Friday, 3 March 2017

One Down, Eleven To Go

When the playoffs in any sport start, everyone is back on even terms. The stats are erased, the standings are reset, and the teams participating work towards one main goal in winning their leagues' respective championships. While we're still a month away from the playoffs in the NHL, the Metal Ligaen's playoffs started today with the Aalborg Pirates squaring off against the Gentofte Stars in a best-of-seven series. Just as they did in the regular season, the Pirates won this game over the Stars, but this series isn't going to be a cakewalk for the Pirates.

For the Pirates, they aren't even rolling out their top squad right now with Ryan McDonough, Lasse July Korsgaard, Andrew Blazek, Alexander Collberg, and Anders Overmark all missing this game with various ailments, forcing head coach Brandon Reid to ice a younger squad with less experienced players. In knowing this, one might suspect that the Pirates may falter, but it was their leaders from the season who pushed them to the playoff win in Game One!

Bryce Reddick scored 2:24 into the game and Peter Quenneville added a power-play goal at 14:55 off a feed from Julien Jakobsen to pace the Pirates to a 2-0 lead through the opening fifteen minutes. A power-play goal by Cam Spiro with 52 seconds remaining in the period would cut the deficit to one, however, as Aalborg led 2-1 after the first period.

The Stars would pull even off another power-play goal at 4:24 of the second period when Joonas Riekkinen zipped a shot past Robin Quemener, but the Pirates began to take over the game in possession and on the scoreboard after that goal. Mikkel Højbjerg would convert a Jakobsen feed at 10:04, Christopher Frederiksen would score on the power-play 1:20 after the Højbjerg goal, and Victor Panelin-Borg would add a third power-play goal for the Pirates at 17:25 to stake Aalborg to a 5-2 lead through two periods.

The third period would scoreless, but you got the sense that the Pirates were happy with the results in not needing any additional goal to secure victory. Nearly 3700 fans went home happy as Aalborg got the jump in their series with the 5-2 win as the series shifts back to Gentofte for Game Two where the Pirates have not won this season. If that trend changes on Sunday, the Pirates would have a stranglehold on this series early in their playoff run.

The one thing that Gentofte tried to do to slow the speedy and skilled Pirates in this game was playing physical. The third period seemed to carry a more physical tone than earlier in the game with Gentofte leading the way in hits in the final frame, but that resulted in nothing on the scoreboard so we'll have to see if they change their strategy as the home team in Game Two. Clearly, they don't want to be taking penalties as the Pirates capitalized on three man-advantages in Game One as they went 3-for-9 with the power-play.

The Pirates lead 1-0 in the series, and the excitement for Aalborg hockey only grows as they look go up 2-0 on Sunday. If only there was an online stream where we could watch!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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