The Hockey regular season is quickly coming to an end in both the NHL and AHL while the CHL and NAHL have already kicked off their post season. The Lone Star State is poised to be well represented in the race for the cup in all four leagues.
At the top of the heap are the Dallas Stars in their quest for a playoff birth. The Stars currently set in the final NHL Western Conference Wild Card slot with three games to go in the regular season. Dallas holds a two point lead over the Phoenix Coyotes after they pulled out a 3 – 2 shootout win over Nashville on Tuesday night while the Coyotes lost in overtime.
The Stars are at home against the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight and will welcome St Louis to the American Airlines Center on Friday before hitting the road to close out the season against Phoenix on Sunday. The Stars are 4 – 2 – 1 against their remaining opponents this season. Phoenix also has three games remaining. One road game against Nashville and two at home against San Jose and Dallas. The Coyotes has struggled to a 1 – 4 – 1 record against these three opponents. If Dallas can pick up 4 points over the final three games they will lock down the final playoff spot regardless of what Phoenix does because the Stars would hold the first tie breaker in regulation wins.
The Stars first round opponent would be either St Louis or Anaheim. The Blues currently lead the Ducks by one point and both teams have three games remaining on the schedule. Dallas has proven that they can play with either of the potential first round foes compiling a 2 – 1 – 0 record against Anaheim and a 2 – 1 – 1 record against St Louis with one more game coming against the Blues.
The Texas Stars, Dallas’ AHL affiliate, has already wrapped up the Western Division title and is currently seeded number one in the Western Conference with five games to play. The Grand Rapids Griffins are three points behind the Stars and Texas has a game in hand. Texas will face the San Antonio Rampage three times in three days starting on April 11 at home with the final two games coming on the road. They will travel to Oklahoma City for a game with the Barons on the 16th and finish up at home against Abbotsford. The Stars have run up a 17 – 5 – 5 record against their remaining opponents.
Were the playoffs to start today, the Stars would face the Rochester Americans who are one point behind Oklahoma City. However, both the Rockford Icehogs and Charlotte Checkers are within striking distance only a single point behind the Americans and two behind the Barons. It will be several days before the Stars have a clear picture of who will be rolling into the Cedar Park Center looking to pull off a big upset.
The CHL’s Miron Cup currently resides in Allen, TX home of the Allen Americans, the defending league champions. After finishing the regular season in third place with a 39 – 22 – 5 record, the Americans have opened the playoffs on a tear. They hold a two games to none lead over the Brampton Beast in their best of seven first round series.
Allen outscored Brampton 7 – 2 and 5 – 3 to open their two game advantage. The series will now move to the Powerade Centre for games Thursday, Friday and Sunday (if necessary). Should the Americans not close it out in Ontario, they will return home for games on the 16th and 17th.
Former Texas Tornado defenseman Tyler Ludwig leads the Americans through two games with 2G – 3A. Darryl Bootland is close behind with 3G – 1A. Bryan Pitton has been solid in net picking up both wins with a 2.50 GAA and a .919 SV% with 57 saves.
There are three Texas teams still alive in the opening round of the NAHL Robertson Cup Playoffs. The defending champion Amarillo Bulls hold a 2 – 0 lead over the Wichita Falls Wildcats while the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees have lost two close contests to the Topeka Road Runners.
Amarillo is only one game away from advancing to the second round with offensive leadership from Tyler Gernhofer 2G – 2A and Roman Ammirato 1G – 3A. Brady Ferguson and Mike Davis have both contributed 2G – 1A. Colin Delia and Paul Berrafato have spit netminding duties. Delia holds a 2.00 GAA and a .931 SV%. Berrafato was buoyed by a seven goal outburst in front of him as he has a 4.00 GAA and a .898 SV%.
Wichita Falls has an uphill battle, but will be back on home ice for game three and four (in necessary) on April 11th and 12th. Should they fail to come roaring back with three straight wins, the Bulls will advance to face the winner of the Killer Bees vs Road Runners series.
Topeka currently has the upper hand by virtue of a 3 – 1 and 2 – 1 wins, with game two decided in overtime. Tyler Poulsen who finished fourth in scoring during the regular season has once again paced the Road Runners in scoring with 1G – 3A while Jake Karmass has 2G – 0A from the blueline. PJ Bridges has staggering numbers in his two wins with a 0.95 GAA and a .957 SV% with 45 saves. The series now swings back to the State Farm Arena where the Killer Bees will look to stave off elimination.