikhailov also are big contributors on offense. If the Caps get contributions from the blueline from Tristen Poliseno, Michael Klintworth and others, they could be headed to the Semi-Finals. Both goalies, Nolan Bivolcic and Wyatt Monear, are capable of backstopping the Caps to Silver Cup success.
#6 North Iowa Bulls: One would think as the #6 seed heading into the event that the North Iowa Bulls are an ‘underdog.’ However, that may be the furthest from the truth for the Bulls, who are the defending NA3HL Silver Cup Champions and back to defend their title. The Bulls successfully defended their Silver Cup title back in 2014 and are looking for their 4th Silver Cup in the last five years. Only a win in 2015 by Granite City put a break in the Bulls streak of Championship titles. The Bulls won all four playoff games on their way to winning the Central Division playoff title and have done it with balanced scoring up and down the roster. A total of 11 players have scored at least a goal in the playoffs, which includes production from regulars like Connor Clemons, Tyler Bump, Marshall Barnes and Braxton Collins. Also keep an eye out for forward Sean Mallonnee, who is one the league’s most dynamic offensive players. However, the Bulls run to another cup may hinge on goalie Drew Scites, who has been terrific in the playoffs.
#7 Long Beach Sharks: Perhaps the other team besides Atlanta full of mystery and intrigue are the Coastal Division Champion Long Beach Sharks. The Sharks edged out New England by a goal in Game 3 of the Division Finals to make it to the Silver Cup. Simple statistics state that the Sharks success revolves around a core group of three players, who have put up eye-popping numbers. Up front, no tandem in NA3HL history has had more success than forwards Martins Vitolins and Oskar Lindberg. During the regular season, they combined for 312 points. Vitolins put up 163 points, shattering the NA3HL record for points in a season and Lindberg was right behind him with 149 points. Both had over 50 goals as well. The Sharks also have defenseman Ricky Regala, who was 2nd in the NA3HL among all defensemen with 61 points this season. In goals, the Sharks will need Kyle Van Wagner to make key stops at key times to give the high-powered offense and chance to be successful. No goalie played in more NA3HL games this season than Van Wagner.
#8 Granite City Lumberjacks: After a year hiatus, the Lumberjacks are again champions of the West and back in the Silver Cup, looking for a third title. Granite City won the cup in 2012 and again in 2015. Even as the #8 seed, the Lumberjacks don’t feel much like underdogs, as they ran the table from start to finish this season in the always tough West Division. Success for Granite City starts in goal with veteran netminder Mac Berglove. He is a bend, but don’t break kind of goalie, who has seen plenty of minutes this season and put up a 92% save percentage. That has gotten even better in the playoffs as Berglove has posted two shutouts. Up front, success has been a team effort, which has been led in the post-season by Braden Altena. 12 different players have scored a goal in the post-season and if the Jacks get contributions from players like Brady Dahl, Ryan Smith, Owen Sikich and defenseman Casey Esselman, they could be on their way to a third Silver Cup title.