Playoff Preview: Round 1

The regular season has come to an end, and it’s time for FHL playoff hockey! In a quick season recap: The Mustangs started out the season on fire, going 7-1 in the first 8 weeks and had breakout seasons from newcomer goalie Chris Metzinger and forward TT Simpson, who led their team with 15 points. The Moose, who lost out on first place by a single game, finished the season 6-1 after not winning a single series in February. The Moose finished with 5 players with 10 or more points to lead the FHL. The defending FHL champion Huskies got off to a tough start going 1-5, but ended the year strong winning 7 of the last 10 games. For the second season in a row Ryan Mains finished first in the league in goals and points. The Pirates had an up and down season, but hope to have a full squad come playoff time. Brothers Andy and Roy McDonald helped lead the team and can be found throughout the league leaders in all offensive categories, while sharp shooter Joey Faiello added 16 goals and 10 shootout goals. Now for our first round playoff matchups.

#1 Mustangs v. #4 Pirates

The Mustangs swept the regular season series 5-0, however 3 of those series went the distance. When asked about facing the Mustangs in the first round Roy McDonald of the Pirates had this to say, “The Mustangs are a tough team to play against starting with Sean and Jesse Lyons and Bob (Pellegrino). When you add in BG, Fetsko, Gardner, and TT they have the firepower to match ours.” Roy also added about his  team’s regular season struggles, “The Pirates had a rough season with attendance, but every week we gave whoever we played a tough matchup. I’m sure we’re not gonna be a team anyone is happy to face.” 
Although we haven’t seen a full Pirate squad much this season, you can expect the amount of skill will make up for lack of chemistry. There may not be a better offensive top 6 in the league than Campbell, Fish, Nick Siniawski, Faiello, and the McDonald brothers. The Pirates also have a solid d-core with veterans Rogers, Doyle, and Zelena, who will be asked to shut the door against a talented and speedy Mustang team. 
The Mustangs are looking to make their 2nd straight finals appearance and seem to match up well against The Pirates, with a clear edge in between the pipes. The Pirates used three different goaltenders this season and were a league low minus 32 in the goal differential department. They’ll be likely to turn to FHL veteran netminder Mark Olsavicky, while the Mustangs will rely on Chris Metzinger, who finished atop the league in total wins, goals against average, and shoot out saves. 
The Pirates may have more star power, but the Mustangs have the youth, speed, and chemistry, returning many of the players from last year’s successful inaugural season. Bob Pellegrino, who has been a part of the last two FHL championship teams (1 as goalie, 1 as defenseman) knows playing the Pirates won’t be easy, but is looking forward to it, “they’re going to be a challenge to play for sure. They’re a good team from top to bottom. We’ll need to find a way to shut them down. They are a clean, respectable organization, and it should be a fun series.” 

FHL Expert Picks:  Mustangs 3, Pirates 2

#2 Moose v. #3 Huskies

The Moose won the season series 3-2 in a string of highly competitive games, including a five game affair in the final week of the season.  The Huskies seem to have improved each week after a slow start to the year and hope to be peaking at the right time. Led offensively by probable MVP Ryan Mains (18 G, 10 A), veteran Shane Lucas (7 G, 11 A) and second year player Grant Wolf (9 G, 5 A) have also had strong seasons up front for the Huskies. On the blue line, the defending champs have opted to stick with their winning formula by returning their top pairing of Captain Jimmy Besterci and Pat Farrell. They’ll look to control the play in front of Goaltender Joey Neutrelle, who brings a wealth of experience as the FHL all-time leader in wins with 156. While Neutrelle struggled in the shootout this year, he won’t have to worry about that in the postseason, and he posted a strong 0.68 GAA in helping his team to the best goal differential in the league. Besterci weighed in saying, “Joey is a rock back there. He’s a difference maker and has stood on his head for us all season. He is a fierce competitor and is hungry for a championship.”
The Moose posted yet another strong season under Captain Zack Siniawski behind the most balanced scoring attack in the league. Forwards Adam Cristallini, Antonio Scheible, TJ Hall, Siniawski, and Tom Simpson all reached double digits in points, while franchise player Tony Bonacorso tallied 9 points despite missing much of the season. Defensively the Moose will rely on FHL veterans Dick Pilato and Steve Barron, along with newcomer Alec Italiano, and also hope to have former Commissioner John George available. When reached for comment George said, “Yanno it kills me to not be with the guys this time of year. But Zack built a strong and deep Moose team like always so I know the team will be fine. I will say this much about my availability: the only thing for sure about rockin’ Ron, is nothing is for sure.” Between the pipes, the Moose benefitted from the strong play of goaltender Jamie Zelena, posting a 0.63 GAA, and a league best 0.583 Win %.
While the Moose did a solid job containing Mains in the regular season series (just 6 points in 5 games, one being an empty net goal), they have yet to play against the Huskies second leading goal scorer in Wolf. Meanwhile, the Moose can look forward to more consistent goaltending, having played two of the regular season matchups without Zelena in net. With two well rounded teams that played well down the stretch, this should be a great battle. 

FHL Expert Picks: Huskies 3, Moose 2

About FHL: Franklin Hockey League

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