With the regular-season finish line (Feb. 23) in sght, the final month is all about maximizing point totals and improving playoff seeding.
All 17 teams will participate in the post-season. The three division winners will be awarded the top three sees with remaining teams ranked 4-17 according to point totals. A 16 vs. 17 play-in game on Feb. 26 will determine the final team to take part in the best-of-three first round set for Feb. 28-March 2.
Best-of-three quarterfinals are scheduled for March 7-9, best-of-three semifinals are set for March 14-16 and the best-of-five Championship Series will be held March 19-24. The expanded championship format is geared to prepare teams for Nationals, where they will play five games in five day.
While the New York Bobcats (18-12-4-1) still have designs on the division title and top three seed, they must also be wary of the three teams bearing down on them from behind. Goalies Gabe Grunwald (2.83, .918) and Justin Kapelmaster have been a stout pair all season. Forward Steven Esposito (9-15-24) and defensemen William Campion (8-16-24) share the team scoring lead while forward Lucas Brown (11-12-23) and defenseman Sean Kacerosky (10-10-20) are the lone double-digit goal-scorers.
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights (16-14-6-1) likely don’t want home ice advantage for the playoffs thanks to sub-par 5-8-4-1 results in their own barn. Forwards Dan Perez (17-14-31), Matt Cessna (12-17-29), Chris Deming (11-9-20) and Gaven LaValley (20 points) pace the offense. Oskar Gerhardson and Quinton Neville have become the top defensemen in front of a trio of goaltenders, Matt MacInnis, Daniel Ernandes and Patrick Kerney, who have combined for four shutouts.
The Hartford Junior Woflpack (16-13-3-2) have enough remaining games (10) to make one final push. The offense, though, will have to kick it up a notch behind top forwards Dylan Vander Esch (8-21-29), Ori Benyami (7-19-26) and Dave Horan (8-13-21) and defenseman Theo Tydingco (7-14-21). League Top 10 goalie Spencer Landry (2.59, .928) has excellent numbers.
New York Applecore (17-17-1-2) epitomizes a .500 team at minus-5 differential and home/away records that are essentially reversed. Forward Rikard Keussen (14-29-43) has been a going concern all season, supplemented nicely by forwards Cale Schoenberg (21-10-31) and John Ganss (29 points) and defenseman Frank Sherding (29 points). Goalies Luke Andriuk and Blake Wojtala are likely continue to sharing time in the post-season.
The Walpole Express (11-16-6-2) have been driven all season by assist machine Frankie Cefalu, the league leader with 37 dimes. Forwards Garrett Reilley, Matt Gaetz and Max Bartell have added 42 goals and 75 points. Cam Hainey is the top defenseman and goalies Kyle Shapiro (.916) and Evan McCarthy (.917) continue to share equal cage time.
Coming Next: South Division