Tonight is the start of the SPHL semi-final to see who will face the Mississippi RiverKings in the President’s Cup finals. The best-of-three series starts tonight in Louisiana and moves onto the weekend to Knoxville for Game Two and maybe a Game Three. On the surface, it looks like another close match-up, as the Knoxville Ice Bears took four of six games against the Louisiana IceGators, but all minus two games were one-goal games. Both the Ice Bears and IceGators had wins of three-or-more goals.
All six games were late in the season, the first match-up being on February 13th and ending with the last series of the season. Even though the Ice Bears took the series, they were outscored 18-17 by the IceGators. One of the big hang-ups for Knoxville is that the top guys for the Ice Bears were shutdown by Louisiana’s defense. Ryan Salvis, Eric Satim, and Francis Drolet combined for four goals in those six games, but did contribute on the assist side with Salvis adding four helpers, while Satim and Drolet added two each. Josh Cousineau added two goals and two assists, but hasn’t been seen on the scoresheet for most of the year. Drolet has been able to contribute in the playoffs thus far with four goals, along with Satim’s four assists– but Salvis has yet to really make his mark, with only two assists.
On the Louisiana side, Jake Hauswirth and Jeremy Boyer really took it to Knoxville, tallying three goals and five assists a piece in their six meetings, as Matt Viola added two goals and three assists in three meetings after being traded from Huntsville (which is where the IceGators shipped him earlier in the season). Viola added a goal and three assists in four games with the Havoc against the Ice Bears. One noticeably absence scorer against the IceGators is leading scorer Adam Stuart, who only mustered a goal and two assists, while also being held off the scoresheet in the first round.
In net, Bryan Hince won all three games against the IceGators he played in and was thrown into Game Three against the Columbus Cottonmouths. Braely Torris got the first two starts, but the rookie stepped aside for the veteran Hince. One of the big questions for Louisiana is to go with Scott Diebold or Marco Di Filippo, as both have a win and loss against Knoxville, but Di Filippo has gotten into more games– as he let up seven goals in his four appearance against the IceGators. Diebold has been the guy down the stretch and in the playoffs, which could be the best play since the IceGators seem to know how to get to Di Filippo.
Much like the first round, this series should be close scoring and very entertaining. All the while, the Mississippi RiverKings lay in waiting hoping that this series goes the distances and they can wear each other out for a bit of relief going into the championship series.