Opening Round Preview
Hooligans vs Colonials
The Colonials are coming off of 2 straight XHL Championships, but did not have to go thru the Hooligans in any of those playoff seasons. In 2014 and 2015, the Hooligans were able to sweep the Colonials out of the playoffs. The 2014 Colonial team finished 1st in the regular season, and with the offseasons additions of Derek Miscich and Austin Boyd, it looked like they were the favorite to win the championship that season. The Hooligans struggled in the regular season and finished in the 4th and final playoff spot, but were able to play their best hockey when it mattered most to knock the Colonials out the playoffs. The Colonials had Jason Iseler in net in both the 2014 and 2015 seasons. Last time Iseler was in net, Cody Schuckers put in a last second short handed goal past him to give the Hooligans an 8-7 win during the 2015 semifinal series. 2 seasons have come and gone, but league competition has increased. It’s no surprise to see these teams playing in the playoffs, but this time, it comes in a quarterfinal series instead of a semifinal series. Rosters are similar, the Hooligans still have their core players in Steve Kalgren, Eric Llewellyn, Cory Schuckers and Cody Schuckers, while the Colonials still have their original players in Bob Anderson, Brian Anderson, John Matchock and Fred Terwilliger. While they may not be the flashiest group of players, they have always seemed to play well together. Aside from them, they picked up a playoff veteran in Luke McMinn, and although he has recently been spending a lot of time worrying about the Xtreme, he seems to bring out his best in the playoffs. Jason Iseler is now on the other side skating out for the Hooligans, and playing a very nice role despite having hip surgery just a year ago. Aside from his leadership on the court, he has contributed big goals with his own hands throughout the season. The Colonials now have Jerred Amick, who knows his former Hooligan teammates very well. Amick started out the season a little slow, but so did all the Colonials. The Team lost several one goal games, including several in overtime, but big wins in the 2nd half of the season against the Renegades and Xtreme with several different players stepping up at different times has the team playing with more confidence. Team captain Bob Anderson has had a very big season offensively, from start to finish. Net minder Tim Herman has been plagued at times by long drives from work and later arrival times, but we all know he can lead the team to a long playoff run if the other guys can do their part. For the Hooligans, its hard not to credit them for what they have accomplished this season. Losing a player like Jerred Amick, on top of Cody Schuckers missing a lot of games due to work, plus missing the playoffs a season ago made some people count them out before the season even started. Larry Kruckow and Troy Bell aren’t the biggest names in the XHL, but they couldn’t have filled their roles on the team any better than they did this season. James Nelson has been present most of the time and played well most of the time, but even if he can’t make it, the team is in good hands with Cory Schuckers in net. The team recently got outscored 24-5 against the Knights and Renegades, but took a big step to proving that they are a real contender after a 5-4 win against the Xtreme on Monday night. They were also the first team to beat the Renegades this season. On top of those wins, they were able to defeat the Yeti 5-1, The Xtreme 10-3 in an earlier meeting and defeated the Colonials 8-7 in their only meeting with them this season. Could this series come down a last second goal just like the last time these two teams met in a playoff game? It certainly wouldn’t surprise anyone.
If the Colonials are able to win this series, they will get a date with the Knights in the semifinals. A Hooligan win will give them a shot at redemption against the Renegades in the 2nd round. The Renegades recently defeated the Hooligans 15-3.
Xtreme vs Yeti
Just like the Colonials and Hooligans, the Yeti and Xtreme are no strangers to one another. The two teams met in the playoffs just a season ago with the Xtreme taking both games. The Xtreme outshot the Yeti 46-9 in the 2nd and deciding game of that series. This time, the Yeti will have Derik Day to try to help them get past the Xtreme. Unfortunately for the Yeti, Kevin Smith will be with the Xtreme. Aside from those two names, the two teams are pretty similar to the two teams that met in the playoffs a season ago. The Xtreme defeated the Yeti 7-2 and 3-2 earlier this season, but they are going into the playoffs on a losing note. Recent losses to the Colonials, Hooligans and Renegades, with a couple of them being blowouts, have teams wondering whats wrong with them. Luckily for them, the playoffs is a whole new season and if they have their core guys in action, they could very well be raising the cup in 3 weeks from now. Goalie Clint Lingenfelter was a bit hard on himself following a blowout loss to the Colonials, maybe putting a little more pressure on himself with the core players surrounding him. It wasn’t long ago that Lingenfelter made 53 out of 56 saves in a playoff game with Adam McKinley on the other side watching him when Lingenfelter was a member of the Tycoons and McKinley was with the Wolfpack. If Lingenfelter can bring back some of that playoff magic, the Xtreme have just as good of chance as anyone. For the Yeti, they have played in several close games throughout the season and with a guy like Adam McKinley guarding the net, there is always a chance to win. We have seen some of McKinley’s best performances in August. The team has the least amount of goals out of any playoff teams, but they have also given up the least, which is no surprise. Against playoff teams this season, the Yeti have wins against the Knights, an overtime game loss to the Renegades, an 8-4 win over the Hooligans and 2 one goal wins against the Colonials. For the Xtreme, they have an 8-4 opening night win over the Knights, an overtime loss to the Renegades, overtime loss to the Hooligans, 2 wins over the Yeti along with an overtime win against the Colonials this season. They have 2 of the youngest players in the league on their team, with Tyler Stitt and AJ Cebulskie, but both have scored some big goals this season. With guys like Chad Walter, Kevin Smith, Dave Jewell and Joe Bussard to contend with, it seems like a tough task for the Yeti. On a good note for the Yeti, Dave Jewell is rumored to not be present for this series, but not sure how true it is yet. For the Yeti, adding Derik Day made them an instant contender going into the season, with solid players all around their lineup going from Greg Mohney, Dan Fatula, the Pompeii’s, Mike Jacobson and Jarrod Currin on their side. As stated above, they have the least amount of goals as any playoff teams in the league, but all of them can step up when needed. When you give up fewer goals than anyone, there is always a good chance to win, especially in the playoffs. This should definitely be an interesting series, and crazy part is, whoever escapes will still have to win 4 more games to accomplish the ultimate goal. The 2nd round opponent for the winner will all depend on who wins the Hooligans-Colonials series.