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Published: Sunday, 27 Mar 2016  
By: Arch Ecker

The Atlanta Capitals season ended in the same place as last season, eliminated by the Texas Jr. Brahmas in the South Division Semi-Finals. Last season, the (Topeka) Capitals earned home ice advantage but were forced to play the games in the Brahmas facility because there was no ice available in the Kansas Expocentre. This season, Texas earned the home ice by the narrowest of margins, as one single point separated the division’s top three teams.  

Game 1 saw Atlanta come out with a furious pace, outshooting the stunned Brahmas 21-3 in the opening period, and opening up a 3-0 first period lead. Alex Johanson started the scoring and Philip Pugliese added two more. Texas managed a second period goal but Ross Bartlett and Arturas Laukaitis helped seal the win with third period tallies and the Capitals took a 1-0 series lead, defeating the Brahmas 5-1. 

In Game 2, which was technically a home game for Atlanta but played in Texas, it was the Brahmas who scored first, a shorthanded goal in the opening period and the Brahmas led 1-0 after 1. The Capitals had the pressure on and tied it in the second on a Ross Bartlett goal at 7:05, but Texas retook the lead on a power play goal and led 2-1 after 2. The Caps tied it again at 2-2 in the third off the stick of Evan Camba but another Texas power play goal gave the Brahmas a 3-2 lead, and despite outshooting Texas 47-21, the Capitals couldn’t score again and the series was tied at a game apiece. 

The decisive Game 3 came on Monday afternoon, again in the NYTEX Sports Center. Atlanta, looking for their first ever series win, jumped out to a 2-0 first period lead on goals by Drake Cartwright and Jack Cleaver 1:05apart. Texas rallied to tie but an Alex Johanson goal put Atlanta back on top, 3-2 at the end of the first. Texas took their first lead after a pair of second period goals but the Caps tied it at 4-4 when Bartlett scored at 17:37and the entire series came down to one final period. That period belonged squarely to Texas, as they doubled the Caps up on shots, and took a 5-4 lead on a power play about three minutes in. Midway through the period, Texas scored twice more, less than a minute apart, and Atlanta took numerous penalties, surrendering one more power play goal for the 8-4 margin that would seal the game and the series for Texas. 

Atlanta begins the process of preparing for the 2016-17 season, with 6 players aging out. (Colin O’Connor, Dylan Wattles, Steve MacIver, Kyle Rimbach, Drew Kelly, and Andrew Cooley). Philip Pugliese has signed a tender with the parent club, the NAHL’s Topeka RoadRunners. 

Author: Arch Ecker

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