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2022 President's Cup Playoffs

Roanoke Topples Huntsville in Game One of Semifinal Series

Game one of the President’s Cup Semifinal between the Huntsville Havoc and Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs was full of surprises

ROANOKE, VA. – Game one of the President’s Cup Semifinal matchup between the second-seeded Huntsville Havoc and the upset-minded eighth-seeded Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs was full of surprises. The game featured 14 total penalties split evenly and eight total goals. The outcome may not have been what everyone expected outside of Roanoke as the Rail Yard Dawgs toppled the Havoc 5-3.

We will call the first period the period of the power play.

Both teams went to the box four times in the opening frame, not odd for Roanoke but very uncharacteristic of the Havoc. Just 54 seconds into the game, Bauer Neudecker was called for hooking, and the “Dirty Dawgs” went to work on the powerplay. The Havoc killed off the penalty, but the Rail Yard Dawgs struck a few minutes later. Brant Sherwood poked a loose puck in the neutral zone to Nick DeVito. DeVito dangled around the Havoc defense and sent the puck back to Sherwood. Sherwood picked his spot and beat SPHL goaltender of the year Hunter Vorva, giving Roanoke the early 1-0 lead.

After the goal, Roanoke would commit three consecutive penalties and even give the Havoc a 5-on-3 opportunity. We all know what happens when you provide the Havoc chances like this, and the result was as expected. Rob Darrar found all kinds of open ice just six seconds into the two-man advantage. He moved in from the right faceoff circle and sniped a shot past Sammy Bernard to tie the game up. All this action came before the halfway point of the first period.

Later in the period, the Rail Yard Dawgs went on the power play for the third time. To this point, the Roanoke penalty kill had been unsuccessful, and that would change. Mac Jansen sent a pass from the circle across to Jeff Jones, who was staring at a wide-open net. Jones wasted no time in sending the puck into the back of it, and once again, Roanoke was in the lead.

The two teams would continue the penalty trend, and both would find themselves shorthanded one more time. The penalty kill units on both sides were able to take care of business. Roanoke did have a goal called off with 1:02 remaining due to goaltender interference. Nonetheless, the score remained 2-1 heading into the first intermission.

When the second period got started, the Rail Yard Dawgs had a change in net. Sammy Bernard was run into by Cole Reginato just past the midway point in the first but finished the first period. Something changed in the locker room, and Austyn Roudebush was in net for the remainder of this one.

Since we are naming periods in this one, the second period will be called the chaos period.

Five total goals were scored, and the penalties continued. Roanoke had the Havoc on their heels for the first seven minutes of the period and eventually found a way to extend the lead. Shortly after another waived of goal by the Dawgs, CJ Stubbs found Nick Ford skating all alone at center ice. Ford moved in on the breakaway and buried the puck in the back of the net.

Right around the midway point, Huntsville struck back. Rob Darrar collected a rebound off a Nolan Kaiser shot and sent the puck to Jacob Barber in the slot. Barber knocked the puck home, and it was a one-goal game again. It didn’t take the Rail Yard Dawgs long to find an answer to that goal, though. Twenty-five seconds later, Sean Leonard scored his first professional goal when he ripped a shot from the blueline beating Vorva and restoring that two-goal lead.

Late in the period, Roanoke again extended the lead on the power play. This one came off Jeff Jones’s stick and was an absolute snipe from the right circle. The Havoc didn’t dwell on the goal long, and less than a minute later, Jacob Barber struck again. Kyle Clarke used some great vision behind the net and found Barber streaking into the offensive zone. Barber sent a one-timer zinging by Roudebush to bring the Havoc back within two, and that would be how the two teams headed into the locker room.

Staying with the article’s theme, the third period is called, who are these guys?

The third period was a completely different game than the first two. We only saw one penalty, and yes, it was Roanoke. The Rail Yard Dawgs were able to kill that off and the remaining time on the penalty to start the period.

Both teams locked things down defensively, especially Huntsville. The Havoc only allowed five shots on goal in the third and had 11 of their own. The Havoc pulled Hunter Vorva with over three minutes remaining as a last-ditch effort to get back in this one, but Roanoke stood tall defensively and ensured that they would be going to Huntsville Saturday night up 1-0 in the best of three series.

Game two in this SPHL President’s Cup Semifinal matchup will happen Saturday night in Huntsville at the Von Braun Center. After sweeping the Evansville Thunderbolts in the first round, the Havoc will look to rebound back and stave off elimination. Roanoke has other plans and will be looking to complete the upset over the Havoc.

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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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