NORTH RICHLAND HILLS, TX – For the first time in franchise history the team is headed to the Silver Cup. Beginning Wednesday of this week the team will trek to Illinois to take on a few of the best eight teams in the league. Pool play will kick off with the Brahmas taking on the Metro Jets, followed by the St. Louis Jr. Blues, and the Twin City Steel. Here’s what you can expect through the first few games!
METRO: Winners of the East Division, the Jets have paved their path to the Silver Cup flawlessly. Sweeping both Wooster and West Michigan in the first two rounds, the Jets outscored their opponents 36-8. There’s clearly no shortage of offensive firepower on the squad and it’s led by forward Kevin Shand. The ’95 has Tier II North American Hockey League experience since the 2013-14 season but found a home with Metro this season, posting an outstanding 81 points in 43 games. Furthermore, he’s got 11 points in four games this post-season. At 6’2” – 225 lbs., he presents a massive task for the Brahmas to handle, but the team is far from a one trick pony. Mathias Tellstrom, Michael Tratar, and Jacob Drinkard all averaged well above a point-per-game as well.
It’s evident the offense is prevalent but a large reason for the team’s domination has been their netminding as well. Starting netminder Kameron Limburg has been with the organization for three years and this has been his most impressive. Holding a record of 27-3-2, the last time the Michigan native lost a game was November 7.
ST. LOUIS: Winners of the Midwest Division, the Blues polished off the regular season with a record of 35-8-4. As if the offense of Metro wasn’t impressive enough, St. Louis actually scored more than the Jets, finishing third-best in the league with 262 goals. Here is where the difference lies however. Two of the Blues leading scorers this season, Frankie Melton and Zach Mitchell are both up in the NAHL. With those two as non-factors, that puts more weight on the rest of the shoulders on the Blues. While there are still big-time point getters such as Alex Klaesner and Tomas Loeffelman, the Blues will have to rely on the rest of their team to contribute.
Zach Young had been the #1 goalie for the Blues this year, compiling a record of 21-5-3. However, at the acquisition deadline, the Blues received former Amarillo Bulls netminder Jacob Weatherly. Weatherly may have struggled at the Tier II level but has taken over as the go-to-guy in the playoffs, going a perfect 4-0-0 for his team. While the small sample size leaves his current numbers a little skewed, a 1.86 GAA and .930 save percentage are daunting numbers.
TWIN CITY: While Metro and St. Louis breezed through the regular season and playoffs at the #1 spot, it’s a bit of a different tale for the Steel. Based out of White Bear Lake, Minnesota, the crew entered the West Division playoffs as the #2 seed. After #3 Breezy Point took them to a third game in the opening round, the Steel bounced back to sweep the #1 seed Granite City. A key to success for them was jumping out to an early lead in both games that series. If the Brahmas are able to get the first one, the landscape of the contest could be drastically different. The Steel are just 7-11-1 when trailing after the first period of play.
Additionally, the team allowed 3.40 goals per game in the regular season. That numbers ranks as the highest average amongst all teams in the Silver Cup. Nathan Siclovan is the name the Brahmas can expect to see in net, as he has started every playoff game for the squad. On the other hand, the Steel were the highest scoring team in the West this year. With 219 goals scored, depth scoring has been a massive factor for them. Swiss born Yannick Zehnder has been the most dangerous in particular though, netting 47 points through 32 games this season.
THE BRAHMAS: Last weekend didn’t go quite as expected for the team, suffering clean losses to Point Mallard. However, due to their comeback and round one defeat of the Atlanta Capitals, the team found themselves being selected for a wild card spot, one of the two teams who did not advance through the playoffs, but had one of the two highest point totals during the regular season in order to complete the eight-team pools.
Head Coach Al Rooney has stated all season long that the team will only go as far as the goaltending let’s them, and with that being said, it’s a massive plus that the Brahmas have two young men capable of being #1 netminders. With the split-system, both Tyler Myers and Brandon Perrone give the team a chance to win a game, no matter who is on the other side of the ice. The case-in-point is that both men held a high-capacity Point Mallard to two and three goals respectively.
On the other hand, the offense has become the question mark. Scoring just one goal in each game in Alabama, the team is going to need well more than that to compete with teams such as Metro and St. Louis. Leading scorer Ryan Dunner has been battling through some recent injuries, yet still leads the team with six assists in post-season play. Bryan Whelan, Kyle Galloway, Victor Ekk, and Sam Gagnon are all top-six forwards who will be relied upon to help put the puck in the back of the net at a more rapid rate than seen in Round Two.
An area in which the Brahmas have excelled and will need to continue doing so is penalty kill. While the team doesn’t take many trips to the box (fewest penalties in the league), when they do, they have had massive performances from those who are in charge of that responsibility. Noah Klinsky, Garrett Culps, Bennett Weycker, and George Hansen have been some familiar faces during short-handed play and in order for the team to be successful, they’ll have to limit the high-powered offenses they are about to face when giving them the power play.
PUCK DROP: Play begins Wednesday with the tilt against the Jets starting at 4:00 PM CST. Thursday’s battle against the Blues is additionally a 4 PM start but Friday’s contest starts at 4:30. Mark your calendars and if you can’t make the trip to the Chicago suburb, stream the action on FastHockey.com!