The top two U.S. junior hockey leagues have different formats for the conclusions of their postseasons. Conference playoff champions advance to a best-of-five final in the USHL, which uses their home rinks.
The four division playoff champions from the NAHL come together in Blaine, Minnesota, for the Robertson Cup National Championship where two best-of-three series will determine the teams for a one-game championship.
USHL FINAL: The Clark Cup Final opens May 10 and could extend as late as May 21. The Sioux Falls Stampede will host the Chicago Steel Friday at 7:05 and Sunday at 5:05.
The series moves to the Fox Valley Ice Arena, the Steel’s home in Geneva, Illinois, for Game 3 March 17 and Game 4, if necessary, the next night. Both games are scheduled for 7:05. If a Game 5 is needed, it will be back in Sioux Falls at the Denny Sanford Premier Center, May 21 at 7:05.
NAHL CHAMPIONSHIP: The NAHL division championships are at the Fogerty Ice Arena in Blaine, Minnesota, May 10-14.
The four division champions are seeded based on their regular-season standings points. The top-seeded Johnstown Tomahawks from the East Division will play the fourth-seeded Fairbanks Ice Dogs while the Amarillo Bulls meet the Aberdeen Wings in the other best-of-three series.
The semifinal series are May 10 and 11 with Game 3, if necessary, May 12. The final is scheduled for May 14 at 7 p.m.
CLARK CUP: The Chicago Steel, who had opened the Eastern Conference final with an overtime win, closed it the same way in Game 4 by beating the Muskegon Lumberjacks 3-2 on Saturday.
With Chicago leading the series 2-1 and playing on home ice, the teams were scoreless until 5:25 of the third period when Nick Abruzzese put the Steel in front.
The teams traded goals from there until Ryan Savage forced overtime by scoring for Muskegon with 29 seconds left. Gunnarwolfe Fontaine scored his second goal of the game 1:13 into overtime to put the Steel into the final.
Chicago had taken the series lead the night before with a 4-1 win. Robert Mastrosimone opened the scoring with an unassisted goal 3:12 into the game and added a second goal before the midway point of the second period for a 3-1 lead. Justin Robbins made 35 saves.
Sioux Falls swept the Tri-City Storm in the Western Conference by winning 4-1 in Game 2 on May 1 and 3-2 in Game 3 on Friday. Max Crozier and Andre Lee had a goal and an assist each in Game 2 when Sioux Falls scored the last four goals after trailing 1-0 with three minutes left in the second period. Jaxson Stauber made 31 saves in the win.
Sioux Falls led 2-0 after 9:39 of Friday’s game before a home crowd of 6,689. That lead held for more than 26 minutes before Tri-City rallied for to tie the game. Brian Chambers then won the game and settled the series on a goal with 51 seconds left.
ROBERTSON RECAP: Johnstown and Amarillo, the NAHL’s top two teams during the regular season, each needed to win a fifth and deciding game Sunday to win their division final series. Pushed to the limit, both teams came up with dominant performances at home.
Johnstown defeated the New Jersey Titans 5-0 before 19 saves from Carter McPhail and goals from five different players.
Jason Brancheau had two goals and an assist when Amarillo shut out the Shreveport Mudbugs 6-0 in the South Division. Justin Evanson had a 29-save shutout.
Brandon Perrone made 36 saves when New Jersey won 3-2 on Friday to take a series lead. Johnstown, however, came back Saturday with a 3-1 road win to force the fifth game.
Amarillo won 4-3 on May 1, but Shreveport fought off elimination when Leo Chuard made 40 saves in a 2-0 shutout the next night.
Aberdeen completed the Central Division series in four games when Jonathan Bendorf scored two goals, giving him seven for the postseason, in Saturday’s 4-2 win over the host Minot Minotauros.
The Wings had moved ahead in the series Friday when Adam Pitters and Joe Strada each had two goals and an assist in a 7-2 win over the Minotauros.
Johnstown was the NAHL’s best team in the regular season, but its next opponent, the Fairbanks IceDogs, have been the best in the playoffs. Fairbanks went 6-0 in the Midwest Division playoffs with Mattias Sholl allowing just six goals. Sholl had 26 saves when the IceDogs completed their sweep of the finals in Friday’s 6-1 win over the Minnesota Magicians.
NEW COACH: Ryan Anderson will take over as head coach of the North American 3 Hockey League’s Texas Brahmas next season. Anderson joined the coaching staff prior to the team’s run to the NA3HL’s Fraser Cup title.
LOOKING AHEAD: The Eastern Hockey League has scheduled its 2019-20 Showcase Series.
The dates and sites are: Sept. 29-30, Rodman Arena, Walpole, Massachusetts; Oct. 13-14, Ice Line Quad Rinks, West Chester, Pennsylvania; Nov. 10-11, Paul T. Gilmartin Memorial Arena, Haverhill, Massachusetts, Lawrence Valley Forum, Lawrence, Massachusetts, Chelmsford Forum, Chelmsford, Massachusetts; Dec. 10-11, Newington Arena, Newington, Connecticut; Jan. 12-13, The Rinks at Exeter, Exeter, New Hampshire.
COLLEGE COMMITMENTS: Ryan Keane, a goaltender for the NAHL’s Jamestown Rebels, has committed to play at the University of Connecticut, beginning in the fall. The 21-year-old from Coppell, Texas, finished second in the NAHL with a 1.81 goals against average.
Ryan Beck, who played nine late-season games with the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints, has committed to the University of Denver.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.