2018 SHL Finals – Game 5

QUEBEC TIGRES 4, ANCHORAGE IGLOOS 2

When the Anchorage Igloos won the first three games of this championship series, the pundits were all but ready to hand them the Vandy.  Maybe the Quebec Tigres would win one to avoid the embarrassment of a sweep, but that was all.  Surely, Quebec couldn’t win back-to-back games in the hostile confines of Arctic Circle Arena, much less the four straight they’d need to win the series.

But after today’s 4-2 win in Game 5, the Tigres now have the back-to-back road wins they needed.  And after they scored three goals in the third period to secure a come-from-behind win, the momentum is firmly in Quebec’s corner.  Mind you, they haven’t won yet.  They still need to win two more.  But after a game that seemed virtually tailor-made to sow doubt in the minds of the Igloos, a miracle comeback no longer seems like an impossibility.

“Seems like Anchorage might have been taking this win for granted,” said LW Stellan Fisker.  “But we never gave up on ourselves, and we aren’t going to.”

As for the Igloos, there was a definite undercurrent of unease in the locker room after the game.  “We definitely felt like this was one we could have had,” said C Jake Frost.

Similar to Game 4, the first couple of periods were a little on the slow side, as the Tigres used their defense to set the pace.  And just like Game 4, the visitors got on the board first, with RW Stephane Mirac getting on the board just 20 seconds in on a shot that banked in off the left post.  Unlike in Game 4, Anchorage struck back and re-took the lead.  RW Ben Summers tied it up on a power-play goal eight minutes in, and C Harvey Bellmore put the Igloos ahead with a redirect that found the upper left corner of the net with six minutes left in the period.

As the teams headed to the locker room after the first intermission with the Igloos up 2-1, the crowd seemed cheerful and confident of victory.  Forty more minutes, and their heroes would be circling the ice showing off their latest trophy.  Perhaps the boys in blue allowed themselves to entertain the same fantasies.

After a scoreless second period, the Igloos found themselves a mere 20 minutes away from the title.  The crowd’s cheering became more intense, and the fans began serenading some of the players by name.  “We might have gotten ahead of ourselves a bit,” admitted Frost.

Neither the Igloos nor their fans were ready for what happened in the third period, but it’s likely to be seared in their minds for a long time to come.  49 seconds into the period, Fisker fired a low line drive that deflected off of Anchorage goalie Ty Worthington‘s stick, bounced off his arm, and went into the net.  “That was a soft one,” admitted Worthington.  “I should have stopped it.”

After that, Tigres LW Walt Camernitz stole the show.  Quebec made a splash in the offseason by signing the ex-Washington winger to a five-year, $20 million deal.  Camernitz proved to be a worthwhile investment, jump-starting their moribund offense and turning the Tigres from a promising young club into a contender.  It was only fitting that he would provide the winning goals in the biggest game of their season so far.

At 7:15 into the third, during the tail end of a power play, Camernitz fired a severe-angle shot that somehow eluded Worthington and found the twice, giving Quebec its first lead of the period.  Just over three minutes later, C Mikhail Ilyushin fed him a pass in the left faceoff circle, and he thundered a slapper that Worthington never seemed to see to make it a 4-2 game.

“Walt is worth every penny we paid him,” said Tigres coach Martin Delorme.  “He has brought us scoring, defense, and leadership all in one package.”

The Tigres weren’t quite out of the woods yet.  They had to kill off an extended 5-on-3 situation in the latter half of the third; Frost nearly scored on the two-man advantage, but his shot rang off the post.  But that was as close as the Igloos would come to scoring.  By the time the final siren sounded, the crowd sat stunned and virtually silent, denied the celebration they were sure was coming.

Anchorage coach Sam Castor cautioned against panic.  “We still just have to win one of these in order to get the title,” the coach said.  “But we’ll need to play a sharper, more disciplined game than we saw out there tonight.  We’re close, but we haven’t won anything yet.  We need to remember that.”

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2018 SHL Finals – Game 4

QUEBEC TIGRES 3, ANCHORAGE IGLOOS 0

In a lot of ways, it was a victory for the Quebec Tigres to make it to their first-ever SHL Finals.  For a team that had never even finished above .500 before, having a shot at the Vandy was a remarkable achievement.  However, it look as though their trip to the Finals would be a short one after the Anchorage Igloos won the first three games of the series, including two in Quebec’s building.

