Things went pretty much according to the seeding in this past weekend’s division semi-final series of the 3HL playoffs, setting up what is sure to be an exciting divisional finals coming up this weekend as teams try to earn one of four spots in the 3HL Championship Tournament.
Here is the look at this past weekend’s series:
#4 Minnesota Flying Aces @ #1 Granite City Lumberjacks (Granite City wins series, 2-0)
The Flying Aces came to play and gave the Lumberjacks everything they had in Game’s 1 and 2. On Friday, Nick LaRue scored twice and Zac Sikich had three points as the Lumberjacks edged the Flying Aces, 5-4. Jarrett Pfeiffer scored twice for Minnesota in the loss. On Saturday, Peter Lindblad scored both Granite City goals, including the eventual game-winner in the 2nd period as the Lumberjacks won the series with another one goal win on Saturday, 2-1. Tyler Muehler made 22 saves in the loss, while Granite City’s Matt Grove made 23 save in the win to help the #1 seed Lumberjacks advance to the West Division finals, which they will host.
#3 Twin City Steel @ #2 North Iowa Bulls (North Iowa wins series, 2-0)
North Iowa advanced to the West finals with two convincing wins over Twin City on Friday and Saturday. On Friday, goalie Matt Bartels made 24 saves and four different players scored for the Bulls as they defeated the Steel, 4-2. Steve Heller led the way with a goal and assist. On Saturday, North Iowa scored four times in the 1st period to put the game out of reach early and forward Nick Marsh chipped in with two goals and an assist as the Bulls beat the Steel 6-2 to win the series and advance to the West Finals against Granite City.
#4 Pittsburgh Jr. Penguins @ #1 Flint Jr. Generals (Flint wins series, 2-0)
Flint dominated Game 1 of the series, outshooting the Jr. Penguins 40-16 and ultimately ended up with a 6-1 win. After Bryan Hovanec scored early for Pittsburgh, it was all Flint the rest of the way as Cody Damon recorded a hat-trick (all the goals coming in the 2nd period) and Derek Compeau chimed in with three points as the Jr. Generals scored four goals in the 2nd period and two more in the 3rd period to take Game 1. Game 2 was much closer and featured some outstanding goaltending from Pittsburgh’s Tyler Stepke (45 saves) and Flint’s Ben Myers (39 saves). After Reed Gregory gave Pittsburgh the lead, Warren Carter answered back in the 3rd period to force overtime. In the OT, Richard Jansson was the hero, as he scored to send Flint to the East Division finals, which they will host.
#3 Metro Jets @ Cleveland Jr. Lumberjacks (Cleveland wins series, 2-1)
In one of the few series to go the full three games, Cleveland proved to be too much in Game 3 as they won to advance to face the Flint Jr. Generals in the East Division finals. Game 1 was the Alex Larson show as the Jacks netminder made 39 saves in a 2-1 win over the Jets. In Game 2, Metro was paced by three points from Chris Hellebuyck and Steve Klisz in a 5-2 win. In the decisive Game 3, it was Lawrence Dvorak Jr.’s turn, as he made 43 saves in a 5-2 Cleveland win. Louis Sawchik, Cameron Dimmitt, Kyle Fink and David Fassbender each had a goal and an assist in the win as the Lumberjacks jumped out to a 3-0 lead and never look back on their way to the East Finals.
#4 Battle Creek Jr. Revolution @ #1 Toledo Cherokee (Toledo wins series, 2-0)
Beating the North Division leaders proved to be too tall of an order for the Revolution, who behind goaltender Matt Hughes made a valiant effort, but ultimately were swept by the Cherokee. James Steele and Ryan Kelly paced the Toledo offense in Game 1, which turned out to be a 6-1 win for the Cherokee as they outshot Battle Creek, 61-21. James Romberger scored the lone Battle Creek goal, while Lukas Gavalier made 20 saves for the Cherokee. In Game 2 it was another large shot disparity heavily favoring Toledo, 54-18, but thanks to Hughes, Battle Creek hung close in the game. Romberger again scored the only goal for the Revolution. Marek Kepals had a goal and an assist to pace the Cherokee to the sweep and spot in the North finals, which the Cherokee will host beginning Friday.
#3 Michigan Mountain Cats @ #2 Queen City Steam (Queen City wins series, 2-0)
In what was expected to be one of the more competitive of the division semi-final series, the Steam erased all doubt of earning their spot in the division finals with a convincing two-game sweep of the Mountain Cats. On Friday, the Steam jumped out to a 5-1 lead and never looked back as they defeated Michigan, 5-3. Eric Woodward, Trevor Voelker and Lucas McCammant all had three point games in the win. The next night, Queen City erupted for seven goals, including four goals in the 3rd period to break the game wide open in a 7-2 win. Zachary Newman had a hat-trick for the Steam and Tyler Schofield scored both goals in the losing effort for Michigan. The Steam now advance to the North Finals where they will travel to Toledo to face the Cherokee, in a series that features two teams from Ohio.
#4 Quad City Jr. Flames @ #1 St. Louis Jr. Blues (St. Louis wins series, 2-1)
The Jr. Flames have the Jr. Blues all they could handle in the Central Semi-Finals, pushing them to a third and decisive game, but in the end a 2-1 win in Game 3 was the difference as St. Louis advanced to the division finals. St. Louis won 3-1 on Friday thanks to two goals from Robert Hintz and 20 saves from Mitch Fernsler. Mike Meadows made 46 saves in the loss. On Saturday, Quad City scored three times in the 2nd period and got 45 saves from Tanner Jones to edge the Jr. Blues, 4-3 forcing a third game. In the third game on Sunday, Meadows made an astounding 56 saves, but a late goal from Johnny Mueller was the difference as St. Louis edged Quad City 2-1 to move onto host the Central Division Finals beginning this weekend.
#3 Peoria Mustangs @ #2 Chicago Hitmen (Peoria wins series, 2-0)
The Mustangs were the only lower-seeded team in the division semi-finals series to pull out a series win over their opponent and they did it in convincing fashion, sweeping the #2 seed Chicago Hitmen in Chicago. On Friday, Peoria crushed the Hitmen 5-1 thanks to two goals and an assist from Michael Mikulan. Nathan Chasteen also had three points and Michael Parda made 31 saves in the win. The next night, Mikulan and Chasteen burned the Hitmen again, as Mikulan recorded a hat-trick and Chasteen put up four points as the Mustangs completed the series sweep with a 6-4 win over the home side. The series win sets up the three hour trip down I-55 as the Mustangs travel to play St. Louis in the Central Division Finals.