NAHL Finals Recap

By Brad Coccimiglio
In a battle of the North American Hockey League’s top two teams for league supremacy the Texas Tornado won the Robertson Cup in 4 games over the Soo Kiwedin Cansino Indians.

In a story that’s somewhat overdue here at Hockey’s Future, here’s a recap of the NAHL’s league final.

The Tornado breezed through the first two rounds of the NAHL playoffs sweeping the Springfield Jr. Blues in the first round and the defending champion Danville Wings in the second round.

The Indians on the other had had a much tougher time getting to the finals. In the first round the Indians lost Game 1 in overtime against the Lansing Capital Centre Pride only to come back and win Games 3 & 4 to advance. In the second round the Indians, again, lost the first game, this time in double overtime to the Cleveland Barons, only to come back and win the series, winning Game 3 in double overtime.

A Hollywood scriptwriter couldn’t have set this series up any better as the Tornado and Indians were the top two teams in the league standings as well as in terms of power play and penalty killing.

The first game of the series was the most exciting. In the early stages of the game the Indians couldn’t gain any sustained pressure on the Tornado goal. Indians goaltender Cam Ellsworthwas outstanding not only in Game 1 but the entire series. The Indians opened the scoring in the second period on a goal by Pat Caslin. The goal broke Tornado goaltender Brandon Crawford-West’s shutout streak of over 2 games. In the third period it seemed as though the Tornado ere going to be unable to beat Ellsworth. Things looked bleak for the Tornado when, with just over a minute left in the third, the Tornado were given a penalty. Tornado coach Tony Curtale pulled Crawfor-West in favour of an extra atacker and his plan work as Nick Martens scored the tying goal with 52 seconds left in the third.

The first overtime was filled with end-to-end action that included some near misses including the Indians hitting a post. In the second overtime Dave Nelson of the Tornado ended the game with a goal that rebounded off Cam Ellsworth and into the net, although some would argue as to whether the puck actually crossed the line or not. Nevertheless, the Tornado came away with the win and a 1-0 series lead.

The Indians looked to regroup in Game 2, but the Tornado had other ideas. The Tornado took a 2-0 lead into the dressing room after 20 minutes on goals by Jim Underwood and NAHL regular season scoring champion Jason Guerriero. The Indians only offence in the game came in the second period when Nate Meyers scored his second of the playoffs. The Tornado recovered in the third period scoring 3 times to bury the Indians. Jason Deitsch, Marc Deitsch and Andy Wozniewski scored the third period goals for the Tornado.

The Tornado looked to clinch the playoff title in Game 3 in Sault Ste. Mariewith a win but the Indians were not going down without a fight. The Indians got off to a good start playing well for most of the first period.

The second period is where most of the fun started. Late in the perio with the Indians on a power play one of the Indians defencemen, I believe it was Sean Leahy, received a pass at the blueline a took a shot from the top of the circle that seemed to elude Crawford-West and hit the top of the net just inside the crossbar (it hit enough mesh to move the water bottle). After speaking with the goal judge the goal was disallowed. A short time later the Tornado had a man advantage and scored twice in the final 2 minutes of the period to take a 2-0 lead into the third period. Both goals were power play goals scored by Jason Deitsch and Andy Wozniewski.

The Indians played a strong third period and their hard work paid off as Barry Pochmara and Pat Caslin scored to tie the game. In overtime the Indians didn’t take too much time to end the game as Justin Cross buried a rebound just under 2 minute into the extra session to send the series back to Texas for at least 1 more game.

Game 4 was dominated by the Tornado for the most part but the Indians got noticeably better as the game wore on. The Tornado outshot the Indians 21-2 in the first period, but Cam Ellsworth, as he had been through the entire series, was out standing. In the second period, minutes after having a goal called back Jason Guerriero gave the Tornado a 1-0 lead. 39 seconds into the third period former Plymouth Whaler Jonathan Billy scored to give the Tornado a 2-0 lead. The Indians got 1 goal back when Tom Stone scored to cut the lead in half but Jason Deitsch put the final nail in the Indians coffin scoring with just under 5 minutes left to give the Tornado a 3-1 win. The Tornado took the series 3 games to 1.

Cam Ellsworth played a strong series for the Indians keeping them in every game. On the other side Jason Deitsch and Jason Guerriero were the sparkplugs for the Tornado combining for 8 points in the 4 games.

This was the second straight appearance in the finals for the Tornado and it’s also their second year of existance in the NAHL which is quite impressive. The Tornado will likely be heard from even more in the future and I’m sure they’ll be heard from again down the road in the NAHL finals.