April 5, 2016
This is the fourth year the Tomahawks have been in the North American Hockey League, and their third time in the playoffs. Their last two years in the playoffs, Johnstown faced Port Huron, loosing both series.
The team has never gone past the first round in their short history in town.
In the 2013 playoffs, the Tomahawks faced Port Huron in a best of three series and lost two games to one. The following year, they faced Port Huron once again, this time being swept in three games.
Hopefully a with Port Huron no longer in the league, Johnstown will see better results.
In the NAHL, the playoff format changes year to year. This year’s playoffs are different then it was for the last two years. The league has decided to go back to the format that was used during the 2013 playoffs, and to be honest, it’s not that great.
The first two rounds will be a best of five series for every division. Once each division has their champions, the playoffs will move to a neutral site for the last two rounds.
This is where the not so great part comes in.
The last two years, the semi-finals where played where the first seed hosted the fourth seed in a best of three round at the their arena. The second seed hosted the third seed team in a best of three round at their home arena.
Then for the finals, the higher seed hosted the lower seed for all games in a best of three match up.
The reason the lower seed didn’t get to play a home game was due to travel costs and length of series. While this wasn’t ideal for the lower seed, it was still a better solution then what the league has decided to go back to.
This season the semi-finals and finals will be played in Edina, MN. This means that none of the four teams will get to play in front of their own fans, or really any fans at all.
After playing a 60 game season, 30 at home (28 if you don’t count showcase) you don’t get to play in front of the people (and city) that’s supported you all season long.
Take a look at the best team in the league this season, Fairbanks. They have a home record of 24-5-1. They're third in the league in attendance at 2,237. That home ice advantage is now gone when it gets to the semi-finals of the Robertson Cup. That’s sad, not only for the team that’s battled all season for home ice advantage, but also their diehard fans.
On top of playing in a neutral arena, the last two rounds are not a best of five like the first two rounds. The semi-finals is a best of three match-up. The finals, you ready for this, are a single game elimination game.
One game to decide the winner of the Robertson Cup. That’s a complete joke. One bad bounce. One terrible call and that’s it. No playoffs in hockey should come down to one game unless it’s a game seven.
Shame on the NAHL for using this format.
Now, as stated before, the most likely reason they are doing this is because of the travel costs. With a team from the West, South, East, and Central of the county making the semi-finals, travel is difficult and long.
Having Johnstown have to travel the whole way to Fairbanks for three games (possibly two) would be a hard sell, but one that needs to be made. The league should have funds set aside just for this. This could be acquired via corporate sponsorship or even making every team pay a certain percentage at the start of the year in their annual league fees.
Some will say that having the last two rounds take place at one site will allow for scouts to see players battling in the finals. This is reasonable I suppose, but if those scouts didn’t check out a player in 60 regular season games, four games at the NAHL Showcase, and the ones played at the Top Prospects Games, then I think they’re a little late in following a player.
The Tomahawks will play at least one game at home in the playoffs. If they move to the second round, unless Wilkes/Barre beats Aston, the Tomahawks again will play at least one game at home. After that, that’s it. All the remaining games will take place away, hundreds of miles away from the War Memorial.
That just doesn’t seem right.