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UFHL Playoff Preview: Top 2 Seeds Reach Semis, Could Clash for Klein Cup

The top three seeds from the regular season are part of the final four in the Ultimate Fantasy Hockey League playoffs. The Ice Vikings, Red Army and Titans advanced from their respective division playdowns, along with the 10th-seeded Gators, as the Klein Cup playoffs roll into the third round — the semifinals. The remaining franchises were reseeded for these matchups to mirror the NHL’s playoff format this season. Therefore, it’s possible the top two seeds — Ice Vikings and Red Army — could clash for the Klein Cup, unless the underdog Gators can pull off a third straight upset after ousting the seventh-seeded Royals and fifth-seeded Outlaws to represent the Howe Division. The Titans are in tough now, lacking manpower coming out of the second round as you’ll see in this preview. Second Round Results Gretzky Division Final 1) Red Army defeated 2) Grizzlies 192.2-114 Lemieux Division Final 1) Ice Vikings defeated 3) Stingrays 99.55-78.45 Orr Division Final 1) Titans defeated 2) Rock Republic 163.75-159.35 Howe Division Final 3) Gators defeated 1) Outlaws 140.3-75.9 Third Round Matchups Semifinals (Final Four Reseeded) L1) Ice Vikings vs. H3) Gators G1) Red Army vs. O1) Titans

Here is how the franchises stack up for the third round, with a roster comparison followed by a bit of analysis. NOTE: These four remaining playoff franchises are leasing players from the 15 non-playoff franchises that are listed in parenthesis. Third Round Semifinals L1) Ice Vikings vs. H3) Gators

L1) Ice Vikings Forwards (4) Mark Stone — Vegas vs. Montreal (Crypto Knights) Reilly Smith — Vegas vs. Montreal (Snipers) Brock Nelson — New York Islanders vs. Tampa Bay (Assassins) Leo Komarov — New York Islanders vs. Tampa Bay (Blizzard) Defenders (0) None Goaltenders (1) Semyon Varlamov — New York Islanders vs. Tampa Bay H3) Gators Forwards (5) Mathieu Joseph — Tampa Bay vs. New York Islanders Yanni Gourde — Tampa Bay vs. New York Islanders (Monarchs) Jean-Gabriel Pageau — New York Islanders vs. Tampa Bay (Norse Stars) William Karlsson — Vegas vs. Montreal Corey Perry — Montreal vs. Vegas Defenders (1) Alec Martinez — Vegas vs. Montreal Goaltenders (0) None

ANALYSIS: This has the makings of a great semifinal. The Gators have an extra skater — two extra skaters counting Joseph, who has been a healthy scratch — but the Ice Vikings have the only goaltender left. It could come down to that goaltender, to how Varlamov and the Islanders fare against the Lightning. The skaters appear fairly even, so Varlamov becomes the wild card for better or worse. If the Islanders fare well, the Ice Vikings are likely gunning for a double championship — both regular season and playoffs! But the Gators won’t go down without a fight here.

G1) Red Army vs. O1) Titans

G1) Red Army Forwards (7) Nick Suzuki — Montreal vs. Vegas Tyler Toffoli — Montreal vs. Vegas Cole Caufield — Montreal vs. Vegas (Snipers) Joel Armia — Montreal vs. Vegas (Snipers) Ryan Poehling — Montreal vs. Vegas (Duckman’s Domination) Nikita Kucherov — Tampa Bay vs. New York Islanders (Monarchs) Alex Barre-Boulet — Tampa Bay vs. New York Islanders (Tornadoes) Defenders (2) Jeff Petry — Montreal vs. Vegas (Snipers) Alexander Romanov — Montreal vs. Vegas (Snipers) Goaltenders (2) Carey Price — Montreal vs. Vegas (Godfathers) Jake Allen — Montreal vs. Vegas (Godfathers) O1) Titans Forwards (0) None Defenders (0) None Goaltenders (1) Andrei Vasilevskiy — Tampa Bay vs. New York Islanders