Facing a must-win game on enemy ice, the Tigres needed someone to step up and be a hero.  Goalie Riki Tiktuunen answered the call in Game 4, turning aside all 39 shots and helping Quebec stave off elimination with a 3-0 win.

“We are up off of the mat,” said Tigres coach Martin Delorme.  “And Riki is the one who lifted us up.”

“Riki was the star today,” agreed LW Walt Camernitz, who scored Quebec’s first goal.  “We all played a part, but he was the man today.”

The famously reticent Tiktuunen declined to claim credit for the win, insisting that it was a team effort.  “Everything that we do, win or lose, we do as a team,” the goalie said.  “I cannot win a game on my own.  We had a great defense, and we got excellent goals too.  I was just helping out.”

Through the first couple of periods, Tiktuunen had a point, as Quebec’s defense was in fine form, slowing down and frustrating Anchorage at virtually every turn.  Camernitz jammed home a rebound four minutes into the game, and the Tigres’ defense and Tiktuunen combined to make it stand up.  Through the first two stanzas, Quebec held the Igloos to 20 shots, almost none of them in high-danger areas.

“We were definitely playing our game, moving at a deliberate pace, keeping the crowd out of it,” said Camernitz.

When the score remained 1-0 at the second intermission, it brought back memories of Game 2.  In that contest, Anchorage came from behind and forced an overtime session, which they won.  The Igloos were clearly hoping for another third-period rally, and they managed to slip out of Quebec’s trap and rev up the pace dramatically in the final 20 minutes.  In that period, Tiktuunen really sparkled, making save after save and thwarting the Igloos’ sweep dreams.

In the opening minute of the period, C Jake Frost got loose on a breakaway and fired a laser beam of a shot at the top of the net, but Tiktuunen made a fabulous glove save to shut it down.  Later, on an odd man rush, RW Nicklas Ericsson tried to beat Tiktuunen on the stick-side; the Quebec netminder made a sprawling save, then sprung back up and turned aside a rebound attempt by Frost.  All in all, the Igloos fired 19 shots in the third period alone, and Tiktuunen stopped each one.

“He was practically turning backflips in the crease,” said RW Flint Robinson of his goalie.

With Tiktuunen taking care of business on the defensive end, Quebec was able to take advantage of the faster pace and put the game away.  RW Sindri Pentti, who has been largely invisible in this series, bulled his way in front of the net and deflected a shot from D Doug Wesson over Anchorage goalie Ty Worthington to take a two-goal lead early in the period.  Four and a half minutes later, a neutral-zone turnover by Igloos D Willy Calligan sprung a rare Tigres jailbreak; LW Stellan Fisker finished by slipping the puck between Worthington’s pads to make it 3-0.

Delorme was pleased at the way his team stared down defeat and didn’t blink.  “We showed a lot of heart and courage today, from Riki on down,” the coach said.  “We still have a lengthy road to travel, but this is a strong first step.”

The Igloos, meanwhile, remain confident that they will be able to close out the series quickly.  “I mean, a sweep would have been nice, but we weren’t expecting it,” said Frost.  “We’ve got another one at home, and we can go ahead and wrap this up and embrace the Vandy.”

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2018 SHL Finals – Game 3

ANCHORAGE IGLOOS 3, QUEBEC TIGRES 1

After taking the first two games of these Finals on the road, the Anchorage Igloos came home to Arctic Circle Arena with a chance to take a stranglehold on the series.  They did just that, completely muzzling the Quebec Tigres and rolling to a 3-1 victory that puts them one win away from a clean sweep of the playoffs.

“This is a group that’s hungry for the title,” said Igloos LW Jerry Koons, who had a goal and an assist in today’s game.  “We’re all driven with one singular purpose: winning the Vandy.”

During the division playoff, the Igloos used frantic, fast-paced first periods to get early leads and set the tones.  The Tigres managed to frustrate those attempts in the first two games, but Anchorage successfully turned up the heat in this game, outshooting Quebec 15-7 in the opening frame.

The Tigres were set back on their heels early thanks to a couple of quick penalties.  They succeeded in killing both of them off, but Anchorage held the puck in the zone after the second penalty ended, pinning Quebec in its own end.  Goalie Riki Tiktuunen tried to fall on the puck to give his players a much-needed breather, but was unable to secure it.  The puck wound up on the stick of Koons, who drilled it home over the prone Tiktuunen to draw first blood.

