The first weekend of the HNA League Championships is now complete. Congratulations to the following winning teams.
Level 1 - New York KGB
Level 2 - Philadelphia Wings
Level 3 - Cleveland Stampede
Level 4 - Baltimore Bull Dogs (2 OT & Shootout)
Level 5 - Philadelphia Ice Raiders
Notable happenings... The New Jersey Bombers had another last second disappointment this year. In 2005 the Bombers were just a fraction of a second from putting the puck in a near empty net, which would have tied the tournament final. This year the Bombers were less than 1 second away from their semi final game going into OT, only to have the St. Louis Moose score the game winner with 0.9 seconds left in the 3rd period.
The Cleveland Stampede won their second consecutive title, putting them on track to possibly "3-Peat," a feat never before accomplished in HNA Finals history
The Baltimore Bull Dogs had quite a Sunday playoff run. Down by two goals with less than 6 minutes left in the 3rd period of the semi-final game, the Bull Dogs scored 4 goals to grab a come-from-behind victory from the Cleveland Jets. In the final, the Bull Dogs took the New Jersey Moose to 2 over-times and a shootout before finally ending the game.
Level 1, Division 1 was so tight it took a 3 way - 5th - tie breaker to settle the division. What was the difference? The Detroit Wings had a brief let down in the first period of their first game (giving up 4 goals in the first 1/2 of the first period). Those 4 goals were the difference in moving on, or going home.
Cheers to the DC Chiefs and Chicago Ice Men. Both teams were originally scheduled to play in the Tier 4 "Special Invitation" Division. This year, however, only 2 teams signed up - so in with the rest of the teams they went! It was rough going, but both teams used the experience to toughen up for the coming summer and next Winter.
A "Near Death" Experience. Level 1 Champs NY KGB came very close to not happening this year. During the season they found themselves 6 roster spots short of being fully paid. There was even talk amongst the team of folding - BUT - instead of knuckling under and bailing, the team added more players and proceeded to play themselves into the playoffs, the Finals in Toronto, and to a Championship. Well done Kelly Smith and the rest of KGB for showing that persevering pays off!
If we had to do it all over again..... We always look back at how the teams did in the tournament and think about what changes we might make if we could do it all over again...
First, we'd move the Philadelphia Wings to Level 1, maybe even Tier 3. Last year Philly teams didn't do that well in the finals tournament, but with two titles, Philly made a HUGE comeback this year.
Second, we'd swap the DC Fire Cats and the Philadelphia Ice Raiders. Fire Cats - still gaining experience. Ice Raiders, loads of experince, though they were short on their roster for the weekend.
Just those two changes would have made for some interesting outcomes, but, as they say "Hindsight is 20-20" and if we were really that good at handicapping games, we'd move the league office to Vegas.....
Our many thanks to all the players for making the trip to Toronto and the tireless efforts of the Captains in getting everyone there, in one piece and on time. Everything ran perfectly on schedule all weekend long.
-Elliott Root, HNA League Director and the HNA League Office Staff