Thursday, September 28, 2017

1998 Playoffs

Just three days after clinching a playoff spot in dramatic fashion, the Philadelphia Redshirts faced the New York Civics in the first round. Riding on the momentum of the regular season, the Redshirts managed to bring the Civics to a 2-2 tie after dropping the first two games on the road. In a pivotal game five, Jared Baxter’s late-third period goal eventually proved to be the winner in a 4-2 victory and Philadelphia had a chance to upset the defending champions in six games. In game six, Aaron Duplacy scored twice as the Civics forced game seven with a 5-2 win. In game seven, back at Broadway House, the game went into overtime, where Nathan Bowman and Jason Wyley both played spectacularly in net. Nearing the end of the first overtime, Jeremy Kitchen scored to give the Civics the win and send them to the second round.

Elsewhere in the Eastern Conference, The Toronto Racers defeated the Carolina Raiders in six games, Washington eliminated Pittsburgh for the third straight year, while the Montreal Royale never really allowed the Cleveland Cosmos into the series, wining in five games.

Out west, The Los Angeles Wizards faced a scrappy Seattle Grey Wolves team on the rise. Seattle won the first game, with Drake Klausen scoring the winner in OT. LA tied it before Seattle moved ahead with a win at home. Suddenly feeling desperate, the Wizards eked out a win in game four. The series was now tied 2-2. In Los Angeles for game five, the Grey Wolves played a strong road game, with 37-year-old Craig Bush proving to be the hero, scoring the winner early in the third period. Facing elimination in game six, the Wizards were in desperation mode. Gustav Mattsen scored twice in a 4-3 win to force game seven back home at Inglewood Coliseum. Game seven would be a classic. Both Jim Cochran for LA and Sean Harrington for Seattle stood on their heads in a 0-0 tie that went into overtime with no score. After nearly five periods with no scoring, Drake Klausen ended the game and the upset for Seattle.

In other Western Conference action, Minnesota swept their expansion cousins, the Winnipeg Pioneers, while California spoiled the St. Louis Spirits’ return to the post-season in five games. The Chicago Shamrocks, led by the new-look Russian Connection Line with Sergei Krayev taking the place of Alexander Orlov, jumped to a 2-0 series lead over Kansas City, only to lose the next four as the Twisters redeemed themselves after a tough regular season and advanced to the second round.

Two of the top teams in the league would clash in the second round as the New York Civics met the Montreal Royale.  The series was evenly matched, as the teams skated to a 2-2 series tie after the first four games. In game five, the Royale completely fell apart late in the third period of a 0-0 game. Lamar Jackson, Tobias Krause, and Darian Higgins all scored within seven minutes in what would be a 3-0 win for the Civics. Jonathan Bouret would bounce back in game six with the Royale facing elimination, stopping 39 shots in a 4-2 Montreal win to force game seven. In game seven, Vincent Ducharme turned in one of his famous clutch performances, scoring two goals and two assists as Montreal won the game 5-3 to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.

In the west, California would face Kansas City for the third straight year in the playoffs. The Twisters had been the monkey on the Nuggets backs since 1996, knocking them out of the playoffs in the first round the previous two years. The Nuggets got off to a bad start, going down 2-1 in the series, then 3-2. Once again, the Twisters were on the brink of ending the Nuggets’ season. Game six was in Kansas City, where the Twisters came out strong, opening the scoring, then peppering Bradley Pope with shots, but the 29-year-old was up to the challenge. Pope stopped 42 shots while Kevin Hoyle and Teppo Saari each scored in a 2-1 win to force a seventh game. In game seven, the teams were tied 2-2 entering the third period, when Ryan Lockhart scored to break the tie and give California the lead. Pope would turn in another strong performance as the Nuggets held on to win and finally eliminate the Twisters and advance to the Western Conference Finals. “It’s a relief to finally reach this point” said Hoyle. “We still have a few steps to go.” In other second-round action, Jason Crowley scored six goals in five games as Minnesota ended Seattle’s run in five games, while Washington continued to roll, beating the Toronto Racers in six games.

In the Western Conference Finals, the red-hot California Nuggets clashed with Jason Crowley and the Minnesota Lumberjacks. Minnesota appeared to be the better team, winning the first two games on the road. The Nuggets responded, winning two games in Minnesota to tie the series. After four games, the road team had won every game. Game five would finally break that trend when the Nuggets earned a 6-1 win to take a 3-2 series lead with an opportunity to advance to the Lewis Cup Finals for the first time since winning the title in 1980. In Minnesota for game six, California played hard, leading the game twice, but Pavel Vana and Greg Willis each scored to tie the game, before Vana scored again midway through the third period to put the ‘Jacks ahead. Ultimately, Minnesota hung on for a 4-2 win to force game seven. In the deciding game, Jason Crowley and Pavel Vana each scored to make it 2-0 while goaltender Christian Grayson closed the door on the Nuggets right through to the final minutes, when Ulf Linden scored to bring the game to within a goal. Grayson then had to stand tall as the Nuggets pressed hard for the tying goal. The Nuggets failed to score and Minnesota returned to the Lewis Cup Finals for the second time in three years.

Meanwhile, the Montreal Royale found themselves down 2-0 against Washington. At home for games three and four, Vincent Ducharme continued his strong play again in game three, scoring twice in a 3-1 win. In game four, veteran Sylvain Landry scored the winner as the Royale tied the series. Washington, having given up the series lead, was determined not to let the opportunity slip away this time. “We need to step up our play in game five” said Rob Wentzel. The Generals would indeed step up their game. Maxime Trepanier beat Bouret just two minutes into overtime to give Washington a 3-2 win and a 3-2 series lead. Game six in Montreal was all Washington. Checked tightly by Dwayne Ingram and Justin Hill, Ducharme and the Montreal offence was completely shut down. Jake Borman earned a shutout as the Generals advanced to the Lewis Cup Finals for the first time since 1981.

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