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2022 President's Cup Playoffs

President’s Cup Semifinal Preview: #2 Huntsville Havoc vs. #8 Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs

President’s Cup Semifinal Preview: #2 Huntsville Havoc vs. #8 Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs

HUNTSVILLE, Ala-  The Huntsville Havoc will look to stay perfect in the playoffs after sweeping the Evansville Thunderbolts in the first round of the Presidents Cup Playoffs. However, the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs will look to have something to say about that. The Rail Yard Dawgs are coming off a first-round upset over the Knoxville Ice Bears. Roanoke dropped game one in the series but dominated the Ice Bears in games two and three.

This is the second time in the short history of the Roanoke team that they have knocked off the top seed in the first round of the playoffs. The last time they did, was in 2019 when they were selected by Peoria in the challenge round and swept them 2-0. Huntsville and Roanoke have never met in the playoffs before this semifinals matchup, but they are very familiar with each other this season.

Final Regular Season Records:

Huntsville Havoc: 41-13-1-1, 84 pts (2nd in SPHL)

Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs: 23-24-4-5, 55 pts (8th in SPHL)

How They Got Here:

Huntsville was the only first-round team that was able to pull off a series sweep. They did so by taking coming from behind twice against the Evansville Thunderbolts. They won game one at home by a score of 5-3, and game two was played in Evansville, a Swonder Ice Arena. The Havoc won that game by a score of 3-2 in overtime.

Roanoke had their work cut out, taking on the regular-season champion Knoxville Ice Bears. Game one didn’t go to plan, and the Rail Yard Dawgs fell by a score of 4-1. They didn’t lose any sleep over the loss, and game two was back in Roanoke. The Dawgs ran all over the Ice Bears and won that game 5-1. Game three took us back to Knoxville on Easter Sunday, and the Rail Yard Dawgs completed the upset, taking down Knoxville by a score of 3-1.

Series Schedule:

Game 1 – Thursday, April 21, Huntsville at ROANOKE – 7:05 pm EDT

Game 2 – Saturday, April 23, Roanoke at HUNTSVILLE – 7:00 pm CDT

Game 3 – Sunday, April 24, Roanoke at HUNTSVILLE – 5:00 pm CDT (if necessary)

Season Series Recap:

The season series was incredibly close between these two teams, with Roanoke holding the slight edge. They played eight games, and each team took home four wins. The Havoc went 4-4-0-0, and the Rail Yard Dawgs went 4-2-0-2. Roanoke faced the Havoc during their opening season tear through the league, and almost broke the win streak twice, only to fall in the shootout both times.

Rob Darrar led Huntsville in scoring during the season series with 12 points (6 goals, 6 assists). This also leads all players on both sides in scoring. Roanoke’s leading scorer was Jeff Jones, with seven points (2 goals, 5 assists). The Rail Yard Dawgs saw goals from 16 different players during the season compared to Huntsville’s ten. 

How Huntsville Wins:

The Havoc will have to try and match the physical play of Roanoke in this series. Roanoke doesn’t give a lot of space, so the Huntsville top line will have to get creative and find ways to create scoring chances. Nolan Kaiser being back is huge for the Havoc blue line. He will have to continue his dominance in the same way he did in the first round against Evansville, especially on the power play. The power-play unit will need to capitalize on every chance that it gets. Roanoke was the most penalized team during the regular season, so it’s safe to say the opportunities will come. It’s just a matter of converting them. The penalty kill needs to maintain perfection in this series as well. The Havoc have the most aggressive penalty kill unit in the league, and that can come in very handy against a Roanoke team that failed to convert on a power-play chance in the first round. Lastly, Hunter Vorva needs to maintain his consistency. Roanoke can score a lot of different ways, and Vorva, along with the Havoc defense, needs to prevent that from happening. The Havoc don’t want to rely on late-game heroics to win these games.

How Roanoke Wins:

The Rail Yard Dawgs cannot get caught up in the emotion of taking down the Ice Bears in the first round. They need to refocus and play their game. Goaltending was in question heading into the playoffs, but Sammy Bernard was up to the challenge and posted the best goals-against average (1.67) and save percentage (0.937) in the first round. This needs to stay the same. The Havoc have a lot of offensive weapons, so the defense will be critical in this matchup. Even though the Dawgs won the first-round matchup and led the playoffs in penalty minutes with 53, this Huntsville team has a power play that can be the difference in the series. Lastly, Roanoke needs to knock the Havoc off their game. The need to use the physical play to make the Havoc uncomfortable and turn that into points on the scoreboard

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    James Hayes covers the Birmingham Bulls for Field Pass Hockey. Follow and interact with him on Twitter @FPHBulls.

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