FHL Playoffs Preview- Week 1

by Jim Besterci

The Regular season has come and gone on this the 10th anniversary of the FHL, it’s now win or go home playoff hockey and for 2 teams this Saturday will be the end of their almost 5 month long journey to bring home the fabled FHL cup.

(3) Crosby's vs. (6) Tigers

The first match of the day starting at 10:00 will feature the (3) seeded Crosby’s rich in tradition sporting an 8-7 record vs the expansion (6) seeded Tigers under veteran FHL captain Joe Rogers who finished the season 5-10. The teams faced off against each other three times this season with the last place Tigers winning all 3 including a week fifteen five game hard fought series. Yes, you read that correct the Tigers have been a thorn in the side of the Crosby’s all season but don’t tell that to Crosby’s captain John George who said “credit Joe and those guys, they’ve played some of their best hockey this season against us, but you throw all the records out this time of year. We don’t give a damn what happened last week, in January, or whenever! We’ll be ready come Saturday at 10:00.” Tigers also well aware of how they fared vs the Crosby’s this season echoed George’s feelings leaving the regular season in the past and focusing on the task at hand “we’re just confident in the way we are playing recently” newcomer Adam Cristallini stated in an interview with TSN. Cristallini went on to tell reporters “Joe (Rogers) is going to put us in the best situation to succeed on Saturday”. Joe of course was the man responsible for bringing in Cristallini as well as veteran defensemen BJ Yott, Dan Drane, young up and comer Corey Joyce, and FHL veteran and cup winner Brian (BG) Grise prior to this year’s trade deadline to help boost his team’s confidence and get ready for the playoffs the. Tigers finished the season with 3 wins over the last 5 games.

The Crosby’s will lean heavily on their core offensive players such as the face of the franchise Tony Bonacorso, strong 2 way center ice man Derek Morrison who had a career high 10 goals this season, Jeff Gardner who was brought over earlier in the season, and Nick Siniawski who had an explosive offensive season and finished second in the league in goals (15) and third in points (26). Crosby’s have confidence all the confidence in the world in one of the best in the league goaltender Joey Neutrelle who is no stranger in making a deep playoff run but will be facing off against another FHL great Craig Hixon who is hungry to repeat his glory years when he won the cup and was named finals MVP and leave last year’s playoff mess in the past.

EXPERTS PICK: Split decision 3 votes Tigers, 3 votes Crosby’s

(4) Bulls vs. (5) Moose 
At high noon the 4th seed Bulls prepare for a very difficult opening series against the 5th place and defending champion Moose. The FHL is a buzz about this Moose team that seems to be gearing up for what they hope is another deep cup run. As typical for the Moose they started out slow and look to finish strong, appeared to be a cake walk early in the season starting off the first seven weeks with a FHL worst 1-6 record, but finally getting healthy for the stretch run by getting their star goalie Rick Severa who finished tied for the lead league in GAA (0.64) and sure 1st ballot FHL hall of famer Jason Kortz back just in time to help turn their season around. When asked what the return of Kortz meant to an already dangerous offensive team with veterans such as Drew Hruska and Tom Hanna Bulls captain Shane Lucas said “Kortz changes the dynamic in which they play and that’s a challenge, but a welcomed one. He’s a great competitor and a fun guy to play against because of his compete level, I’m looking forward to it.” We can’t talk about a Moose team without mentioning the defensive pair of Zack Siniawski and RJ Pilato who is evolving as a leader on and off the surface and in many eyes a strong candidate for defensive player of the season. Captain Siniawski knows this Bulls team well and knows what his team has to do to be successful “Bulls are a good team we are excited for the challenge they present, we have to get to our game early and prevent them from dictating play.”

The Bulls as always will rely on Roy McDonald who again led his team in every offensive category this season as well as new comers to the league Tom Edelman and rookie of the year candidate Grant Wolfe who brought a welcomed surge of offense to the team finishing just behind Roy in goals, assists, and points. The Bulls hope that the speed of players like Ruffing and Buettner will cause the Moose defense difficulty over the course of the series. Watch for Buddy Doyle to be an “X factor” of the series, the former Jukes captain has struggled to find the back of the net this year but can help shut down the opponents best offensive players and is one of the best on the breakout from his own end. Speaking of his own end with the departure of Mark Olsavicky mid-way through the season the bulls were left with a whole in the between the pipes only to acquire Jamie Zelena from the Tigers. Zelena hasn’t put up the best numbers as of yet, still looking for his first victory this season as a starter but Lucas is still very confident in his net minder adding “since we acquired Jamie at the deadline each week he has been getting better and playing to the level we know he can. I have tremendous confidence in him that’s why we went and traded for him. He’s going to be great on Saturday.” The Bulls won the regular season series vs. the Moose 2-1, each team swept the other once and the Bulls won in 5 all the way back on week 2. The teams haven’t met since week 10.

