GWMHL

Charleston and Adirondack to Meet in Final

In Uncategorized on June 23, 2022 at 8:25 am

And then there were two. With a gutsy come-from-behind win in game 6 against Baltimore, the Charleston Chiefs took the Plante title and will face the Adirondack Aces in the Atkinson Cup Final.

Adirondack Aces (57-20-5) vs. Charleston Chiefs (43-30-9)

Both teams got first-round byes, but their roads to this point have been anything but easy. For Adirondack, the GWMHL’s top regular season team, that meant slogging through a tough seven-game series against Farmington, then another against Vancouver that ended with a last-minute comeback and an overtime winner. Likewise, it took the Chiefs seven to get through battle-hardened Salem. Charleston went on to get a timely road win in game 5 against the Crab, then a big comeback victory of their own to take the series in game 6.

The Aces and Chiefs met just twice during the regular season, and the Aces won both in a pair of close games. Adirondack would seem to have the advantage in most categories against Charleston — they had a 100-point player in Johnny Gaudreau, the league’s best defensive forward in Patrice Bergeron, and the league’s most electrifying rookie in Kirill Kaprizov. Semyon Varlamov was also one of the league’s most consistent starters all season long.

The Chiefs don’t have all of that. Kevin Lankinen was passable during the regular season but sports a terrible .864 save percentage in the playoffs, compared to Varlamov’s sparkling .923. (The Chiefs have deployed secret weapon Anthony Stolarz once in each round so far to good effect, however.) On paper, their top forwards — Dominik Kubalik, William Nylander, Brayden Point, Nicklas Backstrom — are good, but a tier below Adirondack’s formidable top line. To be fair, they’re outperforming Adirondack’s stars on the scoresheet these playoffs, but the Aces’ games have been much tighter defensively overall. Adirondack has a strong edge on the powerplay (20.4% to 13.8%) and penalty kill (89.1% to 77.5%).

Yet the Chiefs have been defying expectations all year. No one expected them to finish second in their conference, and they held the conference lead for a good while before being passed by El Dorado. They also have Adam Fox, who’s tied for the team points lead — and therefore the lead among skaters in this series — with 18 in 13 games.

Both teams have won titles but not as their current incarnations — the Aces as the St. Louis Blues and the Chiefs as the Saratoga Blades — but their most recent wins were in 2000 and 1995, respectively, so whoever wins, it’ll be a new face lifting the cup. It should be a great series.

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