by Mike Ries, Staff Writer, AHL Report
BRAMPTON, ON — After a record-setting regular season for the Brampton Beast, they begin the playoffs and pursuit of the Kelly Cup for the first time in franchise history.
The Beast finished in a dead heat with the Reading Royals, but finished third on the tiebreaker. The positioning turned out to be beneficial for the Beast, as they played the first two games of the series in Reading, Pennsylvania before returning home for three games.
The Beast are heading into uncharted territory, after playing one of their most exciting games in their short history. Game 5 in Brampton on Saturday night was another goaltending duel that saw the teams decide little after 60 minutes and headed to overtime tied at 1-1. The game was a back and forth affair, with the fans on the edge of their seats and finally in the second overtime period forward Brandon MacLean won it for the Beast.
Brampton headed to Pennsylvania to take on the Royals to conclude the series. Needing a win to claim their first ever playoff series victory, the Beast roared back from a 1-0 deficit for a 3-1 final. The win was thanks, in a large part, to the play of goaltender Zach Fucale who stopped 40 of 41 shots.
This series was very even over the duration of the six games, with each game being decided by one goal (not including an empty net goal in game six.)
After missing Game 1 due to a call-up in the AHL, Zach Fucale was outstanding in the series. Fucale’s numbers are superb as he leads the ECHL in goals against average (GAA) at 1.20 and save percentage (SV%) at .959. Mark Dekanich, of the Royals has been excellent as well with a .954 save percentage and a 1.62 goals against average.
Looking at statistics of this series, it is apparent how tight the series was. For example, just three goals separated the teams over the course of the six games. Both power-play and penalty-kill efficiency are separated by 0.3 per cent.
Defenceman Jordan Henry leads the Beast in playoff scoring with seven points on two goals and five assists in six games. Forwards Brandon MacLean, Brandon Marino and Luke Pither each have four points. Canadiens draft pick, Connor Crisp, has been a dominant physical force and contributing on the score sheet as well, with two points.
Brampton will face the Manchester Monarchs in a round 2 series to decide the North Division crown.
Roster Notes: The Beast welcomed back Zach Fucale and Tim Billingsley from the AHL for their playoff run. Both Mitch Zion and Justin Baker continue to be on injured reserve with no timetable set for their return. Forward Guillaume Asselin remains with the IceCaps for their playoff run.
Edited by Donna Sim