EXPERTS PICK: Moose 5 votes, Bulls 2 votes

Week 15 Results - Playoff Schedule

Moose forfeit to Mustangs (3-0)

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Final Standings:

1) Huskies 11-4
2) Mustangs 9-6
3) Crosby's 8-7
4) Bulls 7-8
5) Moose 5-10
6) Tigers 5-10

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April 30th

10:00 AM: Tigers (6) vs. Crosby's (3)

12:00 PM: Moose (5) vs. Bulls (4)

Week 13, Week 14 Results

Week 13

Bulls def. Crosby's 3-0 via forfeit

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Week 14

Commissioner's Corner - Craig Hixon

Corner: Thanks for stopping by Craig.
Craig: Hey man glad to be here and thanks for having me.

Corner:  What’s life been like on the Tigers this year?  The record isn’t great—but you have a pretty loose team and definitely some upside.
Craig: It has been a season of ups and downs so far. The weeks that we have a full squad I feel like we are the best team in the league. The weeks when we field 4 which seems like every week, is fun for me cause I face a lot of shots but its not fun loosing. I feel as if our record doesn't reflect how good of a team we actually are. I'm going to like going into playoffs as the bottom team. The pressure of victory will be on our opponents and that's a great place to be in. The bye weeks are overrated anyhow. 

Corner:  Despite the record, you’ve played pretty well this year.  Do you feel like you are in your prime? (Or close to it)
Craig; I have to give a lot of credit to our defense. Especially Joe. The man is there week in and week out and wears shots for me and I can't thank him enough. However I feel I'm starting the decline of my prime. My peak was that 2013 season where I was undefeated the entire season including playoffs. My gear on the other hand is on its last leg. If anyone wants to invest in some new gear for a kid I'd appreciate it. 

Corner:  Oh I’m sure Joe and Andy would love to buy you a set.  When you first started playing, we only had 2 goalies for all 6 teams.  Take us back to those days.

Craig: The good ol' days of Franklin hockey. I wish I could go back Ron I tell ya. The days where hitting was encouraged rather than a penalty. The days when my dad would drop me off at 11 and pick me up at 4 cause I was too young to even drive. The days where we would shatter a window and have to delay until the cops came and then they would stick around and watch for awhile. Those were the good days. Being around long enough to see the beginning of the league and how it has evolved, it has come a long way and I am proud to say I was apart of it. 

Corner:  Well said Craig. Those were fast times for sure.  You’ve faced plenty of talented players in your career.  Who is the most difficult to stop?
Craig: There are a few that come to mind. Kanz back in the old days was deadly. Barca, Bono, Kortz all of those top level guys sure had my number back at Franklin. However in the more recent days, Mains has really flexed his pound or two of muscle and has had my number over the last two or so years. 

Corner:  Do you have a favorite season? Team?

Craig: By far my favorite season was the year I won the cup and Finals MVP with that blue team the league use to have. Going into 4 OT's and Campbell burring that breakaway, I believe it was the best final the league has ever had and I'm glad I was able to be a part of it. As favorite teams go I don't have one but I do have a least favorite. That would be the Jets. Forfeiting a playoff game not only made the team dead to the league. They're dead to me. My Jets jersey was burned shortly after getting that text saying we forfeit. 

Corner: LOL.  This will be the 10th FHL cup.  What would winning this one mean?

Craig: There is no better feeling in all of Munhall than to lift that FHL Cup. I have been there before and I would sure love to be back. I feel like this is the year a wildcard teams lifts that cup and the Tigers come out on top. It may also be a Peyton Manning type of year and a good way to go out on top. 

Corner: Thanks for your time Craig.  Good luck the rest of the way.
Craig: Appreciate you having me. All the best to you and the rest of the league. God bless America and God bless the FHL. 

Week 11 / Week 12 Results

Trade Deadline Recap!

There were two trades before last week's trade deadline. 

Huskies receive: Bob Pellagrino
Mustangs receive: Ryan Marino and Dan Naughton

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Mustangs receive: Jesse Lyons and Tyler Smith
Tigers receive: Brian Grise