North Division finals:
1) Hamilton Bulldogs vs. 3) Manitoba Moose
Two of the AHL’s strongest attendance markets and most frequently mentioned locations in regards to future NHL relocation meet in a classic North Division finals matchup.
The Bulldogs enter this series playing well, having won their last two games over Oklahoma City in dominating fashion. It is no surprise that Nigel Dawes is leading the way offensively with five goals and eight points, nor is it a surprise that Aaron Palushaj (7 points) is chasing right behind him. Former Wolves (and Admirals) goaltender Drew MacIntyre (4-2-0, 1.67 G.A.A) is delivering between the pipes, with an AHL-best .945 save percentage in the first round. More help is on the way after Montreal was eliminated in the NHL playoffs last night.
The only goaltender ahead of MacIntyre in goals against average is Manitoba’s Eddie Lack (1.60), who allowed just seven goals in five games played against Lake Erie. Moose forward Marco Rosa leads the entire Western Conference with 12 points and eight assists, while Sergei Shirokov trails close behind with five goals and seven points. Manitoba showed plenty of offense to outgun high scoring Lake Erie and might be a stronger defensive club than the Bulldogs, despite Hamilton’s Western Conference-best 193 goals allowed during the regular season.
Despite a down year in the North Division, the winner of this series will provide plenty of challenge for either Houston or Milwaukee, which both finished ahead of first place Hamilton in total points. But I think the Moose’s recent playoff experience and the excitement brewing in the city of Winnipeg over regaining an NHL team, as being the tipping points in a 7 game series victory for Manitoba.
To read my in-depth West Division final preview (Milwaukee vs. Houston), click here.
To read my division finals previews from the Eastern Conference, click here.
To read my feature on MilwaukeeAdmirals.com on the Admirals victory in Game 6 over Texas click here.