Bush Cup Playoffs begin this weekend

By Nick Clark
MnJHL Director of Media Relations

The Bush Cup Playoffs begin in earnest this weekend, as the chase for a spot in the Tier III National Tournament gets underway for six of the seven Minnesota Junior Hockey League clubs.

The regular season champion Twin Cities Northern Lights earned a bye for the quarterfinal round of the playoff after finishing off 42-5-1 run through the MnJHL season with two more victories this past weekend.

 

Now the Lights will be idle as the rest of the league jostles for the right to skate into the Bush Cup Playoff semifinals, which will take place next weekend.

Twin Cities will host one of the series next weekend, while the other two winners will face off against each other. Those final four will play for a trip to nationals, as each of the two teams that qualify for the playoff finals earn the MnJHL bids to the national tournament.

For seven teams, that quest begins this weekend. Here’s a look at each of the three series taking place this coming weekend:

No. 2 Rochester Ice Hawks (35-11-2) vs. No. 7 Maple Grove Energy (1-44-3)

Team Leaders:
Rochester: F Tyler Beasley (27-59--86), F Rob Turner (39-41--80), F Charles Gallagher (28-34--62), F T.J. Sneath (24-18--42), D Brock Stahlke (9-20--29), G Karel Popper (22-4, 3.20, .905)
Maple Grove: F T.J. Marquardt (21-31--52), F Zach Albers (26-11--37), F Dusty Munyer (11-19--30)

Series Preview:
To be fair, any comparison between Rochester and Maple Grove heading into this weekend must start with the obvious. The first season for the expansion Energy went anything but as planned, as Maple Grove struggled throughout the year and enters the postseason with just a single victory on its resume. Rochester, meanwhile, has been here, done that, and then some. The Ice Hawks are seeking what would be an eighth straight trip to the national tournament, and they’ve lifted the Bush Cup six times in the past seven years as playoff champions. As expected, the season series between these two teams has played out as such. Only twice did the Ice Hawks fail to reach double-figure goals in sweeping the eight-game season series. That includes 14-0 and 14-1 wins in February.

No. 3 Minnesota Owls (26-19-3) vs. No. 6 Edina Lakers (20-27-1)

Team Leaders:
Minnesota: F Robert Erickson (34-31--65),  F Sheldon Kihle (20-38--58), F Kolton Kahoot (18-27--45), F Tim Prinz (26-18--44), D Nick Ernst (13-24--37)
Edina: F Tadayoshi Shibata (25-23--48), F Anton Martirosian (11-32--43), F Brandon Zurich (14-21--35), F Adam Wiertzema (19-15--34), G Greg Ogard (5-0, 3.18, .914)

Series Preview:
Minnesota has been locked into the third-place slot for the better part of the past three months, but that doesn’t mean they’re salivating at the chance to play sixth-seeded Edina. The Lakers enter the postseason on a 4-1 run, which includes a three-game sweep on the road over the Dells Ducks last weekend that Edina capped with a 10-2 victory Feb. 26. On the contrary, the Owls dropped three straight to end the year and have gone just 11-13 since posting a 6-2 mark in the month of November. One of those November victories came over Edina, a game that proved to be the difference in a season series in which Minnesota won five times. Edina did win each of the last two meetings, riding a pair of big third periods to rally for a win both.

No. 4 Hudson Crusaders (24-22-2) vs. No. 5 Dells Ducks (20-24-4)

Team Leaders:
Hudson: F Jake Bruhn (27-38--65), F Cody Rich (30-26--56), F Derek Terrian (23-21--44), D Russell Oakes (2-26--31)
Dells: F Aidan Verbeke (37-39--76), F Billy Warren (19-24--43), 19 goals, 24 assists, F Nick Brenneman (26-12--38), D Tyler Pecka (10-33--43), G Matt Rowe (.916)

Series Preview:
The newest rivalry in the Minnesota Junior Hockey League gets a fitting end to what’s been a season-long battle waged east of the Minnesota border where the MnJHL’s two Wisconsin-based organizations split their eight meetings down the middle. The expansion Dells Ducks won 20 times in their first season. Nearly a quarter (four) of those victories came against Hudson, including each of the last two – 3-0 Jan. 3 and 6-3 Jan. 21 – times they played. Hudson, a national tournament participant a year ago, advanced Nick Townes (Crown Point, Ind.) to the Tier II level of junior hockey in December after the second-year forward amassed 66 points in 33 games. The impact in Hudson came in the form of a 1-7-1 stretch after Towne’s exited the line-up, but the Crusaders appear to have righted the ship late, winning five of six since Feb. 4, including each of the last three.



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