A couple minutes later, the Igloos’ Les Collins and Ben Summers broke out on an odd-man rush.  After a couple back-and-forth passes, Collins fired a shot that tucked under the crossbar to make it 2-0.

“That was important for us, to get a fast start and get the crowd pumped up,” said Summers.

The Igloos managed to kill off a 5-on-3 situation later in the period and went to the locker room with their two-goal edge intact.  Less than a minute into the second, however, Broni Zhlotkin was whistled for diving, and Quebec needed only 10 second of power-play time for Rupert MacDiarmid to convert, cutting the deficit in half.

“This postseason has been a real showcase for Rupert,” said Tigres coach Martin Delorme.  “He has been a highlight for us.”

But Anchorage managed to virtually extinguish the Tigres’ offense after that.  Quebec would only record three more shots in the remainder of the period.  The Igloos didn’t accomplish this through trapping and slowing the pace of the game; rather, they maintained possession of the puck and skated past the Tigres.

When Tigres RW Sindri Pentti went off for tripping just before the halfway mark of the period, Igloos RW Nicklas Ericsson ripped a shot between Tiktuunen’s legs to restore Anchorage’s two-goal edge.  For the rest of the second period and all of the third, the Igloos maintained control of the game for long stretches, and the Tigres struggled to gain possession of the puck, much less to get shots off.  Quebec registered only four shots in the third period; for the game, they were outshot 37-15.

“Our guys just put on a clinic out there on playing with a lead,” said Igloos coach Sam Castor.  “We just controlled play and dominated the ice, and just slowly sucked the life out of them.”

As for the Tigres, they’ll need to win on enemy ice in Game 4 to avoid being swept, and they’ll need to win four in a row – including the next two in Anchorage – in order to win the series.  “We have dug ourselves into a very deep hole,” said Delorme.  “We have only one choice now if we’re going to win this.  It will not be easy, but it is the task we have left for ourselves.”

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2018 SHL Finals – Game 2

ANCHORAGE IGLOOS 3, QUEBEC TIGRES 2 (OVERTIME)

Live by the power play, die by the power play.  In the opening game of this series, the Anchorage Igloos had to kill off six penalties, including four in the first period, but survived to steal a win on the road.  In today’s Game 2, the Igloos benefited from six power plays and made the most of them, scoring all of their goals on the man advantage in a 3-2 overtime win over the Quebec Tigres.

“I felt confident that the calls were going to even out in the end,” said Igloos coach Sam Castor.  “I’m just glad our power-play unit was ready to take advantage when they did.”

It wasn’t an easy game for the Igloos, who twice had to rally from behind in the game.  “Quebec is a tough team, and we knew they were going to give us a fight,” said Anchorage C Jake Frost, who scored two goals in this game.  “Fortunately, we’re not afraid of playing from behind.”

The Igloos found themselves playing from behind early on in the game.  Six minutes into the first period, Igloos winger Broni Zhlotkin was hit with a minor penalty for roughing.  Twelve seconds into the ensuing power play, Tigres RW Rupert MacDiarmid fired a shot that deflected off of C Phil Miller’s stick and past the left shoulder of Anchorage goalie Ty Worthington into the net.

“Really wasn’t anything I could do about that one,” said Worthington.  “It was by me before I could react.”

It was Quebec’s first goal of the series, and it gave them their first lead of the series.  The advantage proved rather durable, as the score remained the same throughout the rest of the first and all of the second period.  The Tigres were able to frustrate the Igloos’ attempt to penetrate the zone and prevented them from getting many good looks at the goal.  The few shots that did make it through were easily turned aside by the Tigres’ Riki Tiktuunen.

“We threw everything we had at them,” said Quebec D Laurie Workman.  “We really wanted to make that goal stand up.”

The Igloos finally broke through thanks to a Quebec penalty.  In the opening seconds of the third, Tigres D Doug Wesson was sent off for tripping.  Anchorage kept the puck in the zone throughout the power play, and RW Nicklas Ericsson managed to beat Tiktuunen on the blocker side to tie it up.

That deadlock lasted all of 28 seconds, as Wesson got revenge for his penalty by drilling home a shot from the blue line that bounced off Worthington’s right pad and into the net.

