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2022 President's Cup Playoffs

Roanoke Sweeps Havoc, Clinches First Finals Berth

The Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs continued their red hot playoff streak on Saturday night and took down the second-seeded Huntsville Havoc

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs continued their red hot playoff streak on Saturday night and took down the second-seeded Huntsville Havoc 2-0. The victory sent the Havoc home after having the best regular season in franchise history. The victory will send the Rail Yard Dawgs to their franchise Presidents Cup Finals after finishing the season in the eighth and final playoff spot.

You could feel the intensity in the first period, as both teams knew exactly what was on the line. The teams exchanged chance after chance, but Austyn Roudebush and Hunter Vorva were not budging. The netminders faced a combined 26 shots in the first period, with the Havoc holding the slight advantage of 14-12. This period was also unlike the game one matchup in the penalty category. Each team did have a powerplay opportunity in the first, but it was nothing compared to the eight total a few nights before. The game remained scoreless when the horn sounded as the two sides headed into the locker room for the first intermission.

Period number two got underway, and Huntsville was pressing hard in the Roanoke zone early on, but Roudebush was up to the challenge. Just shy of five minutes in the Havoc offensive zone Tyler Piacentini attempted to send a pass from the left-wing boards back out to the point to Sy Nutkevitch. The pass deflected off Roanoke’s CJ Stubbs and over to Matt O’Dea. O’Dea rushed up ice, having his pass deflected by a Havoc defender. Brady Heppner collected the puck and moved in with Stubbs to his right on a 2-on-2 rush. Heppner sent the puck at Vorva from a very tight angle at the bottom of the right face-off circle. The shot somehow found its way through Vorva, who did everything he could to keep it out. Roanoke took the first lead of the game.

Shortly after the Rail Yard Dawgs goal, a slashing penalty by captain Travis Armstrong gave the Havoc a chance to get right back in it. However, the Roanoke penalty kill did their job, and the score remained 1-0 in favor of the Dawgs. Huntsville did everything imaginable to tie this game up throughout the second period. The Havoc outshot the Dawgs 14-3, but the score remained 1-0, and that was how the teams headed into the locker room after two intense periods of hockey.

If you thought the first two periods were intense, you could cut through the intensity with a knife when the two teams stepped back out onto the ice for the third period. Huntsville knew if they lost, their season was over, Roanoke knew all they needed to do was hold the Havoc off for 20 more minutes, and their ticket to the finals was punched.

Just two minutes into the final period, the Rail Yard Dawgs went on the powerplay after Bair Gendunov was called for high-sticking. The Havoc penalty kill was just as aggressive as we had seen all season and spent about half of the penalty kill in their offensive zone. The score remained the same, Roanoke would have to kill off a penalty of their own a few moments later, and the trend of solid penalty kill units remained.

With 6:57 remaining in the game, Roanoke found what would be the final nail in the coffin. Gehrett Sargis skated around the Havoc defense and moved across the front of the crease. He took a shot that bounced off Vorva and right onto the stick of Nick Ford, who quickly snapped the shot into a wide-open net to make the score 2-0.

With 3:02 remaining Brant Sherwood was called for cross-checking in front of the Rail Yard Dawgs net. Havoc head coach Glenn Detulleo called a timeout to work up a plan to get his team back into the game. When the teams hit the ice after the timeout, Vorva was not out there, giving the Havoc a 6-on-4 powerplay. Huntsville had two good chances during the powerplay, and one came after Nolan Kaiser ripped a shot from the point. The attempt missed the net. It bounced off the boards to Rob Darrar, who was looking at a wide-open net, Darrar took the shot, and it went wide. After the penalty expired, Huntsville continued to stay aggressive in the offensive zone, but the Rail Yard Dawgs were victorious when the horn sounded.

Call it a Cinderella story, call it an “underdawg” story. Whatever you call it, the eighth seed Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs swept the Huntsville Havoc 2-0. Austyn Roudebush collected a 36-save shutout.

The only thing in the team’s path that has taken down numbers one and two is number three. That would be the Peoria Rivermen. The Rivermen defeated Quad City two games to one in their semifinal matchup and the President’s Cup Finals will start this coming Thursday, April 28th at 7:15 pm CDT.

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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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