After a five month marathon regular season, the yearly battle for the Franklin Hockey League Cup will commence this Saturday at 11:00 AM--when the Jukes face off against the Ducks. The seven teams that comprise the FHL have spent those months working to achieve the best possible playoff slot while building chemistry on and off the asphalt.
Cool memories are made every Saturday for those who tackle the pavement and play the game we’ve all grown up loving. Whether it’s a ridiculous glove save, a lighting fast snipe job, or just catching up with pals on the bench, there’s always something to take home from the rink. The six week tournament that lies ahead however is where the special moments await---where “history will be made” if you will. Most of us can remember Zak Campbell and Brian Barca dominating their way to back to back Cups for the Jets--or Dustin Hess laying one of the most memorable checks in playoff history on Barca—or Brian Grise and Boyle thwarting the Jets shot at a 3-peat just a year later with their comeback victory in finals—or the Kings stunning the Crosbys in arguably the biggest upset in FHL history—or Ryan Fish jumping through the fence after clinching the final FHL Cup victory at old Franklin with an empty netter—or Kenny Sikora winning MVP of the Cup final for the Thunder in his first ever start in net…
Hundreds of players and 13 different teams have chased down the glory of hoisting the Cup, with far fewer ever attaining it. This spring, players and teams new and old alike will chase down that same glory—and it starts when Buddy Doyle leads his Jukes into battle against Jim Besterci and the Ducks.
(6) Ducks (4-10) vs (7) Jukes (2-12)
Ryan Cvejkus (Ducks)
Rick Severa (Jukes)
Drew Hruska (4g, 4a)
Zack Wahal (3g, 2a)
The addition of a 7th team this year requires a play-in game to take place before the traditional wild-card matchups. Jukes captain Buddy Doyle and Ducks interim captain Jim Besterci will have to find a way to focus on the first task at hand before the winner moves on to a series with the Crosbys just three hours later. Despite being the bottom feeders of the standings for the duration of the season, these two teams have plenty of talent. The Jukes have an MVP caliber player in Zack Wahal along with a dangerous forward in Derek Morrison. Past cup winners like Adam Pander, Josh “Cheese” Edwards, and Max Vehec offer a veteran element to the team. Doyle is confident he has one X-factor above all else… “Nobody—not even me—has seen this team at full strength. We truly are dangerous, and have depth. Plus- we have the best goalie in the league, and he can steal the cup”
Jim Besterci decided to keep it simple while evaluating the matchup with the Jukes. The heart and soul of the ducks had this to offer when asked how they will manage to escape Saturday without a loss… “We just have to play together as a team and capitalize on our chances”. The Ducks have been without their captain Drew Hruska for several weeks and will be without him most likely throughout the entire duration of the playoffs. Chemistry has been the biggest issue as there certainly is talent on the roster. This team will lean on players like Ryan Sabo, Josh Fennel and Troy Kweder to get them through wild-card weekend. Veterans Jeff Pingor and Ryan Cleary could offer a huge boost to the blue line if they are able to suit up. What promises to be a physical and animated series will usher in the 2014 playoffs at 11:00 AM this Saturday, and we will see if either team can pull of the Daniel Bryan-esque two wins in one day
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(4) Bulls (6-8) vs. (5) Moose (6-8)
Mark Olsavicky (Bulls)
Suzanne Obusnek (Moose)
Roy McDonald (13g, 15a)
Jay Kortz (14g, 3a)
Saturday’s primetime matchup features two teams with opposite styles and an interesting history. Flash back to the trade deadline a month and a half ago and the Moose shipped goaltender Mark Olsavicky over to the Bulls for Ryan Stotlemeyer, Neil Murray, and Chuck Ossler. The deal comes full circle Saturday when these two teams square off.
The Bulls look to bounce back strong from the franchises lone playoff appearance and disappointment last season. Led by McDonald, and captain Shane Lucas, the Bulls realize that they fall short in the size category against the Moose, but they won’t let that hold them back according to their leader… “The size mismatch is without question in the Moose favor. With that being a known factor, we plan on trying to capitalize against them by using our speed and getting in on the forecheck, hoping to cause pressure on their Dmen and create turnovers. If we can do that consistently I think it will benefit us against their size and wear them down.”
Moose captain Zack Siniawski held true to the team’s low profile ways by declining to offer a comment on the series. A veteran team with true game changers like Ryan Perhac, Matt Wierchowski, and Kortz, they will surely lean on their physical game to gain an edge on the quicker Bulls. If the Moose can contain Lucas and keep McDonald from getting shots on net then they will likely be the favorite to win. But scoring may be an issue for them as well as the Bulls blue line has been stout this year led by BJ Yott and Mike Cullen. Be sure to get in your seats early for this one as it is shaping up to be a memorable one.
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(3) Crosby's (8-6) vs Ducks/Jukes Winner
Joey Neutrelle (Crosby's)
Tony Bonacorso (16g, 6a)
In the final tilt of the day, the Crosbys will take on the winner of the Jukes-Ducks matchup from earlier in the day. One could easily assume that the Crosbys will be overlooking their opponent expecting to waltz into the semi-finals after playing a team beaten up from an earlier series. But Crosbys defensemen and vocal leader Joe Rogers does not expect that to happen, and feels things are only looking up for the boys in white.
“It’s a huge advantage to be able to play the wild card winner, but no one in this league can be overlooked. The FHL playoffs are about surviving and advancing. Neither team has had consistent attendance, but the playoffs are a different animal. Look what the Moose did last year. Not to mention, both teams have netminders that are capable of winning a series singlehandedly. The Crosbys are in a position where we feel like we’re finally getting healthy. We were hot earlier this year, but we got dinged up and lost a few series we thought we could have won. Now we should have all hands on deck and that gets out juices flowin. We’re exicted. We’re ready. We’re confident. Some players are borderline cocky. But we’re not overlooking anybody.
Buckle up baby, the playoffs are here.
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Zak Campbell’s 33 points is the lowest points total for a scoring title winner ever as scoring was drastically down this year. The record is 84 by Chad Kanz in 2008. Congrats anyways, Zak.
Just like last year, the format for games in the playoffs changes.
Each matchup this Saturday will be 1 game with 3, 15 minute periods.
In the event of overtime, it is 15 minute periods of sudden death hockey.
Teams are allowed 1 timeout in regulation, and an additional timeout in the event of overtime.
Weather for Saturday: Overcast with a chance of rain. 60 degrees.
Past FHL Cup Winners:
2010- Bishop Boyle