“I really wish I had that one back,” said the Igloos netminder.  “I’ve got to make that stop.”

As the third period went on and the 2-1 lead remained intact, the crowd at Centre Citadelle grew increasingly excited.  But the latter half of the period turned into a parade of penalties that left the crowd and the Quebec bench fuming.

With seven and a half minutes left in the game, Tigres D Hal Pugliese was whistled for holding the stick of Igloos LW Waldo Miranda.  Quebec coach Martin Delorme argued that Miranda should have been called for hooking, to no avail.  Frost wound up ripping a shot just under Tiktuunen’s glove to tie it up, as the arena filled with boos.

The crowd’s anger only deepened as Quebec was hit with another pair of penalties in the closing minutes of regular.  Anchorage peppered Tiktuunen with shots on those power plays; the Quebec goalie managed to turn them all aside.

The last penalty carried into overtime, and the Tigres managed to kill it off.  But just a minute later, D Ward Jones was sent to the sin bin for hooking.  The exhausted Quebec penalty killing unit finally cracked, and Frost got an open look at the net, going top shelf to bury the game-winner four minutes into the extra session.

After the game, Delorme argued that Castor’s complaints about the refereeing in Game 1 led to an imbalance of calls against Quebec in this game.  “It cannot be denied that Sam got what he wanted from the officials,” said the Tigres coach.  “We were under siege through the last half of the third and in overtime, because of all the calls against us.  Clearly, whatever Anchorage wants, Anchorage gets.”

For his part, Castor declined to engage in a war of words with Delorme.  “At the end of the day, we came into [Quebec] and we won both games,” the Igloos boss told reporters.  “Now we’re going home for three straight games; win two of them, and we’ve got the title.  That’s where our focus is.  If Martin wants to focus on the officiating, that’s his prerogative.  We’re going to stay focused on the game.”

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2018 SHL Finals – Game 1

ANCHORAGE IGLOOS 2, QUEBEC TIGRES 0

Coming into the SHL Finals, the conventional wisdom was that whichever team controlled the pace would have the edge in the series.  If the speedy Anchorage Igloos could turn the series into a track meet, they would likely prevail.  On the other hand, if the Quebec Tigres could slow things down and keep the Igloos from running past them, their dogged defense and excellent goaltending would give them the edge.

The outcome of Game 1 scrambled that narrative a bit.  Quebec succeeded in slowing the game down; the Igloos weren’t able to pull off any of their famed breakaways and odd-man rushes.  In fact, Anchorage didn’t even outshoot the Tigres.  But Igloos goaltender Ty Worthington outdueled his Tigres counterpart Riki Tiktuunen, and Anchorage emerged with a 2-0 win at Centre Citadelle.

“This game was a testament to our versatility as a team,” said Igloos coach Sam Castor.  “We like to play fast and furious, but even when our opponent is able to slow us down, we can still go toe-to-toe and win that kind of game.”

During their division series sweep of the Michigan Gray Wolves, who play a trapping style similar to Quebec’s, Anchorage pushed the pace early in order to get an early lead and set their opponent on its heels.  The Igloos weren’t able to do the same thing in this game, thanks in part to the fact that they were whistled for four penalties in the first period alone.  They successfully killed off all four, but Castor was displeased with what he saw as one-sided officiating.  The coach was spotted giving head referee Scott Pritchard an earful as the period drew to a close.

“I wanted to draw his attention to the disparity in the calls,” said Castor wryly after the game.  “But we’ve got to recognize that it’s [Quebec’s] game.  They’ve got guys who pester you and get under your skin, then you retaliate and that’s what the officials see, so you get penalized.  We can’t let them bait us.”

Despite all the calls against them, the Igloos had a lead after the first, thanks to a good break just over four minutes in.  C Nile Bernard blistered a shot toward the right post.  Tiktuunen made a tremendous sprawling save, but allowed a juicy rebound.  The puck wound up on the stick of LW Les Collins; he threaded a pass to D Ted Keefe, who was parked on the left edge of the crease.  Keefe buried the puck in the upper left corner of the net before Tiktuunen could react.

“That was a real heads-up play by Les,” said Bernard.  “He recognized in a split second that Tiktuunen might stop his follow-up, but Keefer had a wide-open look.  That was huge.”

