CHL playoffs continue as field narrows to four

CHL Playoffs logoToday we take a look at the CHL Ray Miron Presidents’ Cup Playoffs as the four remaining teams prepare to kick off the second round tonight. The second-seeded Denver Cutthroats find themselves with home ice advantage, thanks to an opening round upset of the Governor’s Cup Champion Missouri Mavericks by the eighth-seeded Arizona Sundogs. The Allen Americans made light work of the Brampton Beast in the opening round, winning in five games to move on to face the Quad City Mallards, who as the fifth-seed upset the fourth-seeded Rapid City Rush in seven games.

(2) Denver Cutthroats vs. (8) Arizona Sundogs

Season Series: Arizona 7-4-0, Denver 4-3-4              Post-Season PP: Arizona 5-for-21, Denver 3-for-21 Post-Season PK: Arizona 7-for-24, Denver 2-for-23

The Denver Cutthroats closed out the seventh-seeded Tulsa Oilers in six games to advance to the second round of the CHL Ray Miron Presidents’ Cup Playoffs. Denver stumbled in game one to fall behind Tulsa 1-0, but battled back to take a 2-1 series lead with back-to-back wins. After suffering a 6-2 setback in game four, the Cutthroats closed the door on the Oilers, as Kent Patterson pitched a 52-save shutout in game five. Denver then secured the series win on Garett Bembridge’s game six overtime game-winner in Tulsa.

Troy Schwab / Photo by Les Stockton

The Cutthroats have a good balance of offensive firepower and defense. Bembridge, the CHL’s Most Valuable Player, netted 104 points (42G, 62A) in the regular season, while linemate Troy Schwab 96 points (25G, 71A) to rank them first and second in the CHL scoring race. A.J. Gale leads post-season scoring with two goals and eight assists for 10 points, while Schwab holds down second with nine points, while leading the league in goals with five.

Patterson heads up possibly the league’s best goaltending duo, with a 3-2 record while posting a 2.66 goals allowed average and save percentage of .929. Backup John Griggs posted the opening-round series clinching win. Griggs has 48 saves while allowing six goals in 114-minutes of post-season action.

Denver ranks fourth in power play percentage through six post-season games, scoring three goals on 21 chances. The Cutthroats have excelled on the penalty kill, as they turned aside 21-of-23 shorthanded chances against the Oilers to tie for the league-lead.

Kevin Baker celebrates a goal / Photo by Matt Santos (msantosphotographer.com)

The Arizona Sundogs faced the top-seeded Missouri Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs and became the first eighth-seeded team to defeat the number one seed in CHL history. It took six games, the last two going to double overtime, for the Sundogs to emerge victorious. Game six was played in Missouri and there were only 52-seconds left in the second extra frame when Arizona forward Kevin Baker ended the series with his second goal of the game.

Baker collected the most goals for the Sundogs in the opening round, four altogether to go along with his four assists. Forward David Rutherford led Arizona in overall scoring with nine points, by way of two goals and seven assists.

Arizona’s defense made a noticeable impact in the series, setting up in front of the crease and throwing themselves in front of pucks with abandon. Matt McCready led the defense in points, collecting one goal and three assists.

Goalie Andrew Engelage started all six games for the Sundogs, and played all but nine minutes of the series. Engelage allowed only 17 goals, and at the end of the first round had a 2.39 goals allowed average and a .915 Save percentage.

The Sundogs finished the regular season with the second best penalty kill in the league, but that stat did not hold up in the playoffs, as their penalty kill ended the first round in eighth place.

Series Schedule (All times local):

Game 1: Arizona at Denver, Friday, April 18 at 7:00pm

Game 2: Arizona at Denver, Sunday, April 20 at 6:00pm

Game 3: Denver at Arizona, Tuesday, April 22 at 6:35pm

Game 4: Denver at Arizona, Wednesday, April 23 at 6:35pm

Game 5: Arizona at Denver, Saturday, April 26 at 6:00pm

Game 6: Denver at Arizona, Tuesday, April 29 at 6:35pm

Game 7: Arizona at Denver, Thursday, May 1 at 7:05pm

(3) Allen Americans vs. (5) Quad City Mallards

Season Series: Allen 2-2-0, Quad City 2-2-0Post-Season PP: Allen 5-for-18, Quad City 5-for-30   Post-Season PK: Allen 3-for-24, Quad City 2-for-23

The Allen Americans begin the second round in their quest to re-capture the Central Hockey League’s Ray Miron Presidents’ Cup on Friday night at the Allen Event Center against the Quad City Mallards who are fresh off a game seven victory against the Rapid City Rush Wednesday evening.

Gregor Hanson moves the puck in offensive zone / Photo by Kimberly Sauer (scenebykimberly.com)

The two clubs met four times during the regular season, splitting the season series 2-2 with each team winning both home and away. Goaltending has been huge for both teams and will continue to be a key point in this matchup, with Thomas Heemskerk ranked number one in the playoffs with a 3-1 record for the Mallards and Bryan Pitton ranked number two with a 4-1 record.

Allen has four players in the top 20 in scoring during the playoffs, while playing the fewest games at only five to advance from the first round. On the opposite side, Quad City has only two players in the top 20, while playing two games more.  Former Allen Americans forward Jim McKenzie has returned to the lineup with Quad City for the post-season and has yet to notch a point; expect to see that change when he plays against his former team.

The hot hands for Allen heading into this series are Greger Hanson (4G, 5A), Bruce Graham (2G, 8A), Jamie Schaafsma (3G, 4A) and Anthony Maiani (2G, 5A). The Americans also out-shot their opponent by a considerable margin when compared to Quad City’s first round series, with 207 shots over five games for Allen versus the Mallards’ 178 shots over seven games. That averages out to 41.4 shots on goal for Allen to Quas City’s 25.5 shots on goal per game, so Heemskerk should expect to see a plethora of rubber nightly against the Americans.

Thomas Frazee winds up a shot / Photo by Rich Guil (Sean Flynn Photography)

The Mallards are lead by Thomas Frazee (4G, 4A) and Vladimir Nikiforov (2G, 6A), with eight points each. True to their regular season form, Quad City has an even scoring attack, as the next three players on their stat sheet have five points each. Heemskerk has been stellar in net, allowing just seven goals in 239-minutes of play while boasting a 1.76 goals allowed average and a save percentage of .937.

Special teams battles will be fun to watch with Allen holding the number two spot on the power play (5-for-18, 27.78 percent), while the Mallards are tied for first on the penalty kill (2-for-23 91.3 percent, with one shorthanded goal). The Americans PK unit has done well in the third spot, a few percentage points behind Quad’s, as the Mallards’ power play have found themselves ranked fourth (5-for-30, 16.67 percent).

Series Schedule (All times local):

Game 1: Quad City at Allen, Friday, April 18 at 7:05pm

Game 2: Quad City at Allen, Sunday, April 20 at 5:05pm

Game 3: Allen at Quad City, Wednesday, April 23 at 7:05pm

Game 4: Allen at Quad City, Friday, April 25 at 7:05pm

Game 5: Allen at Quad City, Saturday, April 26 at 7:05pm

Game 6: Quad City at Allen, Tuesday, April 29 at 7:05pm

Game 7: Quad City at Allen, Wednesday, April 30 at 7:05pm

PHN CHL Staff contributing to this report: Maurice Fitzgerald, Valerie Haugh, John Hall.

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