Sunday, May 27, 2018

2004 Playoffs

Round One

Eastern Conference

Philadelphia (1) vs Montreal (8)
After stumbling into the playoffs, the aging Royale proved to be no match for the powerful Redshirts. Pierre Noel allowed only six goals in five games as Philly advanced. But the win would come at a cost for the Redshirts, as Jared Baxter suffered a broken hand in game four.

Toronto (2) vs Detroit (7)
Both teams split the first four games of the series 2-2 with Joe Murdock scoring in each game for Toronto. Murdock found the net again in game five, while goaltender Jussi Sykko stopped 33 shots for the shutout as the Racers took a 3-2 lead. Detroit opened the scoring in game six, but could not stop the Toronto offense as Murdock, Darren Reid, and Ty McInnis each scored in a 3-1 win to take the series.

Carolina (3) vs Quebec (6)
Appearing in their first post-season since reaching the finals in 1996, the Quebec Nationale never really got into their first round series with Carolina. After dropping game one in Charlotte 3-2 in overtime, the Nats scored only one goal in the next two games as the Raiders jumped to a 3-0 series lead. Game four in Quebec went to OT as well, where Brandon Sweetwater proved to be the hero for Carolina as the Raiders completed the sweep.

Boston (4) vs Long Island (5)
After a decade-long hiatus, one of the PHL’s all-time greatest rivalries was back in full swing as Boston met Long Island for the second year in a row. The Bulldogs immediately took a 3-0 series lead and tempers erupted in game three. After Boston agitator Isaac Hart scored the fourth goal in a 4-0 Boston win, he taunted Long Island goaltender Chris McNally. McNally responded with a blocker to Hart’s head which quickly drew a crowd. Long Island head coach Cam Norton called Hart’s taunt “classless” to which Hart responded by calling Norton, a veteran coach of 22 years, a “crazy old clown”. It seemed as though Hart’s antics sparked the Concordes, as they won the next two games to force the series to game six, then forced game six into overtime, where Boston finally clinched the series. Further rubbing salt in the Concordes’ wound, Isaac Hart scored the winner for Boston.

Western Conference

Seattle (1) vs Milwaukee (8)
Brad McNair, playing in only his second playoff, continued his dominant play in round one against the heavily favoured Grey Wolves. The 23-year-old scored three of Milwaukee’s four goals in games one and two before his performance culminated in a hat-trick in game four. Milwaukee upset the Wolves in five games to win their first playoff series since 1992.

Chicago (2) vs Minnesota (7)
Minnesota entered the 2004 playoffs with a lot of pressure on them. With an aging roster, there would not be many more opportunities to win a championship. Their first round series with Chicago did not go as planned, as the Shamrocks took a 3-2 series lead after five games. Game six in Minneapolis was tied 2-2 after two periods, when veteran Stanislav Zykov beat Chicago goaltender Kari Nurminen to send the series to game seven. Game seven would be tight, tied 1-1 with four minutes to go in regulation. When Nurminen went to play the puck in the corner, he bobbled it and Simon Brassard picked it up and scored. The goal held up as the winner as Minnesota took the series.

Edmonton (3) vs Vancouver (6)
In the most physical series of the playoffs, the Northern Lights had a tough time finding space against a big, tough Vancouver team. To make matters worse for Edmonton, Bighorns goaltender Todd Waddell was injured in game two, and rookie backup Philippe Gagnon, who had played most of the year in the Can/Am league, was seemingly unbeatable through the rest of the series, as Vancouver completed the upset to advance in six games.

Kansas City (4) vs Dallas (5)
One of two series that would go to a deciding game in the first round, this one would prove to be one of the most intense in league history, with six out of seven games reaching overtime. Brett Delaney and Shannon Michaels were the heroes in games one and two, as Kansas City took a 2-0 series lead. Dallas would then even things up as Alexei Rolonov had a shutout in game three, then AJ Vernon scored the OT winner in game four. In game five, the Twisters came back from a pair of two-goal deficits before veteran Kim Brodie scored the OT winner to give KC a 3-2 lead. But Rolonov would post another shutout in game six as Shawn Marchinski scored to send the series to game seven, where Dallas nearly won the series on a Lamar Jackson shot that went off the post. Minutes later, Delaney was the hero again for the Twisters, beating Rolonov to send KC to the second round.

