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VSN Presents: Under 250 - VHLM Playoffs Round 2


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Bootcast | Talents Behind The Trophies | Critiquing The Crests

 

As the second round of the VHLM playoffs draws to a close, it seems things will be coming down to this season’s two biggest powerhouses in the finals. Upsets are fun, but don’t always happen, and in this particular season there’s been a definite lack of them. This is surely not ideal from the perspective of the casual viewer, but for the teams that put in the work to get to the top of the league, they’ll definitely be happy to find such work being rewarded. The second round involved one series between two teams that finished pretty closely in the standings, but ultimately the team that finished marginally better in the regular season seemed to be significantly better in the playoffs. The other series was the one team that pulled even a minor upset in the first round, and the top team bringing them back to reality.

 

#2 Reapers vs #3 Marlins

PHI_vs_SDM_Playoff_GFX.png

 

The series between the #2 seed Philadelphia Reapers and the #3 seed San Diego Marlins should have been close. This was a 106 point team vs. a 104 point team, both with 51 wins, and the only difference in the regular season was that the Reapers took two more of their losses to OT/SO than the Marlins did. Both teams swept their first round opponents to set this pairing up, and for that matter, the Marlins swept a much better team in the Marauders compared to the Rush, who were swept by the Reapers. Going into this series, both teams would have expected it to be closely fought and to go to 6 or 7 games. It was not. The Reapers opened the series with a statement of intent, a 5-2 win and a fantastic goaltending performance by Jacob Carson stopping 33 of 35 shots. Gustav Hjalmarsson and Addison McLaren each put up 3 points, and the Reapers were just too much for the Marlins.

In the second game, the Marlins would try to get back into the series, and Nero Endrizzi’s hat trick made sure they did. A 4-2 win, right on the back of the opening 5-2 loss, and the Marlins would win here to push the series to 1-1. It would, however, be the final time they would win this season. Game 3 would be a close fight that actually saw the Marlins get out to a 2-0 lead and hold it for over half the game. Thomas King would cut the lead in half near the end of the second period, and a late game collapse by Michael Olson would give the Reapers their own two goal lead, at 4-2. With less than a minute left, the Marlins cut it to 4-3, but it would not be enough. In game 4, the Reapers would control the opening period with two goals from Robert Bouchard, but the second period was all Marlins, who would pull back to 2-2 and set up a decisive third period. With more goals scored in the third than in the other periods combined, it was a bit of a wild finish, but one that would see the Reapers come out on top 5-4 and pull a game away from closing the series out. In contrast to game 4, game 5 was either a poor effort by both offenses, or a stellar defensive and goaltending performance by both teams. Not a single goal was scored in regulation. The Marlins would head out for overtime with their backs against the wall, knowing that they were a goal away from elimination, but ultimately could not stop it from happening, as Pekko Viitanen ended the game and the series in favor of the Reapers. Coincidentally, the Marlins actually led in shots in 4 of the 5 games, so the argument could be made that Jacob Carson was one of the main catalysts for their success, but in any case it only took them 5 games to knock out a team that looked very much their equal.

 

#1 Kings vs #5 Aces

LVA_vs_MEX_Playoff_GFX.png

 

The other series was between the #1 seed Mexico City Kings and the #5 seed Las Vegas Aces. The Aces accomplished more than they’d have been expected to by even getting to this round, as the #5 seed is technically an underdog to the #4 seed (although often not by much, and in this season the difference was a 5 point deficit to the Saskatoon Wild). Compared to the other series, this one shouldn’t have been as close, it should have been a fairly straightforward series in favor of the Kings. Unlike the other series, this one very much stayed true to form, and was in fact a comfortable Kings win, although nothing is ever as easy in practice as it looks on paper. Game 1, much like game 1 of the other series, set the tone for how the series would go. For the first (but not only) time this round, the Kings would score often enough early to chase Thadius Sales and cause Aksu Maronen to come into the game. The first two goals were actually for the Aces, but ultimately the Kings overwhelmed them, putting five past Sales out of the first 20 shots en route to a 7-3 win. 

 

Game 2 looked a little better for the Aces, but it still wouldn’t be enough. After the first period they kept even, heading back to the locker room at 1-1. The second would not go their way, and the Kings took a 3-1 lead, which they would increase to 4-1 early in the third. The Aces would ultimately pull one back, but it wasn’t enough as it finished 4-2. Still, a closer result (and a higher shot total for the Aces in game 2 than the Kings) would give them confidence heading into game 3. Two goals in the first period would find the Aces on the front foot, and they’d carry that momentum throughout the game to a 4-1 win that was less than a period away from a shutout. They also figured out that the best way to prevent Sales getting chased is to limit the shots he faces, only allowing 13 (12 saves). Unfortunately, that would be the last time he’d see the end of a game. In Game 4, the first period would be even again at 1-1, but the second was all Kings. They’d go into the third up 4-1, ultimately winning the game 5-1and putting the Aces on the edge of elimination. The Kings would go into game 5 with two big goals in the first period, and an early one in the second to go up 3-0. The Aces would quickly nip one back, only to concede yet again toward the end of the second. This was enough to push Sales out for the third time this series, and put the Kings a single period away from the finals. Artair McCloud would come out of the gate and pull another goal back for the Aces, closing to 4-2, but it would be the last goal the Aces would score on the season, as the Kings simply put two more past Maronen and closed out the game and the series. 

 

This will pit the Reapers and Kings against each other in the finals, with the winner taking home a much deserved Founders Cup. Neither team has lost more than one game in any series coming into this, with the Kings beating the Halifax 21st in the first round in 5 games, followed by the Aces in the same, and the Reapers sweeping the Yukon Rush en route to their Marlins series. In the regular season, the Kings were the stronger team, but in the playoffs so far there hasn’t been much separating the two.

Edited by diamond_ace
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