The second period was a bit of a slog, as the Tigres frustrated Anchorage’s zone entries again and again, and the puck seemingly spent the entire period ping-ponging around the neutral zone.  The Igloos played a patient game, probing for seams in Quebec’s defense and not finding many.  The team combined for only 15 shots in the period.

In the third, Quebec had to kill off a carryover penalty, then a slashing penalty to LW Walt Camernitz a couple minutes later.  The effort seemed to leave the Tigres fatigued, and they struggled to keep up the same pressure they had earlier.  Shortly after the end of the Camernitz penalty, the Igloos set up shop in the Quebec zone.  The Tigres tried several times to clear the puck out of their end, to no avail.  Finally, after over a minute and a half of zone time, Frost crashed the net, then faked a slapshot before firing it back to D Tony Citrone at the point.  Citrone laced a one-touch pass to LW Jerry Koons in the left faceoff circle, and he beat Tiktuunen short side.

“We were under a great strain, and we buckled,” said Tigres coach Martin Delorme.  “It was a brief lapse, but we cannot afford those against a team this strong.”

Now facing a two-goal deficit, the Tigres found their second wind and pushed hard down the stretch.  Nearly half of their total shots in the game (13 of 28) came in the third, almost all of them after Koons’ tally.  When Igloos LW Waldo Miranda received a double minor with a minute and a half left in the game, Quebec yanked Tiktuunen for a 6-on-4 advantage.  They peppered the Anchorage net with shots, but Worthington came up huge, making one athletic save after another.

“Ty came through the fire there in the end,” said Castor.  “He’s not flashy, but he gets the job done.”

With the win, Anchorage seized home-ice advantage from the Tigres.  Delorme said that he was not about to panic, however.  “Of course, we would have liked to win,” said the Quebec coach.  “But we are not going to let one close defeat shake our confidence.  We will go out in Game 2 and we will prevail.”

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It’s Old vs. New in SHL Finals

The 2018 Vandenberg Cup Finals is a study in contrasts.  The Anchorage Igloos, champions of the West, are making their third trip to the Finals in four years.  Their success has been built on a powerful, high-flying offense.  The Quebec Tigres, coming out of the East, parlayed their first-ever winning record into their first-ever Finals visit.  They have risen to the top on the strength of their defense, goaltending, and prefer a slow pace.

“We play totally different games,” said Igloos coach Sam Castor.  “Whichever team dictates the pace will win this series.”

The teams’ differing styles can be seen in the statistics.  Anchorage averaged 37.3 shots per game during the regular season, the league’s second-highest total; similarly, only one team scored more than the Igloos’ 213 goals.  Quebec, meanwhile, generated a mere 27.7 shots per game; only the expansion clubs in Boston and Kansas City were less prolific.  (They were eighth in the league with 183 goals.)  On the other side of the ledger, the Tigres held opponents to 27 shots per game, the second-fewest in the SHL; meanwhile, the Igloos yielded 30.5 shots a game, which placed them in the middle of the pack.

Perhaps ironically, both teams dispatched an opponent in the division round that resembles the club they will face in the Finals.  In the West, the Igloos shocked the Michigan Gray Wolves in a sweep.  The Tigres make no secret of their attempt to copy the Wolves’ model of defense, strong goaltending, and puck control.  Quebec coach Martin Delorme made his SHL debut as the bench boss in Michigan.  Meanwhile, the Tigres outlasted the Hamilton Pistols in a series that went the distance.  The Pistols play a fast-paced, offense-first style that strongly resembles Anchorage’s.

The Igloos are widely considered the favorite in this series, despite the fact that Quebec actually finished with a higher point total in the regular season, 81 to 80.  The Tigres have a bit of a chip on their shoulder as a result.  “We definitely felt like we’ve been overlooked this season,” said Tigres LW Walt Camernitz, the free-agent signee who wound up tying for the team lead in goals with 31.  “Everyone acts like it’s some sort of fluke that we won our division, or that we made the Finals.  Now we have a chance to prove it on the ice.  If we win the Vandy, people will have to take us seriously.”

Anchorage, meanwhile, is wary of assuming the Goliath role.  Last season, they went into the Finals as heavy favorites, only to be stunned in seven games by the Hershey Bliss.  “If anyone in this locker room thinks that the hard part is over because we beat Michigan, they’d better think again,” said Castor.  “Anything can happen in a short series; we found that out the hard way last year.  We definitely have the ability to win this, but Quebec’s not going to make it easy on us.  We have to bring the same drive and intensity that we did in the last round if we’re going to do this.”