Round Two

Philadelphia vs Boston
After a tough series with Long Island, the Bulldogs entered the second round facing another arch-rival. Despite winning game one, the Baxter-less Redshirts dropped games two and three thanks in part to a big performance from Brendan Marlo. The Redshirts bounced back in game four as Alex Leblanc scored in overtime. However, two goals from Isaac Hart helped Boston to a 3-0 win in game five and a 3-2 series lead. With the Redshirts facing elimination, Jared Baxter returned to the lineup in game six but played only ten minutes. The Redshirts still managed to force a game seven with a 4-2 win. In game seven, Baxter stepped up big, scoring the go-ahead goal late in the second period. The goal held up as Philly cruised to a 5-2 win to move on the Eastern Conference Finals.

Kansas City vs Milwaukee
After their big upset over Seattle, the Choppers never really got into their second-round series with Kansas City. Jimmy Otterburn had a shutout in a 4-0 game one victory and that set the tone for the rest of the series. After a 3-1 win for the Twisters in game two, Kansas City won two straight games in overtime to sweep the Choppers and advance the West final.

Toronto vs Carolina
After the home team won each of the first four games, game five went into overtime, where Shane Dutton beat Jussi Sykko to give Carolina a 3-2 series lead. Toronto now had to win game six. Murdock and Fernandez each scored as the Racers took a 2-0 lead. In the third period however, the wheels fell off for Toronto as Dutton, Brandon Sweetwater, and Nick Spears each scored to give the Raiders a 3-2 win and send them to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since they played in Ottawa.

Vancouver vs Minnesota
The Lumberjacks entered their second round series trying to hide their excitement about facing Vancouver, but the Bighorns dampened the mood right away in game one with a 2-0 win. In game two, the Lumberjacks won a tight game 4-3 thanks to big late-third period goal from Jason Crowley. Heading home with a 1-1 tie, the ‘Jacks were brimming with confidence, but Vancouver dominated both games, winning game three 3-1, and game four 2-1 to take a 3-1 series lead. In game five, Andrei Yegorov nearly ended it for Vancouver, but goaltender Jarkko Nurmi made a spectacular save. Just moments later, Scott Rose ended it, forcing the series to game six. But that was as close as Minnesota would get as Vancouver skated to a 4-2 victory in game six to take the series.

 Conference Finals

Philadelphia vs Carolina
Playing in their first conference finals since moving from Ottawa, the Carolina Raiders ran into a wall against Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference Finals. Jared Baxter continued his big performance despite his injured hand with three points in the first two games as Philly took a 2-0 series lead. In game three, Carolina narrowly avoided a 3-0 deficit with a hard-fought 2-1 win. In game four, the Raiders made a valiant attempt to tie the series, but lost a heartbreaker in OT when Sean Nowakowski beat Kevin Stroud to give the Redshirts a 3-1 series lead. In game five, the Redshirts returned to the Lewis Cup Finals with a 7-1 win.

Kansas City vs Vancouver
After two big upsets, the Vancouver Bighorns found themselves just four wins away from their first appearance in the final in franchise history. Standing in their way was the Kansas City Twisters, a team that had eliminated Vancouver three times since 1999. The 2004 Western final started off in a familiar way as the Twisters took a 2-0 series lead. When the series shifted to Vancouver, the Bighorns set the tone right away when Tory Partridge leveled Brett Delaney with a big hit. Delaney struggled off the ice and Vancouver went on to tie the series as the Twisters could not handle the Bighorns physicality. KC dressed enforcer Ben McGinn in game five and his presence gave the Twisters the space they needed to win game five 2-0 and take a 3-2 series lead, but their road woes would continue in game six as Blair Horton scored in overtime for Vancouver to force game seven. In the deciding game, the Twisters were unable to solve Philippe Gagnon until it was too late. Vancouver won 3-1 to finally defeat Kansas City and advance to the Lewis Cup Finals for the first time in franchise history.

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