Tight Race for the Final Spot in the AFHL Playoffs
Playoff hopes still alive for Mustangs, Killers, and Power
March 5th, 2012
This is the time of the season when hockey players turn into math junkies and the only thing as important as the game being played is the out-of-town scoreboard.
With only one matchup remaining in the regular season, calculators have become just as critical as hockey sticks now that eight points separate the three teams still battling for the 8th and final spot in the 2012 AFHL Playoffs.
The London Mustangs, who gutted out a 6-5 win over the Lakehead Thunderwolves last week, continue to hold the 8th spot with 264 points, but the Washington Power and the Fort Drum Killers are nipping at their heels with 256 points each.
“These are anxious times for our fans,” Washington GM Rick Charron told reporters after last week’s 7-1 loss to Fort Drum. “We’re just 8 points shy of that final playoff seed. We need to get as big of a win as possible against the Deer Park this week.”
The Killers are playing inspired hockey right now with Miikka Kiprusoff leading the way.
“Kipper has been incredible all year,” Fort Drum GM Steve Stryska said after last week’s win over Washington. “In his last showing he stopped 38 of 40 shots. He’s got a 2.34 GAA and a .921 save percentage on the season. He’s the biggest reason we’re still in this hunt.”
Earlier in the season, there was a rumor going around that there was some division in the Killers dressing room. According to Stryska, it was just a bad rumor.
“There was a bit of a fairy tale going around that we have tension in the room,” said Stryska. “I haven’t seen any. We’ve got a good mix of old guys and young guys. Obviously, when you don’t produce on the ice, people look for something. People have concluded that it must be in the locker room, but I think right now we’re proving them wrong because we’re still in the hunt for the playoffs.”
Mustangs GM Matt Plachta said the team played well in last week’s win over Lakehead, but they need to play better this week against the first place North Bay Warriors.
“We’re fighting for our lives right now,” Plachta told a reporter after a Monday morning skate. “We fought hard against the T’wolves. We need to fight even harder against the Warriors. We’d like to be sitting up there with 300 points like the Warriors, but we’re not. We’re in a dogfight.”
Matchups to watch in Week 21:
London Mustangs (8th) vs. North Bay Warriors (1st) – North Bay defeated London 8-3 in Week 2
Washington Power (9th) vs. Deer Park Chiefs (2nd) – Deer Park defeated Washington 7-4 in Week 2
Fort Drum Killers (9th) vs. Buffalo Phantoms (6th) – Buffalo defeated Fort Drum 6-3 in Week 2
So who will grab the last playoff spot? London certainly has the advantage because they’re already there, but right now the only sure thing is that a lot can change between now and Sunday night.
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– The second place Deer Park Chiefs are now only 9 points behind the first place North Bay Warriors. “We’re not worried about who we’re going to play,” said Chiefs GM Mike Nellany who will be among the candidates for this year’s Jack Adams award which is given to the league’s best GM based on a number of categories. “A true champion doesn’t size up the competition. A true champion fears nothing and no one.”
– Lakehead Thunderwolves (4th) vs. Toronto Red Devils (5th) in a first round playoff series? Fireworks have erupted between these two clubs several times this season. Lots of bad blood between Lakehead GM Jason Briggs and Toronto GM Jordan Carbone. For the first time in AFHL history, two rivals could faceoff in the first round of the playoffs.
– Media caught up with Vipers GM Chris Hartley shortly after the team clinched a spot in the playoffs late last night. “The entire Victoria organization is extremely happy to be a participant in the AFHL playoffs for the first time in franchise history,” Hartley said. “If positions remain the same one week from today, then we’re going up against the Chiefs in the opener. We got pounded by them 10-1 a few weeks ago. I promise to our fans it will be a different result this time around.”