The Butte Cobras will go for their third playoff series victory in as many weeks as they head to McCall, Idaho, to take on the Idaho Jr. Steelheads in the Northwest Division Finals of the WSHL Thorne Cup playoffs.
Without question, the third weekend of the playoffs will be the most difficult.
The puck drops at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Manchester Ice Center. Game 3, if necessary, will be played at 4 p.m. Sunday.
The Cobras will not be taking on any ordinary opponent for the Northwest Division title. The Steelheads (45-5-4), are the defending Thorne Cup champions. Idaho has claimed that title five times in the last six season.
Idaho walked to the series with two easy wins over Lake Tahoe last weekend. Forward Lance Herning has racked up 33 goals and 43 assists in 50 games to lead a balanced Idaho attack. Nine different Steelheads scored the last time out.
The Steelheads also have a red-hot goalie in Artur Pavliukov.
The Cobras, though, head to Idaho full of confidence. Last week, Butte (36-18-2) went to Southern Oregon to sweep the Spartans in the second round of the playoffs. That came a week after the Cobras swept the Bellingham Blaze in Butte for the first playoff victory in team history.
Idaho won five of the six regular-season games against the Cobras. Butte’s lone win in the series, though, came in Idaho.
Jan Marcilis’ 42 goals leads the Cobras. He also registered 61 assists for 103 points in 53 games. Petr Panacek, has 99 points (34 goals, 53 assists) in 53 games.
During the four playoff wins, the Cobras racked up 17 goals from 11 different players.
Earl Webb scored three playoff goals so far this postseason. Tyson Liverance, Joel Johnson, Marcilis and Panacek each scored two, while Jake Rudloff, Augusts Veidenbaums, Danny Armstrong, Taylor Karr, Derek Smith and Artsiom Puntus each scored on.
The Cobras have been riding the hot hand of net minder Eric Ahlberg, who registered 39 saves last time out. Ahlberg picked up a win in all four of Butte’s playoff games.
The winner of the series will take on the Mid-Western Division champ in the final four. The Wichita Jr. Thunder play on the El Paso Rhinos in that divisional championship series.