Simulating the 2020 Calder Cup Playoffs: Round 2
The Calder Cup marches forward in our alternate universes.
Welcome back to Earth 3! We’re entering into the alternate universe where the 2020 Calder Cup playoffs were not cancelled, and the Belleville Senators have a chance to make their first ever deep playoff run.
In case you missed the series introduction last week, you can find the results of round one here, and the rules of how we’ll be discovering the winner here. The simulations have been simulated for round two, and we’ll go through each series below with game-by-game analysis for Belleville at the bottom courtesy of the universally-beloved Spencer Blake.
Before we begin, here’s where we left off last week:
A few sweeps from Rochester, Iowa and Tucson have them looking like strong teams, while the Chicago Wolves will have plenty of momentum after taking down the league’s top seed. Each series is now a best-of-seven unlike the first round, so best of luck to the competitors!
First let’s start with the battle of the Atlantic, with the Providence Bruins taking on the defending champion Charlotte Checkers.
Providence Bruins (1) vs. Charlotte Checkers (3)
Well, that series came and went quickly. The Bruins’ offence was on fire in their first round series against the Hartford Wolf Pack, and they didn’t take their foot off the gas against Charlotte, who was just coming off a five-game comeback series win against Hershey.
Game one went heavily in Providence’s favour with Jack Studnicka scoring twice, and game two was closer but with Brendan Gaunce being the Providence hero. They carried that momentum on the road to complete the sweep, with Steven Lorentz and the rest of Charlotte’s offence unable to match the Bruins’ intensity.
Iowa Wild (2) vs. Chicago Wolves (4)
This was a series with two teams coming in with lots ofmomentum — Chicago had just taken down Calder Cup favourites Milwaukee and Iowa had defeated Grand Rapids in three quick games. But it appears the long series took more of a toll on Chicago, as Iowa swept them in an even more destructive fashion than Providence. Iowa’s forward corps scored a whopping 19 goals in only four games, with the usual suspects Gerald Mayhew and Sam Anas lighting up Oscar Dansk.
The depth scorers for both teams even got a kick in this series, including Iowa’s fourth line winger Brandon Duhaime, and Chicago defenceman Jaycob Megna who matched his whole regular season output with three goals in this series. Gage Quinney was nowhere to be seen in this series unlike against Charlotte, and the Wild took full advantage to blast their way into the Conference Finals, still undefeated after seven playoff contests.
Tucson Roadrunners (1) vs. Colorado Eagles (2)
In complete contrast to the previous two matchups, the Tucson Roadrunners and Colorado Eagles were nearly dead-even in this series with close to 50-50 odds before puck drop. Both teams regained a player who was previously nursing an injury with Brayden Burke (TUC) and Jayson Megna (COL) making their returns, each slotting onto their team’s first line. But despite facing some pressure in games five and six, the Eagles held on to knock down the top seed in the Pacific.
It turned out that Burke and Megna would both be crucial players in this series, with both scoring in their first game back — Megna had the game-winner. And following the trend of his brother on Chicago, he came in clutch again with the OT goal in game three. Tucson goalie Adin Hill had full control over games five and six where he allowed only a single goal, but a silent game six from the Roadrunners’ offence was all Colorado needed to punch their ticket to the next round.
Belleville Senators (1) vs. Rochester Americans (2)
A commanding win in round one sees the Belleville Senators enter the second round with a strong foundation of high scoring playoff hockey underneath them. Returning to Marcus Hogberg in net, the B-Sens will be icing much of the same lineup that saw them dismantle the Binghamton Devils in their first ever playoff round.
With a more competitive rivalry between Belleville and Rochester, it’ll be important for the B-Sens to come out strong in game one. Over six games, the B-Sens were 2-3-1-0 against Rochester, averaging 3.1 goals per game relative to Belleville’s season average of 3.7. The Americans ended the season second in the North, right behind Belleville, with a difference of only six points between the clubs. Needless to say, this will be a tough contest but if there’s any team that is capable of living up to the challenge, it’s our B-Sens.
