Two nights remain in the 2016-17 regular season and all eight playoff seeds are still mathematically up for grabs. We already know the Fayetteville FireAntz, Huntsville Havoc, Macon Mayhem, and Peoria Rivermen have secured home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. We also know the Evansville Thunderbolts are the lone team eliminated from postseason contention. The rest… we’ll know in a little more than a day.
We start off with some troubling news from Knoxville. The Ice Bears announced the suspension of goaltender Brian Billett from the team on Wednesday evening. The suspension comes after Billett’s car crash and arrest for driving under the influence early Monday morning. In Wednesday evening’s press release, Ice Bears general manager Mike Murray said, “Brian has been placed on team suspension indefinitely due to an off-ice incident that violates our team policy.”
Going forward, the Ice Bears are left with rookie netminder Dylan Wells thrust into the starting role for the President’s Cup Playoffs, beginning next week. Wells has appeared in 20 games for Knoxville, going 4-8-2 with a 2.90 GAA and a .907 SV%.
We mentioned earlier all of the eight spots in the 2017 President’s Cup Playoffs, beginning next week, are still in contention. The Macon Mayhem can claim the William B. Coffey Cup, awarded to the league’s regular season champion, with at least an overtime loss in their final two games against the visiting Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs. Speaking of the Dawgs, Roanoke’s path to the postseason is slightly more improbable. Not only must they win both games against the Mayhem this weekend, but the Columbus Cottonmouths must lose – in regulation – both games against the last-place Evansville Thunderbolts.
Let’s break down the playoff scenarios for the rest of the teams.
Peoria Rivermen – Needs to sweep the Mississippi RiverKings and have the Mayhem lose both remaining games in regulation to clinch their third straight regular season title. The Rivs can finish anywhere in the top four in the standings.
Fayetteville FireAntz – The Antz can win the regular season title by winning both remaining games against Huntsville, Macon losing both games in regulation to Roanoke, and Peoria losing one of their two games vs. Mississippi. The Antz can also finish anywhere in the top four.
Huntsville Havoc – Huntsville is the only top-four team which cannot win the regular season title. The Havoc can finish as high as second with a sweep of Fayetteville combined with a Peoria loss.
Mississippi RiverKings – The Kings cannot advance higher than fifth in the standings. A win or two overtime losses in their final two games vs. Peoria – or a Knoxville regulation loss at Pensacola – will lock up the fifth seed.
Knoxville Ice Bears – The likely sixth seed can fall to seventh if they are swept in regulation by the Pensacola Ice Flyers, but can advance to fifth by gaining three more points than Mississippi this weekend. The Ice Bears can only keep the sixth seed in an Ice Flyers sweep if both losses are post-regulation.
Pensacola Ice Flyers – Pensacola can only advance as high as the sixth seed, which they can do with a sweep of Knoxville – one of which must be in regulation.
Columbus Cottonmouths – The Snakes can avoid missing the postseason for the second consecutive season by making it to overtime in either of their two remaining games at Evansville.
Current Playoff Matchups
#1 Macon Mayhem vs. #8 Columbus Cottonmouths – The Mayhem have arena scheduling conflicts with their home venue, and is likely to play the entire series in Columbus. Interesting opening round series – the Snakes have been successful (4-3-1) against Macon this season.
#2 Peoria Rivermen vs. #7 Pensacola Ice Flyers – Game 1 would be played at the Hangar – a building the Rivs have not won in since 2015 – on April 12th. If the Rivermen are going to be title contenders, it’s only fitting they exercise last season’s demon.
#3 Fayetteville FireAntz vs. #6 Knoxville Ice Bears – The Antz are 5-0-1 this season against Knoxville, and the Ice Bears will be going into the playoffs without the services of both Brian Billett and defenseman Jason Price.
#4 Huntsville Havoc vs. #5 Mississippi RiverKings – Both teams won three games in this season’s six-game series. RiverKings have been on a roll lately, a league best 7-2-1 in their last ten games, while the Havoc has been relatively struggling.
Fan Voting for End-of-Season Awards Begins
Yesterday, we opened up fan voting for our Rookie of the Year, Defenseman of the Year, Goalie of the Year, Coach of the Year, and Most Valuable Player. As of 11:00 last night, the page has received over 11,000 page views. Once again, the response from the best fans in hockey has exceeded our wildest expectations. Feel free to vote for your favorite players as often as you can before 6:00 pm CT on Tuesday, April 11th. Please be patient – site traffic is extremely high and response times are slow. We will continue to provide voting result updates on both our Facebook and Twitter pages.
