The NA3HL Playoffs begin this weekend and for the Atlanta Capitals, the South Division Semi Final round pits them against the Texas Jr. Brahmas, the same foe who knocked the Capitals out of the playoffs last season. The series is a best of three format and begins this Saturday. The other division Semi Final has the #1 seed Point Mallard Ducks taking on the #4 seed Sugar Land Imperials.
HISTORY: Last season the Capitals finished in second place (behind Nashville) and were entitled to home ice against the third place Brahmas. However, lack of available ice in Topeka forced the series to be played at the NYTEX Sports Center, home of the Brahmas. The games were technically “home” games for the (then) Topeka Capitals, with the Capitals getting last change, but Texas won the series in 2 straight games. In Game 1, the Caps overcame a 4-1 deficit but lost 6-5 on a late power play goal. In Game 2, the Capitals again tied the game twice only to surrender a power play goal that proved to be the game winner.
TEAM VS TEAM: The Capitals and Brahmas met four times this season, with the Capitals taking 7 of 8 points. Atlanta outscored Texas 20-12. Atlanta won a 4-3 overtime game in Texas, and the Brahmas took an 8-7 shootout in Atlanta.
SPECIAL TEAMS: The series showcases two of the league’s top power plays. Atlanta ranks fifth at 24.9% and Texas sixth at 24.7%. The Brahmas penalty kill is number one overall at 91%, while the Capitals are ranked tenth at 86.4%. In their four head to head games, each teams penalty kill units held the opposition to about half of their normal conversion rate.
WHO TO WATCH: For the Brahmas, Ryan Dunner led the team with 77 points (35g, 42a) but was held to just 2 points (1g, 1a) in 4 games against Atlanta. Defenseman Niklas McCallum (+47) led the team in plus minus while Kyle Galloway and Bryan Whelan also had productive years offensively. Goalies Brandon Perrone and Tyler Myers split goaltending duties and had equal success, each with a GAA of less than 2.00 and save percentages over .910. Atlanta’s leading scorer was Arturas Laukaitis who likewise had 77 points (34g, 43a), with additional offensive support coming from veterans Kyle Rimbach (32g, 42a) and Alex Johanson (44g, 28a). Colin O’Connor and Andrew Cooley anchor the blue line, and Aleksandr Zendejas carries the bulk of the load in goal. Zendejas went 22-8-1 this season, including 3-0-0 against the Brahmas.
COACH’S QUOTE: Third year head coach Anthony Bohn takes a calm approach to the series. “We are preparing as business as usual”, he said. “Our focus all season long has been on our preparation and process, and that’s how we’ll continue to operate.” He added, “We are looking forward to the opportunity against the Brahmas.”
GAME TIMES: Game 1: Saturday March 19, 2:15 pm at Texas. Game 2: Sunday March 20, 2:15 pm at Atlanta. Game 3 (if necessary): Monday March 21, 2:15 pm at Texas.
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