CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL, CONSOLATION SEMIFINALS UNDERWAY, DUBNYK PUTTING NUTS ON THE TABLE
BOSTON, MA—There won't be any more underdog upsets this year, as two of the top three seeds have punched their tickets to the 2015 WHL Championship. This is the first championship appearance for both the Portland Pints and Altoona Angry Beavers, who emerged triumphant in their respective semifinal showdowns against Sparta Praha and the defending champion California Kwijibos.
Altoona and California entered the final day of last week's match up separated by less than eight points. The Pints, meanwhile, began the final day of their semifinal series with a 30-point edge and didn't look back. After seeking back-to-back titles for the first time since Lokomotiv Yukon (now the CHEEFS) in 2012 and 2013, California will have to settle for a third-place thrown down with the Spartans.
On the total points front, Portland started the final day of the playoff quarterfinals just 36 points behind top-ranked Beantown. The Pints have been steadily closing the gap since trailing Beantown by roughly 270 points in late January. While the sting of an early exist is still fresh for Ball Busters GM Nathan Asdourian, there is still a $200 prize up for grabs if his team can rekindle some of its mojo from December and January when they looked downright untouchable.
Three of the four Consolation quarterfinal match ups entered Sunday with teams separated by less than ten points, but experience won out in the end. Les Canadiens de Montreal and CSKA Moscow--two of the WHL's Original Six franchises--dispatched the West Palm Beach Ranges and New Jersey Wall Flowers en route to berths in the consolation semifinals.
The black sheep of last week was a spirited affair against Saginaw and the suddenly hopped-up Boston Beernuts. Save for Portland, Boston outscored every other team across both playoff brackets, thanks in large part to the superb play of Devan Dubnyk. Through four starts last week, Dubnyk allowed just five goals and racked up 31.2 fantasy points, which just so happens to mirror Boston's margin of victory over the Spirit.
In case that wasn't enough good ju-ju for Boston, the Beernuts will be in great shape come September. In addition to its own first rounder, Boston also owns the top pick of their semifinal opponent, the Wolfsburg Vipers. Boston is guaranteed at least the 2nd overall pick regardless of how the remaining two rounds shake out, and barring any offseason trades, Mastrangelo will approach the podium with two of the top four picks.
Both playoff brackets conclude on Saturday, April 11th. The Championship and 3rd place series will both run for the final two weeks of the season, while the consolation semifinal and final will go one week apiece.
Game on, and good luck!