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#DineenCupPlayoffs Series Preview: P.A.L. Jr. Islanders vs. Mercer Chiefs

By Joshua Boyd / NCDCHockey.com 

 

P.A.L. Jr. Islanders (1) vs. Mercer Chiefs (4) 

Best of Five 

Wednesday, April 3, at Northwell Health Ice Center, 4:30 p.m. EST

Thursday, April 4, at Northwell Health Ice Center, 4:45 p.m. EST

Saturday, April 6, at ProSkate Ice Arena, 7 p.m. EST

Sunday, April 7, at Ice Land Skating Center, 5 p.m. EST*

Tuesday, April 9, at Northwell Health Ice Center, Time TBD*

* = If Necessary 

 

The defending Dineen Cup Champion P.A.L. Jr. Islanders have won one series, but there are still three more to go before they can potentially repeat.

First, the Mercer Chiefs are standing in their way, in hopes of keeping the Cup in the Atlantic, but certainly in a different zip code. 

Both teams had to survive three-game series just to reach this point of the season, with the Chiefs edging past the Rockets Hockey Club and the Jr. Islanders, and in fact, both teams were down 1-0 and facing elimination in Game 2. The Rockets looked like they might roll to the Atlantic Finals after a 6-1 victory in Game 1, but the Chiefs bore down and won 4-2 and then 4-1 to push forward.

“Well it was a terrific series. We were not good in Game 1, and that is on me as the coach. We came out flat and quite simply were beaten to loose pucks all over the ice. We did not play playoff hockey, and the Rockets did. That said, I think most teams would have packed it up,” said Chiefs Head Coach Rob Broderick “This team never does. 

“We looked at ourselves in the mirror and came out and played two great games to come back in the best of three,” Broderick added. “So I was very happy about that. We have to work on consistency. We cannot turn it off and on against a team like P.A.L.”

Ethan Byrne and Henri Spoof, the two top scorers during the regular season, also led the way in the playoff series with four points apiece. Four players registered three points, including the leading defenseman scorer Jack Gricus. Dominick Gatto stopped 115 of 127 shots for a .924 save percentage in going 2-1 in net. 

Game 1 between P.A.L. and the Hitmen was dominated by Jersey goalie Daniel Moor, who stopped all 38 shots he faced in a 1-0 victory for the Hitmen. Even going into the third period of Game 2, P.A.L. was still only tied 1-1 before eventually winning 3-1 and then 5-2 in Game 3. 

“We knew it was going to be a tough series going into it. It is a big rivalry. I am very happy to see our team overcome some adversity with getting shut out in Game 1 of the series. I thought that Daniel Moor played a really strong series,” said Jr. Islanders Head Coach Mike Marcou. “We had our chances and I am proud that our team stuck with it and didn’t let it break us. It is really important that our team sticks to the game plan and continues to execute.” 

For the Jr. Islanders, veteran Heikki Virtanen put up five points in the three-game series, with those five points lifting him to a program record 14 points in 10 games for his career. Fellow Cup title defenders Carter Hanrahan and Ty Broad put up four points apiece against the Hitmen, and Nicholas Bevilacqua stopped 106 of 110 shots in three games for a .964 save percentage. 

Over eight games during the regular season, P.A.L. won all eight meetings. There were only two games that were decided by one goal and all were settled in regulation. If you ask Coach Marcou however, it’s all 0-0. He goes into this series with no preconceptions of how it might go. 

“All of the games against the Chiefs this year have been really tight. They are a tough team that are well-coached,” said Marcou. “It’s always a fun game playing against them. They are a hard working team with a lot of talent.”

“Most were very good games, but the results were not good for us. If we took PAL out of the schedule this year we would have had one incredible record (sarcasm),” said Broderick “That said, most of them were really tight games, and I think we are a much better team than we were when we played against P.A.L. The Islanders play the right way, and Coach Mike Marcou and GM Ron Kinnear run things the right way and I have a ton of respect for them. This should be a great series.” 

If it goes the distance, that means five games in seven days and that could be taxing in some ways. Broderick isn’t too worried. 

“Recovery starts immediately after the game ends. We want players to focus on hydration, nutrition, and sleep. Adequate rest allows the body to repair and recharge for the next match. Proper post-game nutrition is essential. We want to spend some time analyzing the previous game, but not too much,” said Broderick. “As coaches, we will make some adjustments after watching video, but at this time of year, sometimes less is more as far as video breakdown so we definitely try to keep it shorter, and ‘smarter,’ which really means to pinpoint one or two things rather than seven or eight.”

With just a few full days between games, the Jr. Islanders crammed in some video work and they have been able to take advantage of some recovery perks, and they will continue to do so during this new series of between three and five games. 

“We focused on a lot of video work prior to this series,” said Marcou. “We have a great athletic trainer who does a great job with helping with recovery, offering a facility that has cold tubs, hot tubs, and recovery tools for our guys to get ready.” 

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