BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – After a thrilling comeback in the series against the Fayetteville Marksmen, the Birmingham Bulls find themselves just two more wins away from a chance to play for it all. Standing in the way are the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs.
The Rail Yard Dawgs are this seasons version of a Cinderella story in the SPHL playoffs. Despite finishing fifth in the regular season, Roanoke was looked upon as an easier matchup than any of the lower seeds by the regular season champions, the Peoria Rivermen. The Dawgs fed off that slight and took the fight to Peoria. After coming from behind at home in game one to shock the Rivermen, Roanoke took a 4-0 lead in the decisive game two of the series and fought off a fierce Peoria comeback to win the game 4-3 and the series 2-0.
The Birmingham Bulls, on the other hand, started the playoffs on the road and down one game to none against Fayetteville. The Bulls used timely power-play goals, and a multi-adjective performance from Mavric Parks to eliminate the upset-minded Marksmen. Now the Bulls will have to do the same thing again, start on the road and hope the rowdy fans of the Pelham Civic Complex can make home ice the advantage it is supposed to be.
How They Got Here:
Birmingham Bulls: Defeated Fayetteville Marksmen in Challenge Round 2-1
Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs: Defeated Peoria Rivermen in Challenge Round 2-0
Series Schedule (Home team in BOLD CAPS):
Game 1 – Thursday, April 17 – Birmingham at ROANOKE – 7:05 PM ET
Game 2 – Friday, April 18 – Roanoke at BIRMINGHAM – 7:30 PM CT
Game 3 – Saturday, April 19 – Roanoke at BIRMINGHAM – 7:00 PM CT*
By the Numbers:
Season Series Recap:
The Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs are one of only three teams the Birmingham Bulls did not have a .600 or better winning percentage in the regular season. The other two teams are facing off in the other semifinal matchup, Huntsville and Knoxville. The Bulls won the season series against the Dawgs 4-3, but three of the four wins by Birmingham came by only a single goal.
Roanoke was 2-1 at home against the Bulls during the regular season, winning 4-2 on December 6th, 3-1 on February 8th, and losing 3-2 on February 9th. Birmingham won a pair of games in overtime at home against the Dawgs in January.
The Bulls won 4-3 on January 25th, and 3-2 in a shootout on January 26th.
Birmingham Keys to Success:
Birmingham can win this series by doing what got them through round one. Execute on the power play, take advantage of the rebounds, and stay out of the penalty box. In the Bulls lone loss of the playoffs, they allowed two power play goals on four chances. In the two wins, they allowed one goal on nine chances. In the deciding game on Sunday night, Birmingham picked up two goals by cleaning up the rebounds in front of the net.
Roanoke Keys to Success:
Roanoke wins the series if they can repeat what they did during the regular season. The Dawgs are one of two teams to defeat Mavric Parks in three games this season. Parks is 3-3 against Roanoke with a 2.66 goals against average and a .908 save percentage.
Do what they did against Peoria in Round 1, take the lead early, let Birmingham know that even though they are the lower seed, they’re not intimidated. Finally, win game one at home. Roanoke has proven they can win in Birmingham as they did so at the end the regular season. If they can hold serve and win game one at the Berglund Center, then all they have to do is play .500 hockey on the road to advance to the finals.