DULUTH, MN — Tuesday, the Brahmas took to their skates at NYTEX Sports Centre for one final practice on home ice before taking off for Duluth to play for the Robertson Cup.
The Brahmas qualified for the NAHL Final Four by winning the South Division with a first-round sweep of the Wichita Falls Wildcats followed by a hard-fought five-game series against the Corpus Christi IceRays in which all three of Lone Star’s wins came in overtime.
As it happens, the four teams remaining in the hunt for Cup perfectly reflect the regular season results. The top three seeds in the league will all be in Duluth, with the Aston Rebels in the top spot, followed by Lone Star and Janesville respectively.
Each of those teams held a sizable lead in their respective divisions to end the year, so it’s no surprise to see them advance to the semifinal round.
Aberdeen is the surprise of the bunch, but they come out of a very balanced Central Division in which no team came into the playoffs with any sort of significant advantage.
The second-seeded Brahmas will face the third-seeded Jets in a best-of-three semifinal round, while Aston will face Aberdeen.
The Brahmas and Jets have played each other only once, and that came during the 2014-15 NAHL Showcase. Janesville emerged victorious in that contest, winning 4-1 and going on to set a NAHL regular season points record that year.
Since then, though, the two teams have not faced each other.
Both teams tend to play a high shot-volume game, with the Jets finishing first in the league during the regular season with 36.3 shots on goal per game and the Brahmas third with 34.9. The Brahmas have more of an edge in terms of shot suppression, allowing just 23.3 shots per game, while the Jets were still impressive, but allowed about 5.5 more shots on average per outing.
When it comes to special teams during the regular season, the Brahmas hold the edge on the penalty kill, but the Janesville power play was the best in the league, converting at a 24.3% clip. That script, though, has been different in the postseason.
Janesville’s power play is in the midst of a cold spell with an 11.1% success rate, while the Brahmas have scored 20% of the time they have been on the man advantage. Lone Star’s penalty kill has also been better than Janesville’s during the playoffs. The Jets’ kill is operating at just 66.7%, while the Brahmas have killed 85.7% of the penalties they’ve taken, allowing just two goals in 14 chances. However, the Jets have scored three times shorthanded already in the postseason. The Brahmas have scored with a man down once.
As far as players to watch in this series, Janesville’s goaltender Jacob Barczewski has been stellar throughout the postseason, continuing his excellent rookie campaign. In seven playoff games, he’s posted a .935 save percentage and a 1.72 goals against average.
However, the Brahmas’ Max Prawdzik has been very good in his own right, posting a solid .911 save percentage and an excellent 1.83 goals against average en route to six wins and two shutouts. Alec Calvaruso has been lights-out in his playoff appearances as well, allowing just one goal and putting up a .947 save percentage.
Brahmas fans will also have a chance to see former Brahma Peter Bates with Janesville. Bates was terrific in the regular season for the Jets (24-32–56), but hasn’t been as productive in the playoffs so far with just a goal and two assists in six games.
On the Lone Star side, the Kelley line (Hunter Stanley-Carson Kelley-Troy York) will be looking to stay hot. York in particular came up huge in the series against Corpus Christi, scoring four goals including the Game 5 overtime winner from Kelley.
The Brahmas are just two games away from becoming the first Lone Star team to reach the Robertson Cup Final.
Games 1 and 2 against the Janesville Jets will be on Thursday, May 11 and Friday, May 12. Both games will begin at 7:30 PM CST.
If necessary, Game 3 will be played on Saturday, May 13.
All Lone Star games will be streamed live at ZuRoma, where you can join other fans for the Official Watch Party of the Brahmas.
Remember to follow along on all of our social media. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat to stay up to date on all Brahmas news as we hit the road and compete for the Robertson Cup in Duluth!