The 2022-23 regular season is in the books and with it came the first perfect regular season in quite some time. Carroll was dominant over the course of the 15 regular season games, winning all 15 of them and only going to overtime twice in the process. Leo finished in second place after being fourth last season and a late season rally from Homestead propelled them to third place after not winning their first game until Week Nine. Last year’s Roy Chin Cup Champions saw the tables totally turned on them and find themselves looking to play spoiler this time around, a role they fell victim to at this time last year.
Carroll 6, Vipers 3
A dream start for the Vipers who were looking for their first win since Week Eight, all the way back in December. They got the first two goals of the game and a fitting start to the game with Keaton Rice, one of the Vipers’ seven seniors, scoring first. Rice stopped a dump-in try from Carroll and took it the other way on a breakaway as the Carroll defense watched him bury it for a 1-0 lead. On the Vipers’ next goal, Nick Vanryn chipped the puck in, chased it down below the goal line, and immediately put it out in front. Carson Carteaux was unable to cover it up and eventually, Keegan Edwards found it and slid the puck just under Carteaux who was reaching for the cover. Carroll built momentum through the rest of the first period and it yielded a goal with 2:39 to play when the Senior duo of Brody Burge and Hunter Drinkall combined for a goal after Burge disrupted the Vipers’ breakout and found Drinkall for the goal. That’s where problems started for the Vipers. They got a power play after the Carroll goal and despite some chances the penalty was killed off. Just as Finn Cupp stepped out of the penalty box with 28.8 seconds on the clock, Carter Gnau intercepted a pass off the boards, walked in, and wired a shot past Ben Marques who didn’t get a great look at it with a couple teammates passing through his line of sight. There was more trouble brewing before the end of the period. Gnau scored again with just a second and a half still on the clock when he redirected a Davis Cline shot from the left wall, giving Carroll a 3-2 lead after they trailed 2-0 with less than three minutes to go in the period.
Gnau kept the goals coming and completed the natural hat trick with a power play goal 2:55 into the second period. Carroll dominated the second period with 16 shots on goal and in that time the Vipers could muster only one of their own. The only other goal the Chargers scored in the period didn’t come until the final minute. A two-on-one for Adlee Scheerer and Viktor Wolff concluded with Wolff scoring from the left circle and the Vipers surrendering their third goal of the game in the last minute of a period. In the third period, Michael Scully would add a third goal for the Vipers with 8:44 to play. While on the power play, Scully brought the puck across the blue line and dropped it for Logan Ormsby. Ormsby sent a wrist shot on goal but Carteaux stopped it with the blocker only for the puck to ricochet off it and right to Scully who had a tap in as he followed the play to the net. Carroll answered back with their sixth of the game and it was none other than Dylan Braun. Adding the exclamation mark to his second straight scoring title, Bruan took a pass from Corbin Klenke in the Chargers’ end and evaded all five Vipers players, lost the puck for a brief second, then recollected it and put a shot over the shoulder of Marques into the back of the net. That capped off a 6-3 Carroll win to close out their 15-0 regular season. These two teams meet again on Wednesday in the Memorial Cup Semifinals with the Vipers looking to win their first city tournament game and the Charges hoping to take back the Memorial Cup after Homestead’s recent run of championships.
Leo 3, Homestead 1
Following the Vipers’ loss to Carroll, seeding for the Memorial Cup Playoffs was locked up, leaving just pride and their Seniors to play for on each side. For Leo clearly their Seniors were ready to go. Right off the start JJ Scott got the puck in deep where Aaron Amick got to it first in the far corner, sent it back down to Scott who fed it to Weston Roth who scored as Leo’s three Seniors combined to get their team in the lead just 14 seconds into the game. Homestead controlled the puck the next couple of minutes but a turnover in their own zone resulted in a goal from Johnathan Lipps on Leo’s second shot on goal. A similar story played out over the next two minutes as well. Homestead was bringing some pressure but it ended up being Leo who scored. Colten Calhoun brought the puck up ice and shook off his defenders at the hash marks and found Dylan Davis. Davis fired through the legs of both Carson Whitaker and Alex Dougherty to make Leo a perfect 3 for 3 on shots, triggering the end of Dougherty’s day in net as Connor Gould came on in relief.
