Wednesday, June 22, 2016

1978 Playoffs

As the 1978 playoffs got underway, all the talk seemed to be about the Minnesota Lumberjacks and Guy Dupont’s bold championship guarantee. The Lumberjacks began their quest for the title against the Edmonton Northern Lights. Things got off to an ugly start for the ‘Jacks, as Edmonton led the series 2-1 after the first three games with a pair of shutouts. When he was inevitably asked about the guarantee after game 3, Dupont simply responded confidently, “We’ll be OK”. The captain backed up his words with a big performance in game 4, with a goal and an assist that helped Minnesota tie the series 2-2. The Lumberjacks never looked back as they went on to win the series in six.  The St. Louis Spirits were confident entering their first round series against Denver. For the first time, they finally felt they could contend for the cup. However, it was Denver who immediately jumped to a 3-0 lead with three straight 2-1 victories. The Spirits valiantly won games four and five, setting up a surprisingly dramatic finish, where Denver won game six 2-0 to advance. To round out the first round of the Western Conference playoffs, Chicago took down the California Nuggets in six games, while LA put a swift end to Seattle’s playoff debut, defeating the Grey Wolves in five games.

In the Eastern Conference, the most intriguing series took place between the surprising Pittsburgh Stingers and the Washington Generals. The Stingers momentum from their incredible regular season carried over to the playoffs as they jumped to a quick 3-0 series lead thanks mostly to five points from Danny Stevenson. Washington would respond in game 4, however, with a convincing 3-0 win. Washington would then win games five and six to bring the dramatic series to a seventh and deciding game. Game seven in Pittsburgh would prove to be just as dramatic. Tied 2-2 in  the third period, goaltenders Don Lapin and Gary Bowen made several big stops to keep the game tied. With just 40 seconds left, Washington star Gilbert Boudreau ringed a shot off the post. Gary Bowen made another huge save on Gerry Stokes with 21 seconds left to send the game to overtime. Just over one minute into overtime, Pittsburgh’s Dave Breedon finally beat Don Lapin to give the Stingers the victory and send them to the second round. Elsewhere in the Eastern Conference, Montreal took seven games to take down the Toronto Racers, Ottawa defeated Quebec in five games, while New York made short work of Detroit, sweeping them in four straight.

In the second round, the Denver Bulls momentum ran out as they succumbed to the powerful LA Wizards in four straight. The Minnesota Lumberjacks confidently jumped to a 2-0 series lead over the Chicago Shamrocks. The Shamrocks tightened up at home, however, tying the series at two apiece. Realizing that the series would not come easily, Minnesota played an outstanding game at home in game five, leading the Shamrocks 3-2 entering the third period. The Shamrocks would score two quick goals in the final four minutes however, to win the game and take a 3-2 series lead. Guy Dupont’s guarantee was in serious jeopardy as the Lumberjacks faced elimination in game six. In game six, Chicago goaltender Tim Massey shut the door, only allowing one goal as the Shamrocks sent the Lumberjacks home with a 3-1 victory. When asked if he regretted his bold words prior to the playoffs, Guy Dupont simply responded “No, I said that to try to spark my team. Unfortunately it didn’t work this time, but I don’t regret anything.” In the Eastern Conference, both series went to the full seven games. The New York Civics took an early 3-1 lead over Montreal, before the Royale came back to force game seven. Gil Brady made a heroic 71 saves for New York as the Civics won 2-1 to advance to the Eastern Conference Final for the fourth year in a row. In other Eastern Conference action, Pittsburgh faced the defending Eastern Conference champions, the Ottawa Beavers. Ottawa was heavily favored and it showed in game one as the Beavers skated to a 5-1 victory. Pittsburgh responded in games two and three with a pair of victories to give them a 2-1 series lead. The momentum would shift in game four after a big hit from Ottawa’s Randy McCracken on Pittsburgh’s Nate Carroll knocked Carroll out of the game. Ottawa went on to win 3-1, then took game five 3-2 to lead the series three games to two. Pittsburgh’s magical season appeared to be all but over. However in game six Nate Carroll returned to the Stingers’ lineup and even assisted on Danny Stevenson’s winning goal in the second period while Gary Bowen stood tall as Pittsburgh forced the series to a seventh game in Ottawa. In game seven, the Stingers jumped to a 3-0 lead by the second period. Despite a third period Ottawa push that would result in one goal, the Stingers held on to take the game and the series.

Both conference final series would be fairly uneventful. Chicago never stood a chance against the mighty LA Wizards. Stuart Holly and Ray Fowler combined for 18 points as the Wizards took out the Shamrocks in five games. In the East, Pittsburgh’s momentum continued as they quickly jumped to a 3-0 lead over the New York Civics. New York won game four, but Pittsburgh stepped up in game five, forcing the game to overtime, where Kenny Sharp scored early to send the Stingers to the Lewis Cup Finals, just one year after finishing last place in the Atlantic Division.

Round 1

Round 2

Round 3

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