ANALYSIS: This matchup is as lopsided as it appears — 11 to 1 in favour of Red Army, which caught a fortunate break when the Titans overtook Rock Republic on the final day of the second round. Rock Republic would have advanced 10 players and thus been a much tougher challenge in the semifinals. Instead, it’s all up to Vasilevskiy for the Titans but even four straight shutouts may not be enough to take down Red Army’s six or seven active skaters in addition to Price between the pipes. Red Army’s remaining roster total is a bit inflated — Poehling and Barre-Boulet haven’t been playing, Petry may be hurt or Romanov may be out if Petry is playing, and Allen is obviously the backup behind Price — but Red Army has at least a handful of quality contributors thanks to this Cinderella run by Montreal. If the clock strikes midnight on the Canadiens in this round, Red Army could be in the same shoes as the Titans for the Klein Cup Final, but Red Army sure looks like a shoo-in from the semis. For those curious, here is a look at who Rock Republic would have had remaining to face Red Army, had they not been defeated by a mere 4.4 points: Forwards (4) Blake Coleman — Tampa Bay vs. New York Islanders Alex Killorn — Tampa Bay vs. New York Islanders (Monarchs) Jesperi Kotkaniemi — Montreal vs. Vegas Nic Roy — Vegas vs. Montreal (Kamikaze) Defenders (5) Victor Hedman — Tampa Bay vs. New York Islanders (Monarchs) David Savard — Tampa Bay vs. New York Islanders (Godfathers) Cal Foote — Tampa Bay vs. New York Islanders (Norse Stars) Joel Edmundson — Montreal vs. Vegas Nic Hague — Vegas vs. Montreal Goaltenders (1) Marc-Andre Fleury — Vegas vs. Montreal

Non-Playoff Franchises NOTE: These 15 non-playoff UFHL franchises are loaning players to the four remaining playoff franchises who are listed in parenthesis. The non-playoff franchises are listed from most players participating in the Klein Cup playoffs to the least.

Snipers Forwards (4) Cole Caufield — Montreal vs. Vegas (Red Army) Joel Armia — Montreal vs. Vegas (Red Army) Reilly Smith — Vegas vs. Montreal (Ice Vikings) Morgan Geekie — Eliminated (Ice Vikings) Defenders (3) Jeff Petry — Montreal vs. Vegas (Red Army) Alexander Romanov — Montreal vs. Vegas (Red Army) Robert Bortuzzo — Eliminated (Red Army) Goaltenders (0) None ANALYSIS: Snipers still have seven players left, with five on Red Army and two on Ice Vikings, so they are hoping for that 1-versus-2 showdown for the Klein Cup. If Red Army prevails as the playoff champ, Snipers would also receive a nice little payout for providing a handful of Habs and being on that bandwagon! The way it works with the payouts and this leasing system, 50 per cent of the prize money goes to the franchise (owner/GM/staff), while the other 50 per cent is evenly distributed to every player on their roster. There are payouts for winning each of the four rounds — escalating from $77.28 to $154.56 to $309.12 to $1,700.13 USD. With a 23-man roster, each player would earn $1.68 for the first round, $3.36 for the second round, $6.72 for the third round and $36.96 for the fourth round. Therefore, players from the Klein Cup champion would earn a total of $48.72 USD worth of SCO for their respective franchises.

Monarchs Forwards (4) Nikita Kucherov — Tampa Bay vs. New York Islanders (Red Army) Pierre-Luc Dubois — Eliminated (Red Army) Yanni Gourde — Tampa Bay vs. New York Islanders (Gators) Carter Verhaeghe — Eliminated (Titans) Defenders (0) None Goaltenders (0) None ANALYSIS: Monarchs are one of three non-playoff franchises with four players remaining, including two on Red Army. Kucherov is still going strong in both the NHL and the UFHL as the second overall pick in this year’s UFHL Playoff Draft. With representatives on three of the final four franchises, there is a good chance that a Monarch — or two — will be getting their names engraved on the Klein Cup again after the Monarchs captured last year’s inaugural playoff championship before missing the playoffs this year.

Godfathers Forwards (2) Warren Foegele — Eliminated (Ice Vikings)