There are many reasons why hockey is the greatest spectator sport there is. The playoffs is just one of them. I’m writing as a hockey lover and writer. The playoffs are a time for the best to pull every last bit of themselves out and go farther than they think they can. It is a glorious time.
The Semi-Finals brought about so many upsets that it makes one’s head spin to think about it.
Take the Gwinnett Gladiators – Cincinnati Cyclones series. Gwinnett was packed with great players like Casey Pierro-Zabotel, Sacha Guimond and Ryan Giunand. I was sure they would take this series, but I was wrong. The intimidating Cyclones hungry for victory have won the right to move forward. Their roster is all big players, not a one is under five feet, 11 inches. And they are skilled with the likes of Jeff Foss, David Pacan and Matt Smyth.
Idaho Steelheads defeated the Ontario Reign. All season Idaho had never been that far behind Alaska and Ontario in the Western Conference, so it wasn’t out of the question that they could win this series, but with Ontario’s long drought in the Kelly Cup, it would seem to be their time. But not this time. The Steelheads crew, including Rylan Galiardi, David de Kastrozza and Scott Todd were dominant for enough of the series to avail over the Reign. Even Ontario’s superb players Derek Couture, Mario Lamoureux and Chris Carrozzi were not enough to beat Idaho.
In the most surprising contest, Stockton upset favorites Alaska Aces. Even the likes of Aces players Bobby Hughes, Chris Clackson and Gerald Coleman couldn’t stop the “Comeback Kids”, as they’re known as. Anyone who had paid attention to the Thunder’s last month of regular season play knew that this team was capable of coming back and winning nearly any contest. Even a 0-5 deficit couldn’t stop this squad. They kept battling, marching, moving forward until they’d win. As a hockey writer, I find this winning desire incredible and something to emulate. Players like Garet Hunt, Mike Little and Tyler Bunz don’t give up. And they’re not a big team, they’re scrappy and determined.
The most recent series just ended tonight with the Reading Royals closing out the Florida Everblades. I thought Florida might just be able to repeat, but the Royals were too much for them. The Royals toughness stems from players like Mark Owuya, Nikita Kashirsky and Joel Champagne. Florida’s stars Mathieu Roy, Leigh Salters and Brandon MacLean and an additionally played game couldn’t stop Reading.
So, the Final Conference games are:
Reading Royals vs Cincinnati Cyclones – East
Idaho Steelheads vs Stockton Thunder – West
Games start Friday. I won’t begin to guess who I think will win. It really is anybody’s Kelly Cup to win!
I WILL say that all of these games will be fast, exciting hockey and you should try to catch at least one on America One if you can. And by all means, listen to them online!
Minor league hockey rules!