FOLKS! After a wild regular season and a playoffs that has been so tight you could make diamonds out of it, the Federal Hockey League’s crown jewel gets underway tonight as the Commissioner’s Cup final gets underway between the Port Huron Prowlers and the Watertown Wolves.
Really, this is the matchup we all expected, as the Prowlers and Wolves were by far the two best teams all season in the FHL, with the Prowlers rolling to the regular season crown with 131 points in 53 games, and the Wolves racking up 104 in 52 games. Both teams were at least 17 points ahead of the next best team.
But it hasn’t been easy in the playoff for either squad! The Prowlers needed a 5-4 overtime win and a narrow 2-1 win over the Danville Dashers to earn their berth in the final. Meanwhile, the Wolves showed their resiliency by rallying twice against the upstart Carolina Thunderbirds, winning 5-4 and 3-2, both in overtime, to punch their ticket to the finals.
But who has the edge heading into the final? We try to figure that out!
Weirdly, the teams only met three times during the regular season, all in Watertown, with the Prowlers winning all three games, but it was very close in two of them. The Prowlers grabbed 5-4 and 4-3 overtime wins back in December, then crushed the Wolves to the tune of a 6-1 win in the final regular season meeting between the teams. So despite the league having only 5.5 teams, this teams aren’t super familiar with each other.
As you might expect, these two teams have dominated the playoff scoring, with Port Huron having six of the Top-10 scorers so far, led by Matt Graham’s four points, while Austin Daae, Branden Parkhouse who was second in regular season scoring, Dalton Jay, Jonathon Juliano, and Matt Robertson, third in regular season scoring, all netting three points so far.
But the Wolves flash plenty of their own firepower, led by Gavin Yates, who leads all FHL players in the playoffs with four goals. Nicola Levesque has been the trigger man, setting up three goals, while Tyler Gjurich, the league’s leading scorer in the regular season, has a goal and two assists so far. So if you like offense, this is the series for you.
But the goalies have been nothing to scoff at either. The presumed starters for this series are Michael Santaguida for the Prowlers, who has clocked in with a sparkling .931 Sv% so far in the playoffs, this after a fantastic regular season where he went an amazing 23-1-0-1 with a 2.24 GAA and .938 Sv%, unheard of numbers in the goal-happy FHL. All tops in the league.
For the Wolves, Cody Karpinski came on in relief in the opening round and hasn’t given up the spot between the pipes. Karpinski played the savior in that series against Carolina, posting a 1.01 GAA and .968 Sv% in the two overtime wins. During the regular season he posted a 16-4-0-2 mark with a 3.23 GAA and .905 Sv%.
The stats are all well and good, but the real reason you came is to see who we think is taking home the title, which would be the second for either team in their history.
With that said, I think Port Huron has been too good all season long in every facet of the game, from offense to defense to goaltending, they’ve proven from the start that they are the best team in the FHL. But I don’t think it will be easy. The Wolves are a very deserving opponent, and will definitely give the Prowlers all they can handle.
So with all that said, I think this series goes the distance, with the Prowler’s hoisting the Commissioner’s Cup in a thrilling Game 5 win on home ice.
PROWLERS IN FIVE!
Game 1: Friday, April 20 at Port Huron – 7:30 PM EDT
Game 2: Saturday, April 21 at Port Huron – 7:30 PM EDT
Game 3: Tuesday, April 24 at Watertown – 6:30 PM EDT
Game 4: Wednesday, April 25 at Watertown – 6:30 PM EDT (if necessary)
Game 5: Saturday, April 28 at Port Huron – 7:30 PM EDT (if necessary)