North Arlington, NJ – The Eastern Conference Finals would be played through some difficult conditions at the new home of the ISCA Grizzlies in North Arlington, NJ. Moving out of their old home in Wallington after 15 years, the Grizzlies found themselves on their new home turf for the first time. “Well, this isn’t home just yet, but it is starting to feel like it really quick” says Grizzlies General Manager and Rink Operator Denis Jelcic.
The Eastern Conference Playoffs were hindered by a storm that would cripple the tri-state area but somehow a good showing of Eastern Conference teams got to the event. In the Appalachian Minor Division it was #1 seeded Rampage that would receive a bye while the #2 Inferno and #3 Monsoon would play a two-game series which would fall the Inferno’s way 5-1 and 4-1, a closer series than the score would indicate. Coach Charley Yoder would have his hands full with 4 skaters and 2 goaltenders, and finagling a 5th skater by switching a goaltender to a skater. It was 0-0 for quite some time in both games. The Inferno would score first in both games, while the Monsoon would tie it 1-1 on the power play in both games. Not having much gas left in both games, the Monsoon goalie would stand tall but could not hold off the Inferno. In the Appalachian Minor Division against the Rampage the Inferno would win Game 1, but the Rampage came back with a Game 2 triumph. While also having the lead in Game 3 before Inferno Coach Mike Gerger would get ejected trying to energize his team for the tying goal, and well, it worked. The Inferno would tie it on a goal by aging superstar Nick Pilotti, but in overtime the Rampage would prove to be too much and score the division winning goal. Coach Mike Gerger had this to say when asked about his ejection being intentional “Yea I got tossed on purpose, it worked didn’t it?” Both the Rampage and the Inferno will advance to the Finals representing the Appalachian Minor Division.
The Atlantic Division Minor seeds two and three, 495ers and Sting respectively, could not make the trip due to over 30″ of snow in their area. They will play their series in the coming days with the winner advancing to the PIHA finals. In the other Minor Division match up, it was the top seeded Braves and Grizzlies that would go three games. Game 1 would belong to the Braves with a dominant 8-2 victory, while the Grizzlies would pull out a 5-3 victory in Game 2. Game 3 would be a classic match as both teams were tied 1-1 and Grizzlies trailed 2-1. With :22 seconds they pulled their goaltender and tied the game 2-2. Unfortunately a bounce would go the Braves way and they would defeat the Grizzlies in overtime to move on to the PIHA Finals.
The Pro Division would feature the Appalachian Division’s Lunatics and Team Blue. Team Blue would beat the Lunatics in two games to advance to the division final where they would be defeated in two games by the Appalachian Division Champion Inferno. In the other match up, the Brawlers who did not attend this weekend’s events would allow the Grizzlies to advance to the Atlantic Division Finals where they would meet the Snipers. Game one would be a tug of war with the Snipers leading the Grizzlies 2-1 in the final seconds when Timmie Fulton found a loose puck in front of the net to tie the game 2-2. Unfortunately, it would be a penalty on the same player who tied the game, that would be called in overtime to give the Snipers a power play that they would convert on as they do so well – Snipers Win Game 1. The effects of Game 1 would sit on the Grizzlies shoulders in Game 2 as the Snipers would pour it on and win Game two 6-2 and win the Atlantic Division.
Eastern Conference Pro Finals between the Appalachian Division Champion Inferno and Atlantic Division Snipers would be a three-game series, quicker than anticipated. Snipers would win Game one 3-2, Game two 7-4 and Game three 4-1 – advancing to the PIHA Finals for the third straight season.
Eastern Conference playoffs are complete as we move on to the PIHA Finals February 22-24.