There are still a lot of questions about who will play where in the first round of the NAHL Central Division postseason but a lot was answered last night as a Minot win and a North Iowa regulation loss clinched playoff berths for the St. Cloud Norsemen and the Minot Minotauros. We’ll now take a look at what we know, what still needs to be determined, and what scenarios get us where. (Keep in mind, game 60 for all Central Division teams is tonight and the matchups are St. Cloud at Aberdeen, Minot at Austin and North Iowa at Bismarck.)
St. Cloud – A win in any form and the Norsemen finish as the #2 seed and would have home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. A regulation win and they would be guaranteed to host Minot in the first round, who would finish as the #3 seed. An overtime/shootout loss for St. Cloud and any loss by Minot or a regulation loss for both St. Cloud and Minot would leave St. Cloud as the #3 seed and they’d return back to Aberdeen next weekend as the Wings would finish as the #2 seed. And if St. Cloud loses and Minot wins or if St. Cloud loses in regulation and Minot gets a point in an overtime/shootout loss and the Norsemen would be the #4 seed and go to Austin.
Minot – Minot gets home ice advantage and the #2 seed with a win and a St. Cloud loss of any kind. Minot would finish #3 if St. Cloud wins in regulation, regardless of what the Minotauros do or if if Aberdeen wins and Minot loses in overtime/shootout. The Tauros continue playing Austin for a third and then a fourth straight weekend as the #4 seed if Aberdeen wins and Minot loses in any fashion or if St. Cloud wins in overtime/shootout and Minot loses in regulation.
Aberdeen – If Aberdeen wins or at least gets to overtime then they clinch the final playoff spot in the Central Division but a regulation loss and they would be eliminated as both North Iowa and Bismarck would hold the tiebreaker over them. Aberdeen gets the #2 seed if they win and Minot loses. Aberdeen finishes as the #3 seed and plays Minot if both of those teams win. And the Wings finish as the #4 seed and travel to Austin if they lose in overtime/shootout and Minot wins or loses in overtime/shootout.
North Iowa and Bismarck – The winner of this game gets the fourth seed if Aberdeen is defeated in regulation by St. Cloud. Both teams are eliminated if Aberdeen gets a point tonight. And the loser of this game finishes last in the Central Division.
Taking a look at the other divisions:
In the East, Maryland is the top seed, New Jersey will finish second, Maine third and Northeast fourth.
In the Midwest, Wisconsin finishes as the #1 seed, Minnesota as the #2. Chippewa will finish as the #3 seed if they defeat Minnesota and Kenai River loses to Anchorage in regulation. Any other combination and Kenai River finishes #3 and Chippewa #4.
In the South, Oklahoma not only finishes tops in their division but they will be the overall #1 seed and no matter how far they go in the Robertson Cup playoffs, they will always be the top seed, so they’ll be the “home” team if they make the semifinals and Championship at Fogerty Arena in Blaine, MN. Lone Star clinches the second spot in the South with a win or a Shreveport regulation loss. Shreveport jumps Lone Star with both a win and a Lone Star loss OR if Shreveport gets an overtime/shootout loss and a Lone Star regulation loss. And the only other playoff spot up for grabs outside of the Central Division goes to Amarillo with a win, a New Mexico regulation loss, or if they both fall in overtime/shootout. New Mexico claims the last spot if they win and Amarillo loses in any fashion or if they pick up a point in an overtime/shootout loss and if Amarillo falls in regulation.