No line changes from last series, here are what they look like for Belleville:
And here’s how the opposition is shaping up with Curtis Lazar now back from his injury:
Rochester silences the crowd and takes the opening game.
On the opening night for round two, a packed CAA Arena cheered on their hometown B-Sens. With high hopes after a fantastic first round performance, Belleville came out flat - falling 4-2 in the opening game to Rochester. While rookie sensation Josh Norris continued his solid playoff performance and Filip Chlapik got himself on the board, the Americans beat Marcus Hogberg four times thanks to Andrew Oglevie, Taylor Leier, John Gilmour and Lawrence Pilut. Unfortunately for Rochester, Oglevie suffered an injury and would be sidelined for the remainder of the series after opening the scoring for Rochester.
The B-Sens can’t find the back of the net, Rochester takes both games on the road.
Following an opening night loss, the B-Sens were determined to come out flying against the Americans in an effort to even the series. Unfortunately, Jonas Johansson had other plans as he shut out the reigning North Division champions to grab a second straight win and a commanding lead in the series. To make matters worse, the B-Sens will have to head into game three with a different look on the blueline as their top right handed pivot Christian Jaros suffered an injury, keeping him on the sidelines for the next two games.
Replacing Jaros’ gritty, hard-nosed play was a difficult task for head coach Troy Mann. With Jaros in the press box, Jonathan Aspirot drew in on the third pairing with Max Lajoie while Hubert Labrie and Jack Dougherty bumped up the right side. With a win being almost a requirement to keep Belleville’s Calder Cup hopes alive, the boys rocking the B dropped a third straight game to their North Division rivals out of upstate New York. Josh “Young Faithful” Norris got himself on the board once again, bringing his playoff totals to five in just seven games. Aspirot’s place in the lineup was immediately earned as he also found the back of the net.
Unfortunately it wasn’t enough as Johansson was once again solid and Rochester received more scoring support from Gilmour and Pilut. Scott Wilson and Jean-Sebastien Dea also made it on the scoresheet for the first time in the series.
They’re not out of it yet, Belleville avoids the sweep.
Here we go, backs up against the wall. With elimination on Rochester’s menu tonight, Belleville is looking for a large order of desperation so they can avoid the dreaded sweep. Heading into game four, coach Mann decided to make a few roster changes. Leaning heavily on their veteran captain, Jordan Szwarz was flipped to the top line, centring Drake Batherson and Rudolfs Balcers while Logan Brown was gifted Vitaly Abramov and Michael Carcone as his wingers.
Luckily for the fans, Belleville will live to see another game as Aspirot opened the scoring for the good guys in this one. Two other defenders chipped in, with goals from Jordan Murray and Erik Brannstrom helping in the win. Michael Carcone and, you guessed it, Norris added their own for a strong 5-2 win to avoid heading home with Rochester brooms dancing in their heads.
The closest game of the series ends with a Rochester victory, taking all three games on the road.
With Jaros returning to the lineup and Aspirot playing so well, Coach Mann opted to take Labrie out and leave Aspirot to do what he’s been doing so well since he came in and earned his spot in this crucial game. With Szwarz still centring the top line after a game four victory, both of his wingers found the back of the net as Batherson and Balcers made the biggest offensive impacts for Belleville in another do-or-die game. At the sound of the final buzzer, the Americans would have the last laugh as Zach Redmond, Rasmus Asplund and Leier’s goals were enough to send the B-Sens packing.
With that all said and done, here’s how the bracket stacks up:
It appears the #2 seeds have been reigning supreme thus far, save for the #1 seed Providence who is cruising into the Conference Finals against Rochester. Iowa will also look to extent their incredible winning streak, once again facing a tired team in Colorado who are just coming off their gruelling seven-game series.
Here are the leading scorers after the second round:
As Spencer wonderfully put it after I told him about the Providence series, the leading scorer really puts the ‘Stud’ in ‘Studnicka’. He and Mayhew have been lighting the playoffs on fire while scarily being backed up by some strong secondary scoring.
Come back next week for round three!