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VHL 40 in 40 #32: Eleven

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This was one of two 40 in 40 articles inexplicably wiped out by the forum at some point since being published. Fortunately, profiling as it did the VHL record 11-season playoff streak achieved by the New York Americans from S24 to S34, there is a lot of overlap with the 30 in 30 article linked below, which covers S24 all the way to the start of the S31 playoffs:



Spoiler alert: New York didn't win the Continental Cup in S31 as that article hopefully suggests. In fact, they set another unwanted record, becoming the first team to lose a cup finals series after a 3-1 lead. Daniel Braxton and Benjamin Glover retired with no championships but with 5 finals appearances in 8 seasons, having never missed the playoffs.


In a classic STHS twist of fate, however, the Americans would then come back from a 3-1 deficit against Riga the very next season, with the stars now the likes of Tukka Reikkinen, Alexander Chershenko, Radislav Mjers, and Connor Evans. The entire S32-S33 double match-up between New York and Riga was bizarre for a few reasons:


1. In S32, the Reign were the heavy cup favourites, with a 119-point season and a 19-game winning streak to start the season. They didn't let up in the playoffs right up until those infamous Games 5, 6, and 7 of the finals. New York, by contrast, had a very weak defence and a rookie goalie, in stark contrast to those "Buffalo Bills" teams of S25-S31.

2. In S33, the Reign traded Alexander Labatte to NY (more on him in a sec) and relied on an inactive Jehovah in net, while Ansgar Snijider retired. In their own conference they had to overcome the 127-point Helsinki Titans and went 3-1 down to a Davos team featuring Phil Rafter and David Smalling and little else. Yet Riga avenged NY in the finals despite the Americans upgrading with HOFers Labatte and Ryan Sullivan in the off-season.

3. The goalies... in S32, New York beat Labatte's Riga with rookie Skylar Rift in goal. In S33, Riga returned the favour with Jehovah getting the upper hand on Labatte's New York. This irony was briefly touched upon in this 40 in 40:

4. It went under the radar, but while Vasteras beating New York in the S26 finals meant the longest active cup drought was passed from Vasteras to NY, S32 was actually the meeting of the two leaders in this area; New York passing it onto Riga. The Reign getting rid of the title in S33 meant it was passed back to Vasteras then and that's where it would stay until the franchise was contracted.


Season 34 was a quiet end to New York's playoff streak as an ageing squad went out in the first round, remarkably only the 3rd time the Americans exited the playoffs so early in the 11 seasons. Writing this update in S71, we have seen the Titans go on 9-season and 7-season playoff streaks since, while Riga is one season away from matching New York's record - I'm sure that will lend itself to interesting comparisons in the near future.

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