Simulating the 2020 Calder Cup Playoffs: The Championship
Crowning the 2020 Calder Cup Champions!
For the final time in this series, welcome back to Earth 3! Over the past month we’ve been travelling through the alternate universe where the AHL season wasn’t cancelled, using our state-of-the-art simulation technology (i.e. some questionable spreadsheet formulas) to see exactly what would’ve happened.
If you want to read up on the details of how this is all going down you can find that here. For the first-timers, spoilers of the first few rounds are below, so you can read the results of rounds one, two and three. We’re now down to the final two, so let’s see how the bracket stacks up:
It’s the Province Bruins versus the Colorado Eagles. The island versus the mountain. Affiliates of two strong NHL companions. It’s been a breeze of a journey for Providence who have only dropped two games all playoffs, meanwhile Colorado has had to take down some strong competitors, staving off Tucson in seven games and stunning the red hot Iowa Wild. Let’s dive right into the series.
Providence Bruins vs. Colorado Eagles
The Bruins and Eagles have generated their offence in very different fashions. Providence’s group possesses four of the top ten scorers in these playoffs, with the young top line duo of Anders Bjork and Jack Studnicka proving to be an unstoppable force even in the face of adversity.
Colorado has survived by way of depth scoring with everybody chipping in, including their blueliners. Noted playmaker T.J. Tynan has found his scoring touch with eleven goals so far these playoffs, despite being better known as the second highest assister in the AHL this past season. It’s been an incredible run for a team who only entered the league two seasons ago, spoiling their fans with excellent hockey and tense battles.
The goalie battle will be Max Lagace against Adam Werner, both of whom have been solid enough to keep their teams afloat all the way to the finals. Lagace has the advantage allowing an average of 2.15 goals against per game to Werner’s 2.47, also with two shutouts to Werner’s one.
Here’s the full lineup for Providence:
And here’s how they’ll play for Colorado, both lineups the same as they were in the Conference Finals:
Playing in Providence, the Eagles shocked the home team Bruins with a 5-2 victory in game one. Robert Lantosi got the home crowd going with his first of the playoffs, with Kevin Connauton firing back to tie it with a point shot.
From there on it was the T.J. Tynan show, scoring not once, not twice, but three times to net Colorado the natural hat trick. It’s been a miracle performance so far these playoffs for the 28-year-old veteran, who’s been on the hunt for his second Calder Cup since winning it with Lake Erie in 2016. It also marks the first hat trick of these playoffs, powered by the most unlikely of scorers. Take a bow, T.J.
Bjork and MacDonald exchanged late goals but the demoralized Bruins had no chance of winning this one. There was a late collision in the boards between Tynan and Bruins third pairing defenceman Josiah Didier, with both players slow to get up. They’ll be missing the next game, with Cooper Zech drawing in for Providence, and Colorado having to make some odd changes temporarily moving Jayson Megna to centre.
Providence’s quest: do not drop both games on the road. It’s how Colorado managed to take down Iowa in the previous round, so heading on the road tied wouldn’t be the worst case scenario. Would Colorado’s celebration of Tynan’s superpowers make them tired heading into game two, or can they build off their momentum without their leader?
Back for a second game at the Dunkin’ Donuts Centre, the Bruins brought their best but it wasn’t good enough to give the hometown crowd what they wanted. With their backs against the wall, Bjork kicked off the scoring for the bears while the star of the show Studnicka added one of his own.
With the Eagles in mid flight, Jacob MacDonald and Erik Condra evened things up, sending the home crowd into a fit of nerves. With the building all but shaking as Bruins fans cheered on their team, it was Conor Timmins who gave the Eagles the lead late in the third. Amidst the hard fought battle to tie things up, Bruins defender Steven Kampfer slid awkwardly into the corner, injuring his leg and forcing him to miss game three. Moments later, you could hear a pin drop in the silence of disappointment when Megna, the new top line centre, added an insurance marker for the 4-2 victory on the road.
Heading back to Colorado, the Eagles have successfully placed all of the pressure on the Bruins. Will Studnicka and his crew answer the call?
If game two was considered close, game three was molecular levels of tight. The defensive squads for Providence and Colorado put up their best fights in the intense battle to take the first game of the finals in Colorado, with the home team just coming up short by a single goal. Julien Nantel caught Max Lagace off guard early, but Colorado ended up in some penalty trouble with Providence capitalizing off the sticks of Steen and Studnicka.
