Our League 1 Playoffs take a slightly different format from previous years with the league title now the main championship, which was won by the Northern Cyclones, gaining automatic promotion to the Elite League.
The playoffs are used to determine the second team with the opportunity to go up; the winner of the League 1 playoffs will face off next month against 2nd bottom in Elite League.
League 1 was highly competitive this season, especially amongst the teams in playoff spots with some spots going right to the last games of the season.
League 1 playoffs take place this Saturday 21st April in Longford with all 4 teams having a very real possibility of coming out as winners.
Semi Final 1 – Ballymena Vandals vs Dublin Wolves
The Vandals ended up the closest team to Cyclones in the standing and will be disappointed they didn’t push them further. They will be out to prove that they are the best of the rest and continue to grow as a club. The key for the Vandals will be staying out of the box; which when they do they are a side very difficult to beat.
An up-and-down season for the Wolves saw them pretty much out of the playoff race at Christmas. However, a strong finish with 3 wins from 3 saw them leap frog Waterford Vikings into the final playoff spot. The Wolves will have to keep doing what they have of late to stand a chance against the high scoring Vandals.
Players to Watch
Ballymena Vandals - Martin Cajagi
Martin as the Vandals netminder has kept them in many games this season and will have to be at his best if the Vandals are to be successful this weekend.
Dublin Wolves - Aleksejs Novickis
Aleksejs finished the season well scoring some key goals for the Wolves to make the playoffs. They will be looking to him again to provide the scoring threat.
8th October 2017 – Vandals 9 - 5 Wolves
4th February 2018 – Wolves 3 - 7 Vandals
Semi Final 2 – Midland Thunder vs Shadow Bandits
Midland Thunder being the youngest side in the league with all players aged 18 or younger certainly turned some heads with some big results against more established sides this season. Discipline has been a problem at times but has been much improved in the second half of the season and that must continue this weekend to achieve success. The Thunder need to use their youthfulness to their advantage to ensure they come out on top.
With a win over the Thunder in March the Shadow Bandits split the season series and this couldn’t be a closer match-up between the two sides. The Shadow Bandits have struggled to gain any momentum this season but they can’t be taken lightly and certainly know where the net is. Key for the Shadow Bandits is getting an early lead and controlling the game the rest of the way.
Players to Watch
Midland Thunder - Matiss Simanskis
Matiss flies under the radar but is the typical defensive player that is vital to winning championships. If he’s at his best Shadow Bandits will have difficulty getting premium scoring opportunities.
Shadow Bandits - Stephen Barcoe
Doesn’t get as much attention with the Shadow Bandits possessing the league’s top scorer. However, has been on form towards the end of the season and will look to carry that into the weekend.
What they say
Janis Kipars, Midland Thunder Coach
“We are pleased to be in a playoffs and we will give everything we have to win this. Our aim was to win promotion outright, unfortunately we fell short. Promotion is still the main target, we are only taking different route.”
Lucian Verkin, Shadow Bandits Team Manager
“The Shadow Bandits are thrilled to have had a successful season, despite many obstacles.
Our success is a credit to just how far these players have come in improving and learning, and the challenge of the Playoffs is one where we will all be eager to demonstrate our ability.
We are aware that all four teams will be bringing their squads fully prepared, and we wish them the best of luck.
For us, coming out of the Playoffs as winners would be undeniable proof of our members' commitment.
It will not be an easy task by any measure, but we are prepared and excited.”
16th December 2017 – Thunder 5 - 3 Shadow Bandits
11th March 2018 – Shadow Bandits 6 - 3 Thunder
Good luck to all teams competing this weekend!