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Published: Monday, 14 Mar 2016  
By: Arch Ecker

When the dust settled on NA3HL regular season action Sunday, just one point separated the top three teams in the South Division, with the Capitals in third with 72 points, and Point Mallard claiming the Division Title by virtue of the tiebreaker over Texas, who finished with an identical 35-9-3 record.

Coming into the weekend, the Capitals and Ducks each controlled their own destiny. Win both games at Point Mallard, and the South title would be theirs. The Capitals hopes were squashed when the Ducks snuck past Atlanta 5-4 on Saturday in Decatur, AL. Point Mallard came out firing, with 21 first period shots by Kyle Rimbach had the only score of the period and Atlanta led 1-0 after 1. The Ducks tied it up in the middle frame but Atlanta retook the lead on an Evan Camba penalty shot at 9:26. The Ducks tied it at 2 apiece but Alex Johanson gave the Caps the 3-2 lead to close out the second period. Trading goals, Point Mallard evened the score in the third period but Evan Camba buried his second of the game for a 4-3 Atlanta lead. Meanwhile, Aleksandr Zendejas was turning aside shots by the dozen until the Ducks tied the game for the fourth time with 5:48 left to play. The game winning goal was scored by Ducks captain Josh Hamilton on a 2 on 1 break, his third goal of the game with just :38 seconds left to play. Zendejas stopped 55 of 60 shots but the chances of a Capitals division title were gone.

By the time the puck dropped on Sunday in the regular season finale, the Texas Jr. Brahmas had dropped a 2-1 shootout loss to Louisiana, effectively clinching the division title for Point Mallard. Texas and Point Mallard each had 73 points but the Ducks held the tiebreaker, having defeated the Brahmas in all four head to head meetings. Atlanta could do no better than third, as even a win on Sunday afternoon would leave them a single point behind. The Capitals pounced quickly, with Frank Trazzera lighting the lamp :20 seconds into the game. Still in the opening minute, Alex Johanson scored to make it a 2-0 Capitals lead with only :43 seconds elapsed. A pair of goals about a minute and a half apart in the second period from Johanson and Colin O’Connor put the Capitals up 4-0. The Ducks cracked the scoreboard midway through the second period, but Zendejas was stellar in net, ultimately denying 41 shots in the season finale. Steve MacIver punctuated the win with goal in the final minute for the 5-1 margin.

The Capitals finish the season at 35-10-2, the best finish in their three year history, yet they will be the #3 seed when they face the #2 seed Texas Jr. Brahmas in the opening round of the playoffs. The Ducks, as division winners, will face the #4 seed Sugar Land Imperials . The Capitals were eliminated from the playoffs last season by the Jr. Brahmas in a 2 game sweep.  

Author: Arch Ecker

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