The North American 3 Hockey League (3HL) playoffs will come to a conclusion this weekend as the league hosts its annual 3HL Championship Tournament at the Fox Valley Ice Arena in Geneva, Illinois from March 30th – April 2nd.
Four teams have advanced to the 3HL Championship Tournament: Flint Jr. Generals (East Division), Granite City Lumberjacks (West Division), St. Louis Jr. Blues (Central Division), Toledo Cherokee (North Division). All four not only won their respective divisional regular season titles, but also their playoff divisional titles as well, marking the first time in 3HL history the four #1 seeds from each division advanced to the 3HL Championship Tournament. The teams will be seeded 1-4 based upon their regular season records because all were crowned as divisional champions.
The weekend will begin on Thursday, March 29th with the 3HL Champions dinner for all four teams. During the event, the 3HL will hand out their league awards for the 2011-12 season and the results will be posted exclusively on www.na3hl.com later that evening.
Competition begins the next day on Friday, March 30th. All four teams will play one another in a round-robin format with the top two teams advancing to the 3HL Championship game on Monday, April 2nd. Here is a look at the Championship schedule:
Friday, March 30th
4:30pm - #3 St. Louis vs. #2 Granite City
7:30pm - #4 Toledo vs. #1 Flint
Saturday, March 31st
4:30pm - #4 Toledo vs. #2 Granite City
7:30pm - #3 St. Louis vs. #1 Flint
Sunday, April 1st
2:30pm - #4 Toledo vs. #3 St. Louis
5:30pm - #2 Granite City vs. #1 Flint
Monday, April 2nd
12:30pm – 3HL National Championship Game
Tickets for the 3HL Championship Tournament will be on sale at the Fox Valley Ice Arena beginning Friday, March 30th. Tournament and daily passes will be available for purchase. Tournament and daily passes for scouts will also be for sale. All seven games of the 3HL Championship Tournament can also be viewed live on FASTHockey, the official broadcast provider of the 3HL.
For complete tournament information including schedule, format and statistics, visit www.na3hl.com.
Here is a look the the four teams that will compete for the 3HL Championship:
East Division Champion: Flint Jr. Generals (35-10-3, 73 pts.)
Division Semi-Finals: Defeated the Pittsburgh Jr. Penguins, 2-0
Division Finals: Defeated the Cleveland Jr. Lumberjacks, 2-0
The Jr. Generals swept both the East Division Semi-Finals against Pittsburgh and the East Division Finals against Cleveland to arrive at the 3HL Championship Tournament. They are the only team remaining in the 3HL playoffs who has yet to suffer a loss. The Jr. Generals are led by goaltender Ben Myers, who was one of only two goalies in the league this season to win the Brian’s Goalie of the Month award. Out of the top 10 scorers in the 3HL during the regular season, Flint had three of them… Richard Jansson (67 pts.), Andy Lay (65 pts.) and Edward Osowski (62 pts.). Meanwhile, Cody Damon leads the team in playoff scoring with seven points so far this post-season.
2011-12 record vs. Granite City: 1-0-0
2011-12 record vs. St. Louis: 0-0-0
2011-12 record vs. Toledo: 2-3-0
West Division Champion: Granite City Lumberjacks (33-11-4, 70 pts.)
Division Semi-Finals: Defeated the Minnesota Flying Aces, 2-0
Division Finals: Defeates the North Iowa Bulls, 2-1
The Granite City Lumberjacks moved through their semi-final round with a sweep of Minnesota, but ran into a determined North Iowa Bulls team in the West Division Finals. All three games were decided by a goal and two went to overtime, but the Lumberjacks prevailed. The key to Granite City’s success has been goaltender Matt Grove, who statistically, was the league’s top goaltender this season and one of only two goalies to win the Brian’s Goalie of the Month award this season. Peter Lindblad led he league in game-winning goals and finished tied for 2nd in 3HL scoring this season, while defenseman Nick Zierden brings a solid, physical presence along the blueline. Riley Bengston leads the Lumberjacks in playoff scoring with five points in five games.
2011-12 record vs. Flint: 0-0-1
2011-12 record vs. St. Louis: 2-3-0
2011-12 record vs. Toledo: 0-0-0
Central Division Champion: St. Louis Jr. Blues (31-12-5, 67 pts.)
Division Semi-Finals: Defeated the Quad City Jr. Flames, 2-1
Division Finals: Defeated the Peoria Mustangs, 2-1
The Jr. Blues were pushed to the brink in both playoff series leading up the 3HL Championship, but responded with two big Game 3 wins, letting everyone know that when the pressure is on the team is quick to respond. Johnny Mueller leads the 3HL in playoff scoring with 10 points in six games and defenseman Joe Bowler is one of the best set-up men in the league. On the offensive side, Daniel Rosse is capable of putting up big points and goals, as he led the Jr. Blues in both goals and assists this season. However, the Jr. Blues success in the 3HL Championship may hinge on the play of goaltender Mitch Fernsler. He has been spectacular in the 3HL playoffs, including starting and winning both Game 3’s, in which he has allowed just one goal in 47 shots. His 1.23 goals against average in the playoffs ranks 2nd.
2011-12 record vs. Flint: 0-0-0
2011-12 record vs. Granite City: 3-2-0
2011-12 record vs. Toledo: 1-0-0
North Division Champion: Toledo Cherokee (31-15-2, 64 pts.)
Division Semi-Finals: Defeated the Battle Creek Jr. Revolution, 2-0
Division Finals: Defeated the Queen City Steam, 2-1
After cruising through the division semi-finals against Battle Creek, the Toledo Cherokee found themselves in a dog fight in the division finals against the Queen City Steam. The Cherokee would win Games 2 and 3 to advance to the 3HL Championship, showing their medal in Game 3 with a come-from-behind win that included four goals in the 3rd period. Scoring three of those goals was Mike Baker, who leads the 3HL in playoff goals with six in five games played. If there is a strong point for the Cherokee in the playoffs to this point, it has been their offense, which is the best in the 3HL playoffs thus far. Toledo is averaging over 4 ½ goals per game and over 50 shots on goal per game during the playoffs. They are also allowing the fewest shots on goal against during the playoffs, which is a recipe for success. Ryan Kelly and Christos Papaioannou are also helping the offense with some big numbers. With goalies Austyn Roudebush and Lukas Gavalier splitting time and games to this point in the playoffs, it will be interesting to see who gets the start come tournament time.
2011-12 record vs. Flint: 3-2-0
2011-12 record vs. Granite City: 0-0-0
2011-12 record vs. St. Louis: 0-1-0
(Nathan can be reached at email@example.com)