Philadelphia (1) vs Toronto (8)
Philadelphia entered the playoffs as the PHL’s hottest team and carried that momentum into their first round series with the Toronto Racers, jumping to a 2-0 lead before the Racers tied it up with back-to-back wins at home on the strength of Joe Murdock’s four goals between the two games. But a 6-0 blowout back in Philly stopped any momentum the Racers had picked up and the Redshirts went on to win the series in game six thanks to an overtime goal from Sergei Dyatlov.
Washington (2) vs Detroit (7)
The heavily favoured Generals dominated the Mustangs in the first three games, taking a 3-0 series lead. But facing elimination at home in game four, Detroit played a tight-checking game, stifling Washington’s star forwards Rob Wentzel and Igor Zharkov while Patrick Fletcher scored the OT winner. The Mustangs pushed to tie the series with another win in game five, but the comeback fell short as Detroit ultimately lost game six 3-1 while Washington advanced.
Montreal (3) vs Pittsburgh (6)
Much of the attention was on superstar Vincent Ducharme As Montreal entered their first round rematch with the Pittsburgh Stingers. Ducharme, playing in the final playoffs of his career, scored six goals in the Royale’s five-game victory over the Stingers, while Zdeno Kadlec added five of his own. “It felt good to be back” said Ducharme, who had missed the entire regular season due to a knee injury.
New York (4) vs Miami (5)
Game one between Miami and New York had one of the most stunning first periods in PHL history. After just 40 seconds, the underdog stingrays had a 3-0 lead, forcing the Civics to replace veteran goaltender Jason Wyley with Brad Thorne. The Stingrays went on to win the game 3-1 but Wyley was back in the Civics’ net for game two as New York won to tie the series. It would not be enough however, as Miami won the next three to complete the biggest upset in the first round.
Kansas City (1) vs Vancouver (8)
Two years after a tough second-round battle between Vancouver and Kansas City, the two teams met again in the first round in 2001. This time around, it wasn’t even close. Kansas City won game one 4-0 and that set the tone for the remainder of the series. Vancouver did not score a goal until the third period of game two and struggled all series to solve Jason Lind, ultimately scoring only four goals the entire series as the Twisters swept them in four straight games.
Minnesota (2) vs Oakland (7)
The Lumberjacks were heavily favoured to beat the Oakland Nuggets, who had barely reached the playoffs. But the Nuggets surprised everyone beginning with a 2-0 win in game two as the series remained tight all the way to game seven. Game seven was a 1-1 tie until the final minutes, when Brendan Marlo scored what would be the eventual winner for Minnesota as the Lumberjacks advanced with a 3-1 win. “They were a tougher team than we gave them credit for” said captain Jason Crowley. “We’re just glad to get the win and move on.”
Seattle (3) vs Los Angeles (6)
The breakout story of 2001, the Seattle Grey Wolves, entered the playoffs with high expectations. But the older, more experienced Los Angeles Wizards gave them all they could handle in the first round, winning game one and then game three to twice take the lead in the series. Drake Klausen, who was having a career season, scored twice in game four to get the Wolves back on track before Seattle won games five and six to take the series.
Chicago (4) vs Dallas (5)
With Dallas making only their second playoff appearance, nobody gave them much of a chance against the Chicago Shamrocks. Chicago shut the Desperados down in the first two games, taking a 2-0 series lead. But in Dallas, the Desperados treated their fans to two overtime thrillers where Kyle Clark scored the winner in both games in front of capacity crowds. Hockey had finally arrived in Dallas. The Desperados woes on the road continued back in Chicago, as the Shamrocks took the series lead again. After forcing game seven, Dallas broke out their orange third jerseys for game seven, hoping to change their luck on the road. It wouldn’t work, as Gustav Mattsen’s hat-trick gave Chicago a 5-1 win to advance.
Philadelphia vs Miami
The Miami Stingrays were coming off the biggest upset in the first round over the New York Civics when they prepared to face the Powerful Philadelphia Redshirts in the second round. Right from the beginning, it was clear the Stingrays were no match for the Eastern Conference’s best team. Early in game one, disaster struck for the Redshirts, as number one goalie Ben Kerrigan went down with a severe leg injury. In came Pierre Noel and Noel stole the show, shutting out the Stingrays in the first two games. Miami challenged the Redshirts at home in game three, but it would not be enough, as the Redshirts took the series in a four-game sweep.
Montreal vs Washington
The Generals once again me the Royale in what had become one of hockey’s biggest playoff rivalries. The Generals immediately took a 2-0 series lead, leading many to speculate that the end was in sight for Vincent Ducharme. Ducharme responded by scoring the winner in a 2-0 game two win, then had an assist in game four as Montreal tied the series. The series eventually went to a seventh and deciding game, where Vincent Ducharme was the hero once again, scoring the overtime winner to send the Royale to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Kansas City vs Chicago
In perhaps the best matchup of the second round, the defending champion Kansas City Twisters and the Chicago Shamrocks battled through six tight games before squaring off in a game seven showdown in Kansas City. The game remained scoreless through two periods and through most of the third before Jeremy Kitchen scored for Kansas City to give the Twisters the lead. Just seconds later, Martin Vannier tied the game for Chicago to send it to overtime. After an injury to Jason Lind early in OT, Jimmy Otterburn entered the net for Kansas City. Otterburn made 19 saves through two extra periods before Brett Delaney finally ended it for the Twisters, beating Dan Pilford with a wrist shot as Kansas City advanced to the Western Conference Finals.
Minnesota vs Seattle
Despite barely making it out of the first round, the Minnesota Lumberjacks were still favoured to beat the up-and-coming Seattle Grey Wolves in the second round. However the Wolves took advantage of some costly Minnesota penalties and won game one 4-2. That set the tone for the rest of the series, as Seattle also won game two 4-2. Despite barely winning game three, the Lumberjacks never recovered and Seattle advanced to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in eleven seasons.
Montreal vs Philadelphia
In the Eastern Conference Finals, Vincent Ducharme and the Royale faced the surging Philadelphia Redshirts. The Redshirts took game one at home, then Montreal tied the series with an overtime win in game two, with Ducharme setting up Sergei Vetrov with a beautiful pass as Vetrov beat Noel for the winner. It would be the last great moment for Ducharme. At the conclusion of game four, the Redshirts had a commanding 3-1 series lead. Believing it could be the last game of Ducharme’s career, the Montreal crowd gave their hero a standing ovation last lasted over 20 minutes while Ducharme saluted the crowd. Back in Philadelphia, the Redshirts finished the job, taking the game 2-0 to advance to the Lewis Cup Finals for the first time since 1989. The capacity crowd at the PhillyDome took time to pay tribute to Ducharme, then celebrated the big win. “I think we can do it this time!” said one excited fan. “I can feel it.”
Kansas City vs Seattle
The Kansas City Twisters stood just one hurtle away from an opportunity to defend their title as they faced the Seattle Grey Wolves in the Western Conference Finals. After Kansas City took a 2-0 series lead at home, the Wolves won two home games of their own to tie the series, then stunned the Twisters with a 5-0 win in Kansas City. The Twisters’ confidence was rattled, but Scott Drayton remained confident that his team wasn’t out of it yet. “We just need to get back to playing simple hockey” said Drayton. Facing elimination in game six, the Twisters took the Grey Wolves to overtime, where Darian Ashmore beat Sean Harrington on a breakaway to send the series to game seven. Back home for the deciding game, the Twisters came out flying, taking a 3-0 lead in the first period and eventually winning the game 4-1 to return to the Lewis Cup Finals.