Now that we are down to the nitty-gritty of the North American Hockey League Playoffs, let’s go ahead and make a few bold predictions. For the record, it may not be a good idea to bet the house on anything I have to say as my track record over the years has been less than impressive. My NCAA Insider is just that, a current NCAA level head coach with a keen eye on all things NAHL.
Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff.
Fairbanks Ice Dogs vs Minnesota Magicians (Fairbanks took season series 4-2): Let’s face it the biggest issue here; it’s the playoffs and the season series is all but irrelevant. The first two games of the series are in Alaska. Game three will also be at the Big Dipper if the Magicians are up 2-0 in the series OR it’s split at 1-1. Game three moves to Minnesota if Fairbanks is up 2-0. Games four and five will also be played at the Magicians barn. NCAA INSIDER SAYS: Fairbanks has that winning culture. They’ve been here numerous times. They have depth, goaltending, and coaching. The Magicians are skilled and have superb goaltending. Could be a long series. MY PICK: Magicians
Johnstown Tomahawks vs New Jersey Titans (Johnstown took season series 6-2): The first two games will be at the War Memorial in Johnstown and the place will be rocking. If Jersey can split those first two games, they might have a chance. That’s going to be a big IF. NCAA INSIDER SAYS: Johnstown is much better on paper, but New Jersey proved last round they have “belief.” Whose healthy? Whose goalie plays better? Johnstown’s depth and talent or New Jersey’s belief after upsetting Jamestown. MY PICK: Johnstown
Aberdeen Wings vs Minot Minotauros (Aberdeen took season series 8-4): Minot proved in last year’s playoffs that regular season results were meaningless. Along the way, I’ve learned to never underestimate the motivational power of Marty Murray. As for Wings’ bench czar Scott Langer, I’ve got to see him in Vegas in a few months. The Wings look very good and have the muscle to win the whole enchilada. NCAA INSIDER SAYS: Arguably the best two coaches in the league. This series is going to have a lot of tension - as Aberdeen is still upset about Minot knocking them out last year. This series will go five games. MY PICK: Aberdeen
Amarillo Bulls vs Shreveport Mudbugs (Amarillo took season series 7-5): Rocky Russo has this team dialed in after an early scare in the first-round win over Corpus Christi. The Bulls matchup well against the ‘Bugs and I don’t think Shreveport has the manpower to outgun Amarillo. The only chance the Mudbugs has would be to try and knock out the Bulls with physical play in game one. If they can beat Amarillo up, they may be able to take the series. The issue is that Amarillo can play that game too. NCAA INSIDER SAYS: Amarillo didn’t have much adversity during the regular season... but they did in round one. And they faced that head on. They’re the deepest team in the league and straightened out their goaltending after games one and two against Corpus. This will be a short series in favor of Amarillo. MY PICK: Amarillo.
Author: Stephen Heisler
Stephen Heisler has spent a lifetime in the game of hockey. Stephen is also working with individual teams, coaches, and players as a director with the Heisler Group. Stephen, his wife Deysi, and four children reside in Orlando, Florida.
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