KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The Knoxville Ice Bears will carry their William B. Coffey trophy into the postseason with hopes of adding some more hardware to the trophy case. First, though, they need to get through the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs. The Ice Bears have been red hot in the season’s final stretch, going 9-1 in their last ten games. The last time they lost was to the Rail Yard Dawgs at the Berglund Center on April 1st by a score of 3-2. However, Roanoke turned on the burners through March and April to secure that eighth and final playoff spot. In the Rail Yard Dawgs’ last ten games, they went 5-3-1-1. Most notably, going into Huntsville and sweeping the Havoc.
Neither team has ever met in the playoffs before this season.
Roanoke is making their third Presidents Cup playoff appearance. The last time they were in the playoffs was when they upset the Peoria Rivermen 2-0 during the first round of the 2019 Playoffs.
Knoxville is making their record 16th consecutive playoff appearance. The Ice Bears have never missed the playoffs since the inception of the SPHL. Their last appearance was last season when they lost in the semi-finals to eventual champion Pensacola Ice Flyers. They will also be looking for their record fifth Presidents Cup title.
Final Regular Season Records:
Knoxville Ice Bears: 42-10-2-2, 88 points (1st in SPHL)
Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs: 23-24-4-5, 55 points (8th in SPHL)
Series Schedule (Home team in CAPS) and all times local:
Game 1 – Wednesday, April 13 at KNOXVILLE – 7:35 pm EDT
Game 2 – Saturday, April 16 at ROANOKE – 7:05 pm EDT
*Game 3 – Sunday, April 17 at KNOXVILLE – 5:00 pm EDT
* => If Necessary
Season Series Recap:
Knoxville won the season series, going 5-2 against the Rail Yard Dawgs. The first two games of the season were decided in overtime and the shootout, respectively. Four of the seven contests were decided by one goal, and the home team held the upper hand throughout the series, with the home teams only losing twice.
Anthony McVeigh led all the Ice bears in points in the series. He racked up eight points (3 goals, 5 assists) and scored at least one point in each of the seven games against the Rail Yard Dawgs. Andrew Bellant led all Knoxville players in the series with four goals.
On the other side, Mac Jansen led all Roanoke players in goals and total points with 10 points (5 goals, 5 assists).
How Knoxville Wins:
Knoxville is a bit banged up and just received news that forward Razmuz Waxin-Engback has been placed on the season-ending IR. This shouldn’t be an issue because the Ice Bears have had the next man up attitude all season long. Whether it be call-ups or injuries, the players have answered the bell. In order for the Ice Bears to win this series, they need to continue to do what they have all season long, and that is to find ways to win. The Ice Bears have come from behind, played with big leads, and won tight games. Against a physical team like Roanoke, they will have to counter that physical play and find open space to create odd-man rushes. With Roanoke being the most penalized team during the regular season, the power play needs to capitalize on their chances. Knoxville can not sit back with a three-goal lead because the Rail Yard Dawgs are always a threat to come back. With Wakin-Engback and J.B. Baker out with injuries and Taylor Stefishen still serving his three-game suspension, players like Stepan Timofeyev, Andrew Bellant, and Jared Nash will have to elevate their games to keep this forward crew going.
How Roanoke Wins:
The Rail Yard Dawgs have to find ways to close out games. They have been in a lot of one-goal games this season and have come out on the wrong side of the scoreboard. The team will rely heavily on players like Mac Jansen, C.J. Stubbs, Nick Ford, and Jeff Jones to score clutch goals. The defense will have to give goaltender Austyn Roudebush all the support in the world. Roudebush has had a rollercoaster season in net after breaking SPHL records one season before. He will have to find his game to stop the highest-scoring offense in the league.
The Rail Yard Dawgs cannot take unnecessary penalties. The Ice Bears had the third-ranked power play in the league during the regular season. They can not put themselves in too many short-handed scenarios because the Ice Bears will make them pay. With that said, Roanoke is a big physical team. They need to use that to their advantage in this series without getting out of control. The Dawgs have shown they can compete with and defeat the top teams in the league, they just need to put together a full 60 minutes of hockey, and they can complete the upset over number one seeded Ice Bears.
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