Title Belt Game: Pensacola Ice Flyers at Knoxville Ice Bears
- The Pensacola Ice Flyers make their second title defence after retaking the belt from the Ice Bears last Saturday night. Third meeting between the teams with both teams taking a win in the previous two games.
- Early starters: The Ice Bears outscored the Ice Flyers, 5-3 in the first period. However, the Flyers outscore the Bears, 5-1, over the second and third frames.
- Knoxville center Berkley Scott is tied for the single-season record for game-winning goals with 11. Scott is tied with a former teammate – Fayetteville’s Josh McQuade had 11 game-winners in the 2012-13 season. The two played together in Fayetteville last season.
- At 16 goals, Pensacola defenseman Louis Belisle is two away from tying Huntsville’s Stuart Stefan‘s record for most goals by a blueliner in a season with 18. Belisle had 16 goals in his 2014-15 rookie season.
- Sin Bin Swami sez: It will be interesting to see how Knoxville reacts to the loss of their starting netminder after losing the services of their top defenseman two weeks ago. I lean towards the team with more to gain – in this case, Pensacola. Pensacola 4, Knoxville 2.
Huntsville Havoc at Fayetteville FireAntz
- Fourth of five regular season meetings. The FireAntz lead the series, two games to one.
- After a five-game streak of scoring three or more goals, the FireAntz have been held to two goals or less in their last four.
- Outside of a shutout on March 26th at Macon, the Havoc have allowed four goals or more in five of their last six games.
- Fayetteville has been smoking hot on the power play against Huntsville. The Antz are 4-for-9 with the extra man against the Havoc penalty killers.
- Sin Bin Swami sez: Both teams are going into the weekend with plenty to prove and third place on the line. Okay, the third place thing isn’t a big deal… so go with the home team. Fayetteville 3, Huntsville 1.
Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs at Macon Mayhem
- The teams have split the regular season series with identical 2-1-1 records.
- Both teams have been successful with the extra man on the ice. Roanoke is 7-for-21 on the power play, while Macon is 3-of-15 with the man advantage.
- Roanoke’s Dmytro Babenko has had the hot hand, with a five-game point-scoring streak with four goals over his last five games, including the game-winning tally vs. Columbus on Tuesday night.
- The Mayhem are the league’s best team when scoring first at 27-3-2.
- Sin Bin Swami sez: Look for an all-out effort by the Dawgs as they attempt to keep their playoff hopes alive. However, the Mayhem are going to want to keep the suspense to a minimum as they seek the regular season title. I see a win-win here… Roanoke 4, Macon 3 – OT.
Columbus Cottonmouths at Evansville Thunderbolts
- Tonight’s game is the fourth between the teams. The Cottonmouths own a 2-1 advantage, with a 3-2 win on April 1st.
- The Thunderbolts lose a big offensive spark with Mark Petaccio being placed on team suspension for an unspecified reason – effectively ending his season. Petaccio had three goals in two games against Columbus.
- Two of Keegan Bruce‘s team-leading eight game-winning goals have come against the Thunderbolts.
- Look for a wild finish… Both teams have combined for nine goals in the game’s final 20 minutes.
- Sin Bin Swami sez: Evansville has proven to be a tough out lately. Columbus is on the brink of a playoff berth. I like the drama of a must-get-to-overtime game for the Snakes on Saturday. Evansville 5, Columbus 4 – in regulation.
Peoria Rivermen at Mississippi RiverKings
- Ninth of ten regular season games between the teams. Both teams have won four of the previous eight games, but Peoria holds the edge due to a pair of post-regulation losses.
- A weekend sweep by the RiverKings could ensure a first-round matchup with the Rivermen. The Kings occupy the fifth playoff seed, and two losses could drop the Rivermen to the fourth spot in the standings.
- Don’t count on a sweep, however… The teams have played three two-game weekend sets this season – all of them have been splits.
- Peoria’s Don Olivieri – the Godfather – began the season with the RiverKings. Olivieri enjoys giving his former mates offers they can’t refuse – he leads all Peoria players with four goals against Mississippi.
- Sin Bin Swami sez: The RiverKings won the last game, which means it’s Peoria’s turn. Peoria 4, Mississippi 3 – OT
Tomorrow’s Season Finales
- Title Belt Finale: Pensacola at Knoxville – 7:30 ET
- Huntsville at Fayetteville – 7:30 ET
- Roanoke at Macon – 7:35 ET
- Mississippi at Peoria – 7:05 CT
- Columbus at Evansville – 7:15 CT
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