Minneapolis, MN - In what can only be described as one of the most surprising and exciting playoff series in WHL history, the Minnesota Rink Rats knocked off the defending WHL champions Las Vegas Bulls in 6 games to advance to the 2nd round for the first time under new management. The Rink Rats’ 5-2 victory in Minnesota allowed Minnesota to get a couple days rest before taking on the Fighting Irish in the conference semifinals. The Rink Rats are 1-1-1 against the Fighting Irish this season, but haven’t seen the squad since the middle of the long WHL season.
“It’s going to be a tough series,” stated Captain Jay Bouwmeester. “They’re a good squad with a lot of depth. We’ll really need to shut down their offense and put a lot of shots on net – that’ll be key. We’re a good team and after last year we have a little playoff experience to know how this thing plays out. I’m excited for the series.”
The fact that the Rink Rats played so well against one of the WHL’s strongest squads has many Minnesota fans convinced they have a shot against a strong Irish squad. Veteran Daymond Langkow is playing better then any other player in the playoffs with 7 goals and 5 assists. His chemistry with Derek Roy seems to have carried over into the postseason and both players will be key to the Rink Rats’ success moving forward. Ryan Miller has returned to form (against one of the best offenses in the league no less) with a 2.83 gaa and a .895 sv% and Brent Burns has continued his Norris Trophy play into the postseason as well with 4 goals and 3 assists. Look for an exciting series to get started in
Predictions for Round 2 of the Playoffs:
Stallions vs Corinthians
Vinny Lecavalier has 9 goals and with some great scoring behind him the Corinthians are on fire. Tough decisions face the squad in goal as they’ve used Legace for 2 & Leclaier for 3 in the first round. Legace played well in round 1 so look for him to get the nod going in.
Veteran winger Mark Recchi has looked great for the Stallions thus far but the squad will need to have everyone playing their best to beat a great Corinthians squad including Joe Sakic who was held scoreless in the 1st round.
Prediction: Corinthians in 5
Sparrows vs Icedogs
The Sparrows’ balanced attack looked good in round 1 and they’ve been fortunate enough to get some rest heading into a tough series against the Icedogs. Tanguay is on top of his game and Fernandez isn’t playing so bad either. Like the Stallions, the Sparrows will all have to play at the top of their game to beat the Icedogs.
The Icedogs swept their first round opponent in which Roberto Luongo had a 1.50 gaa and a .947 sv%. The Icedogs are fresh and hungry so look for them to get up early and not look back.
Prediction: Icedogs in 5
Timberjacks vs Express
The Express are playing like the veteran squad that they are and getting contributions from the entire lineup. Ryan Kesler had 6 goals in the first round and Erik Cole’s 3 goals and 6 assists led the team to the conference semi-final. Rick DiPietro sucked it up in the first round to post great numbers behind a veteran defense led by Chris Pronger & Scott Niedermayer. The Timberjacks’ Henrik Lundqvist & Alex Ovechkin will have to come up big to keep things going for the Timberjacks. Look for this to go down to the wire.
Prediction: Express in 6
Rink Rats vs Fighting Irish
After beating the defending WHL Champions, the Rink Rats are on the map. The team’s best players are playing like studs with Daymond Langkow leading the way with 7 goals and 5 assists. Ryan Miller is playing like a true MVP with a 2.83 gaa and .895 sv% against one of the best offenses in the league. The Rink Rats will have to continue to score if they want to beat the balanced attack of the Fighting Irish.
Dion Phaneuf and Nathan Horton lead the Irish into the conference semis. Both young players will be counted on to get past the young Rink Rats squad with contributions coming from secondary scorers like Alex Kotalik, John Madden and Sami Kapanen. The only question mark for the Irish will be in goal and whether Cristobal Huet can continue to carry the team further into the playoffs.
Prediction: Rink Rats in 6