Back in his spot of first line centre after missing the previous game, it took a miracle for T.J. Tynan to get Colorado to a tie game as the Providence defence was playing air-tight. But his newfound scoring touch hadn’t dried out yet, with the game looking like it was headed to overtime. Providence was hungry to end it early, though, with Brendan Woods silencing the Colorado crowd with his first goal of the playoffs.
The road teams have gone 3-0 so far these finals, easing some of the worry for Providence who feared having to face a potential sweep. Now they’re back in it, with a chance to tie things up on the road. Neither team has looked vastly superior to date, and with Steven Kampfer returning everyone is now back to full health, albeit tattered from the gruelling playoff intensity. Who going to take game four?
The pattern of road team dominance was finally put to an end in game four as the Eagles gave their fans what they were hoping to see - a commanding 3-1 series lead.
The Eagles managed to pull off a 4-3 win but it wasn’t without a best effort from the Bruins’ top stars. Studnicka kicked off the scoring before Sheldon Dries managed to tie things up. Building on a strong championship series, MacDonald added a pair of goals from the point to take a 3-1 lead into the third period.
After a trip to the concession stand, popcorn in hand, the Eagles faithful found their seats for an exciting third period. Off the first draw, Steen brought the Bruins within a goal of tying things up by cleaning up the garbage in front of Adam Werner. Continuing the trend of offence from the defence, Urho Vaakanainen knotted things at three with a seeing eye shot from the blueline.
Somebody had to be the hero and who better than the game two hero to play the role again? With a few minutes left in the final frame, Megna found himself on a partial break and went top shelf where grandma keeps the peanut butter, securing the win for the hometown Eagles. Unfortunately for the Bruins, on the same play, former BSen Paul Carey sustained a season ending injury in a footrace with Megna.
Heading back to Providence, the Bruins find themselves in a tough spot: win or stay home.
It’s not over yet! The Bruins made that clear very early on in a statement game five, with the Eagles being outpaced from the get-go. Goals from Kampfer, Lantosi and Trent Frederic brought the Eagles to their knees early, and there was no looking back as Lagace gave his team all the support they needed. Shane Bowers’ first goal of the series was all Colorado could muster, with Bjork and Studnicka padding their stats on the empty net.
It was an emotional effort for the Bruins with their captain Paul Carey out of the lineup for the remainder of the series. His pre-game speech had the team riled up and ready to put everything on the line for their leader, and they delivered.
One lopsided game doesn’t change the fact that Colorado is still ahead in this series with two more chances to take home the Calder Cup. The Eagles fanbase is exploding with excitement at the prospect of their team taking it all on home ice, with game six right around the corner. Is this where it ends?
This matchup is like an early 2000’s high school TV series, chock-full of drama. After an absolute thumping of the competition, the Bruins came into game six with all the confidence that they can pull this thing off. You could see it on their faces in warm ups and you could feel it on the bench.
What they weren’t expecting was a complete bounce back effort by Werner between the pipes. It ended up taking more shots than a Vegas bachelor party to best the Eagles netminder twice.
The first Bruins tally was netted by Jakob Lauko, for this first of the series. Condra, the Sens Folklore Hero, managed to even things up with a goal of his own.
Just like in game four, it was a familiar hero that played the part in this dramatic finish. With a quick pass out to the slot, Woods fired a quick snapshot past Werner for the nail in the Eagles’ coffin to send the series to an intense seventh and final game.
Both teams put everything on the line, with virtual championship glory at stake. The names you’d expect were the ones who showed up early — Bjork for Providence and Tynan for Colorado — but some unlikely guests joined in on the high-scoring affair in Colin Campbell and Robert Lantosi, the latter of which had to wait until the finals to score his only three goals of the playoffs.
Joona Koppanen and Ty Lewis exchanged goals as well, but it was Providence’s two main heroes of the playoffs, Bjork and Studnicka, who pulled away in the third period to secure the Bruins’ first championship since 1999! Paul Carey joined the ice to lift the Calder Cup in spite of his injury, and the party commenced.
And there we have it, your 2020 virtual Calder Cup Champions: the Providence Bruins! It took an impressive 15-5 run to get there, plus an intense comeback in the finals, but they now sit atop the American Hockey League.
There’s one last piece of hardware to award, and that’s the Jack. A Studnicka Butterfield Trophy, awarded to the MVP of the playoffs. There were some good candidates to choose from as it was a huge team effort for the Bruins to reach the end, but the unanimous choice ended up being Jack Studnicka, the playoffs’ leading scorer with an incredible 17 goals in 20 games, the third highest mark in the league’s history.
Thanks for following along with this series! Even though we said adieu to Belleville earlier than we liked, we hope you had a bit as much fun reading as we did simulating and writing.