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Around the VHL - May 3rd, 2021 - Season 78 Episode 3

 

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It’s the best time of the season, with playoff battles underway as teams vie for the right to hoist the Continental Cup! As the regular season grind came to an end, we saw the Warsaw Predators capture first place overall in the league thanks in large part due to 100-point forwards Aloe Dear (112) and Dakota Lamb (104) as well as #1 defenseman Latrell Mitchell and mid-season acquisition Chris Hylands, who also seamlessly transitioned from forward to wing. Meanwhile, in the North American Conference it was Chicago finishing first, with an extremely balanced attack that featured seven 80-point players and nobody above 93.

 

The NA was a hotly-contested conference with Chicago, Toronto, Seattle, and Los Angeles all finishing within four points of one another, and despite only being 4 points away from winning the division, the Stars had to face off against the Vancouver Wolves in a play-in round.

 

In the EU, Warsaw was joined by London and Helsinki (each of whom finished with enough points to win the North American Conference), while Prague and Malmo finished in the 4 and 5 spots for the play-in series. HC Davos and Riga finished each within a point of Malmo for that final playoff spot and both have to be very disappointed with that result, especially Riga as they loaded up in the off-season only to have to sell again mid-season and were unable to make any sort of noise in Ray Sheilds’ final campaign.

 

Andrew Su of Vancouver captured the league’s scoring title, and appears the early favourite for MVP voting as his 120 points were eight ahead of second-place Aloe Dear and 14 ahead of third-place Groovy Dood. Dakota Lamb, Jim Bob (103), and Onde Sandstrom (102) also turned in 100-point campaigns. Surprisingly, there were no 50-goal scorers this season as Bob led the league with his 48 goals.

 

The league’s top scoring defenseman was Chicago’s Spencer Elsby, with 93 points edging out Tyler Walker of Davos (90), Erik Killinger and Kasper Kankkunen of London (86 each), and Latrell Mitchell of Warsaw (also 86). Walker might be the leading candidate for the Labatte Trophy, though, as he had 290 hits and 165 blocked shots to go along with those 90 points. Elsby and Killinger (among others) are sure to present a strong challenge for that crown.

Grekkark Gyrfalcon posted 37 wins and an 0.925 SV% for Prague this year, while Doug Dimmadome had 36 wins and an 0.923 SV% for Los Angeles, making them the two odds-on favourites for the Aidan Shaw Trophy. League wins leader Ajay Krishna (43) might be in the mix, but could be held back by his 0.919 SV%, which was bested by five other starters.

 

Meanwhile, in the rookie scoring race, Moscow’s star young trio of Paul Atreides, Duncan Idaho, and Philip Stein captured the top three spots, with Atreides leading the way in both goals (31) and points (62). Vancouver’s Javad Kamkar was the top-scoring rookie defenseman with 53 points.

 

S77 Playoffs

 

Which brings us to where we are now - the postseason!

 

The Los Angeles Stars are finally in the playoffs and they celebrated with a 3-1 series win over the Vancouver Wolves in the play-in round, winning game one 6-2 and never really looking back. This was the series of Jeffrey Pines, who put up 7 goals and 10 points in the four-game span to lead his team to victory. In the EU play-in round, while Malmo kept the games largely competitive against Prague, it was an expected series sweep by the Phantoms as they outscored Malmo 14-9 and peppered Artem Tretiak with almost 150 shots over the three games.

 

The first semifinal matchup in the North American Conference featured the Stars against the defending champion Chicago Phoenix in a highly-anticipated matchup. Despite a 47-26 edge in shots for Chicago in Game 1, LA netminder Doug Dimmadome held the fort with 44 saves and the Stars got three goals in the 3rd period for a 5-3 win. Game 2 was an evenly matched affair, 4-4 and relatively close in shots after two periods. But even as the Phoenix turned it on in third, with a 19-7 edge in shots in the final frame, the only goal would go to LA thanks to Pekko Viitanen’s 2nd of the playoffs. Dimmadome made 41 saves on 45 shots to again hold his team in it for a 2-0 series lead. Chicago almost returned the favour in Game 3, with Jean-Pierre Camus making 47 saves on 49 shots, but their offense couldn’t get it going and LA won again, 2-1 on John Merrick’s second-period powerplay goal. The Stars would complete the shocking sweep with a 4-3 win in Game 4.

 

The Seattle Bears and Toronto Legion were separated by just two points in the regular season standings, and the way this series played out, you could tell. Game 1 got the series off the right way with a 4OT marathon. By then, Seattle seemed out of gas as Toronto outshot them 10-0 in the 4th OT, ending it on a goal by SS Hornet. Game 2 only went five periods, with Hornet scoring a second straight OT winner early in OT2 to give Toronto a 2-0 series lead. Game 3 went to OT again, this time ended after just 8:02 by Hex Rose to get Seattle back into the series. In Game 4, we had yet another one-goal game. Toronto jumped out to 3-0 and 4-3 leads but the Bears kept clawing back, then got a third-period goal from Marshall James Frostbeard to win 5-4 and even the series. It was back to OT in Game 5, with Seattle again mounting a third-period rally to come back from a 3-1 deficit, then winning on a Frank Funk Jr. OT goal. Five games into the series, we had seen 23 periods of hockey and every game was decided by one goal. Seattle did buck that trend winning Game 6 by a 3-0 score, but what a thrilling and intense series it was - an instant classic that will be remembered for a long time.

 

Prague’s reward for beating Malmo was a date with Warsaw, the heavy cup favourites after the regular season. The Phantoms put up a good fight, winning game one 2-1 and keeping game 2 to a one-goal game as well. Warsaw decided to flex their muscle in Game 3, putting up an absurd 100 shots over 90 minutes of hockey. Huge props to Grekkark Gyrfalcon for stopping 95 of those 100 shots, but Warsaw finally put the winner by him in 2OT to tie the series. The Phantoms never recovered from that one, losing 4-0 the next game and then being put away by Uhtred’s third period goal in Game 5.

 

In the final conference semifinal series, Helsinki got three goals from Vick Fairchild over the first two games to capture 3-2 and 4-2 wins and jump out to an early lead over London. After London rallied back with a game 3 win, the Titans re-asserted themselves by winning Game 4 by a big 5-1 score, led by a 4-point night from Valtteri Vaakanainen. Finding themselves down 2-0 in the third period of Game 5, the United refused to die, scoring four third-period goals to find a 4-3 win and extend the series. But they’d ultimately find themselves knocked out in OT in Game 6 when Magnus Verlander scored to end a tightly-contested, double-overtime thriller.

 

Round 2 of the VHL playoffs featured so many thrilling moments and a lot of tight games and close series’, despite all of them ending before Game 7. It sets up conference final matchups between the Los Angeles Stars and Seattle Bears in the NA, and a familiar one with the Helsinki Titans and Warsaw Predators in the EU. Stay tuned folks, we’re sure to have even more fantastic hockey and memorable moments to come as the S77 playoffs come to a close!

 

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Players Mentioned: @Renomitsu  @dlamb @dasboot @Hylands @Zetterberg @bigAL @Da_Berr @jRuutu @fonziGG @Spence King @Peace @16z @Advantage @Esso2264 @Sharkstrong @Hooperorama @Mr_Hatter @OrbitingDeath  @IHateBobNutting @Parriyah9374 @rory @Molholt @Xdjk93 @solas @Steve @McWolf @Hex Universe @Rayzor_7 @FrostBeard @leafsman @Jubo07 @Jbeezy76 @GreenGato

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