PLAYOFF PREVIEW – HOME SWEET HOME
Mullets Late-Season Surge Snags Home Ice for Playoff Series against Muskies
By: Dan Bradley
FOREST LAKE, MN -- The best time of year is just around the corner. Playoff hockey is in the air!
Following strong performances against the RiverKings, Blue Ox, and Havoc, the Mullets closed out the regular season with a 26-15-3 (55) record, and secured home ice advantage against the Wisconsin Muskies in the first round of the USPHL Midwest-West Division Playoffs.
“I’m proud of the season we’ve had and how far we’ve come as a team.” Mullets head coach Chris Walby said. “Each of our guys have developed dramatically in the individual skill department and we have learned how to attack as a unit.”
Mason Lovich’s stellar play in net was key to securing the #4 seed. Lovich backstopped the Mullies to a 4-1 victory over the RiverKings and a 4-0 shutout of the Blue Ox. A combined 87 saves on 88 shots saw Lovich named as the USPHL Midwest Premiere Goaltender of the Week. Lovich attributes his success to the support of family and friends in attendance.
“We’re definitely excited to play on home ice,” Lovich said. “This team has really grown a lot this year. We’ve all elevated our game, and we’re excited to give the ‘97’s (players born in 1997 who are in their last year of Juniors eligibility) one last shot at a title. We’ll all have a lot of family and friends in the stands, and having them there means a lot to us.”
“We want to win for each other, but we want to win for them too.”
Mullets forward Joey Fodstad echoed Lovich’s sentiment.
“I know that most of my close family members are coming to watch this weekend, and I’m hoping to see a lot of buddies in the stands too,” Fodstad said. “Playing in front of family and friends is important to all of us. Knowing this team is good enough to make it to Boston (where the USPHL Championships are held this year), we want to start by playing our best for our fans and show them the great things this team can do.”
The Mullets biggest challenge still lies ahead, but the team has already overcome many obstacles throughout the regular season.
“Our biggest hurdle all season has been learning how to fight through adversity as a group,” Walby said. “Overall, I think the boys have done well with that. Losing Nate and Cal was tough. They are arguably two of the best at their position and what they bring to our line up made us tough and a dangerous opponent. Their loss also came at the worst time of the season as we approached the toughest portion of our schedule, but our boys grew and fought through it.
“I’m proud of them. We needed younger guys to step up and they did, while the ‘go-to’ guys continued to lead us to wins.”
Another shining example of the adversity the Mullets have overcome this year was their last regular season matchup with the Muskies. Trailing 4-1 late in the second period, the Mullets rallied to tie the game twice in the third period, killed off a power play to start overtime, and battled to win 6-5 in the extra session. The Mullets won three of the four regular season matchups with the Muskies.
“We’re really excited for the series (with Wisconsin),” Mullets forward Jake Lindblom said. “It’s playoff hockey. It’s a different atmosphere. Playoffs are unpredictable which makes it so exciting. Getting to play at home in the first round, too, is even better. We hope the fans pack the rink!”
“We’re beyond excited to get going with the playoffs, especially for home advantage for the first round,” Mullets forward Andrue Trelstad added. “We all believe this team can do great things in the playoffs, and we’re ready to prove it.”
The best-of-three series between the Muskies and Mullets starts Friday night at 7:00PM at the Forest Lake Sports Complex. Game Two will take place Saturday at 7:00PM, and Game Three (if needed) will be on Sunday, also at 7:00PM. For ticket information, check the Mullets Facebook page at www.facebook.com/MulletsJrHockey, or online at www.mulletshockey.com.