Tuesday, February 20, 2007

IceDiggers clinch playoff berth

For the first time since the Alpena IceDiggers joined the North American Hockey League, the club is headed to the postseason.

On a nice feed from Mike DeGrazia, Nolan Craner scored in the final stages of Sunday night's game in Ann Arbor to force overtime. Neither team would cash in during the extra frame and the IceDiggers eventually dropped the contest 3-2 in a shootout. With the point and Traverse City's loss to South Division leader St. Louis on Sunday, the IceDiggers are on their way to the playoffs.

"When we set our goals at the beginning of the season, everyone in this organization from the owners, coaches, players and support staff set our focus as a group to get to the playoffs," said second-year head coach Kenny Miller. "We are going through a rough period right now and for us to still be able to clinch a spot is a good feeling. We will get this turned around and start playing solid hockey heading into the postseason."

The IceDiggers have 11 games remaining in the regular season with five of those contests at Northern Lights Arena. Alpena trails first-place Mahoning Valley by 14 points, but lead third-place Marquette by 19 points for second place.

"With the remaining games we have left, this will be a good for us to work out the problems we are facing as a team and get back on track," added Miller "The division has really improved top to bottom since day one and any team can win on any given night, so we will need to be better in order to win these games we have left."

The top four teams in each division make the playoffs with the No. 1 seed playing the No. 4 seed and the No. 2 seed playing the No. 3 seed in a best-of-five series with the higher seed hosting three of the five games. After the first round, the NAHL will reseed the winning teams and play the division finals in a best- of-five with those winners advancing to the Robertson Cup finals in Fairbanks, Alaska.

After playing four games in five days last week, the IceDiggers will only play one game this weekend at Ann Arbor versus the high-powered USA Under-18 team led by this year's USA World Junior coach Ron Rolston on Sunday at 3:00 p.m.

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