After the initial barrage of goals Homestead took another blow. This time it was Aiden Byler being sent to the penalty box for head contact, drawing a two-minute minor and ten-minute misconduct which would at minimum keep him out for the rest of the first period, a tough pill to swallow down 3-0. Luckily the Spartans were able to kill off the minor penalty without any trouble and closed out the first period without giving up another goal but were unable to get one of their own either. Leo found themselves with some penalty issues in the second period. Alex Hendricks and Roth took tripping penalties exactly two minutes apart, keeping Homestead on the power play. Both penalties were killed off but after 51 seconds a little kerfuffle broke out between Roth and Byler. Byler got involved in a battle in the corner and Roth took objection to how that went about and gave Byler a few shoves. Byler didn’t take kindly to that and took a mini-run and got his hands way up on Riley Murphy which of course prompted Roth to come in a hit Byler and the group dispersed from there. Roth and Byler each got roughing penalties and somehow Murphy did as well. It looked like he was collateral damage and not deserving of a penalty in that situation, at least from our camera angle. There were no goals in the second period and to that point in the game the Spartans still led in shots on goal 14-11, with Xander Mulholland stopping all 14 Homestead shots.
In the middle stages of the third, Evan Arnold took an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for Homestead, giving Leo a chance to extend their lead to four with a power play goal. The tables were turned on them though and it was Homestead who scored. The Spartans cleared the puck down the ice and Gavin Elkins got the jump on Leo’s defense. Elkins won the race back to the puck but with little room before the goal and nothing to lose at that point he made the quick decision to try going through the legs. It worked and gave Homestead some life, now down just two goals and still with 6:13 to, but still shorthanded for 1:24 if they wanted to keep the deficit at two. They killed off the rest of the penalty but couldn’t close the deficit and fell 3-1. Mulholland made 26 saves in the win for Leo who looks to make a second straight Memorial Cup Finals appearance with a win over Homestead in the semifinal matchup on Wednesday, and the Spartans will be looking to win their fourth straight Memorial Cup.
Playoff Power Rankings
1.) Carroll Chargers
I tried to avoid jinxing it all year and now that it’s official I’ll say it: Undefeated. A perfect 15-0 regular season, the first team to go unbeaten since 2014-15 when… Carroll did it, that time with a 20-0 record before the league downsized to four teams from the previous six. Of course when the games are win or go home it doesn’t really matter what you did in the regular season but nothing we’ve seen this year would give pause to putting them as the favorite heading into the Memorial Cup Playoffs.
2.) Homestead Spartans
The whole point of these rankings (especially this edition) has been to rank the teams in order of who’s most likely to win the Memorial Cup and despite the loss Saturday to the team that previously occupied this spot and they play on Wednesday, I’m going to go with Homestead at #2. After the first five minutes it was a 1-0 game for Homestead and Gould didn’t let a single one of the 17 shots he faced past him. I’m not going to let that one five minute time frame tarnish my opinion on the current state of Homestead hockey.
3.) Leo Lions
This is more to do with Homestead than it is to do with Leo. I’m not sure what they’ve got going on right now to be totally honest. They’ve been in neutral lately but I can excuse some of that because they were basically locked in seeding-wise, but it’s still concerning. With Andrew Baumert (I’d assume) in net on Wednesday they’re more than capable of the upset, if you even want to call it that. As they showed on Saturday they don’t even need Baumert in goal, that’s just the most likely way they’ll get it done.
4.) Fort Wayne Vipers
Just a tough go the last week and a half for the Vipers. They really should’ve won that game against Leo and you could say the same for the next week against Homestead too. It’s hard to count out that forward group so I guess you never know but I’d be shocked if they pull it off.
Last Week: 1-1
This Season: 23-7
Perfect Scores: 3/30
Carroll 5, Vipers 3
One less goal for Carroll this week but I’ll keep the Vipers at 3. Either way it’s a Chargers win.
Homestead 3, Leo 2
I was back and forth on this but like I said above I’m going with Homestead. I think we’re going to get a really good one here, Mulholland was really good on Saturday so maybe Leo sticks with him in net but I just think you have to go with your stud in a playoff game when it’s win or go home. For Homestead I think it has to be Gould after Saturday and he’s been their better goalie most of the season anyways, at least in my opinion. It’ll be interesting to see what actually happens in the creases before puck drop. These two are pretty evenly matched up front with a couple of studs on each side but I’d say Leo has the deeper group overall but just barely and it’s frankly a toss-up. On defense it’s a similar story. I think part of it depends on where Aaron Amick plays. He’s played D for so long but has been lining up at forward lately which leaves Leo a little more exposed on the blue line and I’m not sure the trade-off is worth it. I think this position group is a toss-up too but I’ll lean towards Homestead right now. I’m looking at a one goal game here and overtime is a serious possibility.