The Igloos’ star, C Jake Frost, said that the team is dedicating this series to teammate Remi Montrechere, who was hurt in the division round and will miss the Finals.  “We’ve got to pick up the slack with Remi being out,” said Frost.  “We’re going to do this for him, and for ourselves.  We’re hungry for another title.”

CHL Update: Rhinos, Freeze Advance to Finals

The first round of the CHL playoffs mirrored the first round of the SHL playoffs in a number of ways.  One series ended in a sweep, with the victor headed to the finals for the second straight season, trying to avenge last year’s shocking loss.  The other series went the distance, with both teams holding serve on home ice; the winner is making their first-ever trip to the championship round.

In the East, the Virginia Rhinos felt as though they should have won the title last season, even though they were upended by Utah in 5 games in last season’s final.  “I think we all had the belief that the better team lost last time,” said C Cyril Perignon.  “We are on a mission of revenge.”

The Rhinos played with purpose and passion in the division playoff, dispatching the Oshawa Drive in three straight.  Despite the fact that Virginia thrived on scoring this season, they relied on stout defense to succeed in this playoff; they shut out the Drive in each of the first two games. They won Game 1 by a 4-0 margin, with C Tanner Brooks getting a short-handed goal to open the scoring and LW Yuri Laronov recording a power-play tally to end it.  The Rhinos eked out a 1-0 victory in Game 2, with RW “Real” Hank Diehl scoring the lone goal on a deflection early in the second period.  Goalie Gus Parrish was at the top of his game, turning aside 22 shots in the first game and 19 shots in the second.  In Game 3, with the series moving north of the border, Virginia opened up a 3-0 lead before D Ingolf Gudmundsen finally recorded the Drive’s first goal of the series late in the second period.  Oshawa LW Norris “Beaver” Young struck on the power play two minutes into the third period to close the gap to one, but they couldn’t muster the tying tally as the Rhinos completed the clean sweep.

“Everyone in this locker room is focused on one thing: winning the Howard Trophy,” said Rhinos coach Jeffrey “Swampy” Marsh.  “If we have to go over, under, around, or through our opponents to make it happen, that’s what we’re going to do.  We’re like Andy Dufresne in ‘Shawshank Redemption,’ climbing through that sewer pipe on our way to freedom.”

Meanwhile, the Minnesota Freeze had a bumpier road than the Rhinos did, as the Colorado Springs Zoomies pushed the series to the limit.  But like their parent club, the Anchorage Igloos, the Freeze survived and will advance to the Finals.

Game 1 was a back-and-forth affair, with the Freeze and Zoomies trading goals, and it ultimately went into overtime.  D Julian Staples ultimately nailed the game-winner six minutes into the extra session to give Minnesota a 4-3 win.  Game 2 was another close contest; Zoomies RW Joel Hagendosh got a short-handed goal midway through the third, and the game wound up in overtime once again.  One extra period wasn’t enough this time, but C Mason Alpine ended it a minute into the second OT with a slapper from the point that lifted Minnesota to a 3-2 victory.  Back home for Game 3, Colorado Springs kicked their offense into high-gear, rallying from a two-goal deficit to snatch a 6-4 win that staved off elimination.  In Game 4, the Zoomies made the most of the man advantage, scoring all three of their goals on the power play.  Even though the Freeze outshot them 39-23, Colorado Springs goalie Sonny Kashiuk stood on his head, making 38 saves in a 3-1 win.  In the winner-take-all Game 5, Minnesota again dominated on offense, outshooting the Zoomies 35-17.  But even though the Freeze scored four goals in a wide-open second period, the Zoomies hung tough, ultimately coming up short by a 5-4 score.

The Igloos sent their minor-league club a congratulatory video, with Anchorage players calling on their minor-league counterparts to help the organization capture both championship.  “We’re going to prove that we’re the best team right now,” said Igloos C Jake Frost.  “We’re hoping you guys can go out and prove that we’re going to win the future too.”

Although Minnesota finished the regular season 11 points ahead of Virginia, most observers expect a closely-fought battle in the Finals.  The Rhinos will be looking to win the title they felt they were robbed of last year, while the Freeze will be looking to make their parent club proud.  The series begins Sunday at Northwoods Auditorium in Duluth.