For those of you who might be unaware, the NAHL’s annual Robertson Cup tournament has been going in Frisco, Texas this past weekend and it’s been a thrilling ride. Today Blackout Dallas ventured to the Dr. Pepper Arena to cover the two semifinal games between the St. Louis Bandits and Amarillo Bulls and the Texas Tornado and Fairbanks Ice Dogs. Having survived the opening round robin games, these four teams played tonight with a berth in the Robertson Cup Finals on the line.
Semifinal Game One: St. Louis Bandits vs. Amarillo Bulls
As the top team in the regular season and the Southern Division Champions with a 46-7-7 record, the Amarillo Bulls had lofty expectations and were looking for their first shot at a Robertson Cup. Their foes, the St. Louis Bandits, won the Midwest Division and were former back to back to back NAHL Champions from 2007-2009, looking to return to prominence. This contest got off to a hot start, perfectly representative of the NAHL’s brand of exciting hockey. The first 10:07 saw the teams trading goals, with Amarillo’s Karl Beckman opening the scoring before St. Louis equalized with a tally from Drew Slaton. The Bulls took the upper hand though, and John Gustafsson put Amarillo up 2-1, a lead that would hold all the way until the third period. The teams fought to a stalemate through the second period. Amarillo, backstopped by goaltender Mike Taffe, who put together an astounding 20-3 record in the regular season, withstood the St. Louis attack for the middle frame. The Bandits’ relentless offensive attack could not be countered by Amarillo’s defense, and Stephen Bopp tied the game 3:55 into the final frame. Just over a minute later, Rance Hughes completed the astounding turnaround and in a blink of an eye St. Louis had taken the lead. The Bandits clamped down and held the Bulls off, with goaltender Spencer Viele standing tall until the final horn sounded, giving the St. Louis Bandits a win over the Amarillo Bulls and a berth in the Robertson Cup Finals.
Semifinal Game Two: Texas Tornado vs. Fairbanks Ice Dogs
The Texas Tornado were guaranteed a spot in the tournament since they were the host team, but their 36-16-8 record was still among one of the top in the league, and with a rich history of Robertson Cup victories, they’re the most dangerous team to underestimate in this position. The Fairbanks Ice Dogs are the defending National Champions, so the target has been on their back and were unlikely to be taken lightly. The Tornado and Ice Dogs fought a remarkably clean (just one penalty) and near perfect hockey game, a thing of beauty. Alec Hajdukovich gave the Ice Dogs an early first period lead, but only after goaltender Alex Fons stoned Texas’ Drew Mayer on a breakaway that would have given Texas the lead. The Tornado answered back with a little help from fourth line winger Skyler Spiller just over four minutes later. Texas went on to control much of the remaining time in the period, but it was the Ice Dogs who took advantage of their opportunities, scoring with just 56 seconds left in the period to give them a 2-1 lead into the first intermission. Drew Mayer, the late addition to the Tornado, and one of my favorite players to watch, tied the game in the second period, but that would be all the scoring in the middle frame. The contest continued neck and neck through the third period, but Fairbanks struck first 9:58 in. Texas Head Coach Tony Curtale decided that his game plan wasn’t working and began to switch up the lines, and with time ticking down on the Tornado’s Robertson Cup hopes, fourth line center Justin Greenberg, who was playing with star winger Jack Prince, buried the equalizer with just over five minutes to play. The time trickled away and Texas’ third overtime game of the tournament was about to commence. There’s nothing better in hockey than a sudden death elimination game, and the NAHL is no different. Fairbanks and Texas exchanged chances and near misses and it looked like we were headed into a second overtime. Drew Allen, the young center for the Tornado, took a pass in the slot after a rush into the offensive and zone and buried the puck in the back of the net, giving the Tornado the golden goal and a berth into the Robertson Cup Finals.
The match is set and the St. Louis Bandits will take on the Texas Tornado for the Robertson Cup TONIGHT in Frisco! The NAHL is full fo talented young players on their way to Division One Universities around the country, and has sent numerous players into the NHL. It’s an exciting and fast paced league and best of all, it’s dirt cheap to come see a game. Get to Frisco tomorrow night to see the local boys try and bring the Robertson Cup back to Texas after a long absence.
Topics: Alec Hajdukovich, Amarillo Bulls, Anton Racklin, Drew Mayer, Drew Slaton, Fairbanks Ice Dogs, John Gustafsson, Justin Greenberg, Karl Beckman, Mike Taffe, NAHL, Rance Hughes, Robertson Cup, Rudy Salmonte, Skyler Spiller, St. Louis Bandits, Stephen Bopp, Texas Tornado, Tony Curtale