It’s All About The Seeding
With the regular-season finish line (Feb. 23) in sight, 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.
It’s winning time for the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs (28-5-1-0), who maintain a seven-point lead with 10 games to play. Sealing the deal is by no means a done deal though as two games with second-place Northern Cyclones remain on Feb. 7 and Feb. 23. Shawn Nelson (21-27-48) and Payton Baldillez (15-33-48) form the league’s top-scoring tandem of forwards. Eric Berglund (12-27-39) adds to the ample firepower up front. Cam Spicer and Jacob Donahue anchor a rugged defense in front of the league’s premier goalie duo of Brenden Cain (1.85, .932) and Jake Theut (2.17, 934).
Time remains for the Northern Cyclones (25-8-0-0) but they pretty much have to win both remaining games against the Monarchs to have a shot at claiming the regular-season divisional title. Kevin Valenti (31-33-64) is running away with the league scoring title while Grant Gallo (14-21-35) is the premier offensive defenseman. Evan Morelli (2.11, .925) ranks second among league goalies and seems certain to get the bulk of the work the rest of the way. Forward Chris Zuccaro(10-25-35) and defenseman Bryan Dallaire (10-15-25) are enjoying outstanding seasons.
The Boston Bandits (19-10-3-2) are a victim of geography and would be contending for supremacy in the Central and South. Forwards Freddy Gerard (17-23-40), Alex Bonito (13-25-38) and Tyler Drevitch (10-25-35) have had effective seasons. Billy Palmer (2.47, .933) has been rock solid in goal and shares time with Ryan Hubbard. Martin Chrkavy, Shayne Bailey, Matt Michalke and Andy Price form the core of a sound defense.
The Valley Jr. Warriors (12-16-3-5) are likely to be road warriors for the playoffs. Forwards Christian Eisborg (14-19-33) and Shane Tracy (12-20-32) have produced consistently all season. Ironman goalie Matt Penta leads the league in minutes played (1,446:58) and has a respectable 3.36 gaa. Whether he has anything left in the tank come post-season remains to be seen. Rudolfs Kalvitis has emerged as the top defenseman.
Ditto for the Boston Junior Rangers (13-18-2-3), also certain to find themselves on the bus for the majority of the tournament. Offensive leader Tyler Theodoulou (12-25-37) has had and effective year as have fellow forwards Alan Boozer (16-14-30) and Greg Stoya (13-14-27). Chris Hinrichs and Andrew Standish have been the most reliable defensemen in front of alternating keepers Cole Burack and Matt Beliveau.
* Coming Soon: Central Division Update