By Jim den Hollander / USPHL.com
Midwest West Division
Minnesota Moose (3) vs. Steele County Blades (6)
All games at Minnesota Moose
Thursday, March 2, 7 p.m. CST
Saturday, March 4, 3:30 p.m. CST
Sunday, March 5, 1 p.m. CST (if necessary)
The Minnesota Moose will have home ice advantage for its opening playoff round this weekend as they have every season since joining the USPHL.
But it will be a tough test for the longtime frontrunners as they will face off against the Steele County Blades, who spent the season knocking on the door of the division’s top four. The Moose were among the first to have its exact final position secured, its 28-15-1 finish leaving the team six back of the second place Minnesota Squatch and nine points up on the fourth place Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings.
The Blades finished at 19-22-2-1, even at 41 points with the Minnesota Blue Ox and Isanti Outlaws. The Blades were ranked second of the three teams in final standings and sixth overall in the division.
The Moose swept the four-game season series against the Blades but other than the first meeting, the scores were close. Last season, the Moose swept the Blades with 4-2 and 6-3 wins at Fogerty Ice Arena in Blaine, Minn., in the only previous playoff meeting between these teams.
Despite everything previous including regular season points showing the Moose as the clear favorite, Head Coach Jon Jonasson is not looking beyond Game 1 of this series.
“As a team, we approach playoffs as a whole new season,” said Jonasson in an email interview. “We don’t look at our previous record vs. teams and know we cannot undervalue any teams in our division. Coach (Nick) Adamek and the Blades have been playing well and they have a disciplined team.”
Jonasson said the team will not make any significant changes in the way it has played all season.
“We plan to approach playoffs in a business manner and we will play with a physical and fast pace, Moose style of play.”
Adamek also is not paying much attention to past results other than being happy his team will have a chance to show what it can do against the Moose.
“We are excited for the opportunity to represent our community in the playoffs starting this week,” said Adamek. “Our guys have battled all season to be able to do so. We look forward to playing the always competitive Minnesota Moose. All season long we have nbeen preaching getting better every time we are together.
“We believe it can culminate with an opportunity to represent our division at USPHL Nationals inn Utica later this month. Standing in our way are the Moose. We are preparing for this battle as a team and look forward to the task at hand,” Adamek added. “We have a belief, now we just need to bring it all together.