NA3HL: Nordiques battle New England for Coastal Division title

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L/A Nordiques forward Joshua Sanchez tries to get by a New England Stars defenseman during their game at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston earlier this season. (RAM Sport Photo)

AUBURN — The L/A Nordiques are two wins away from the NA3HL’s Fraser Cup Championship Tournament at the end of the month in Romeoville, Illinois.

Two wins, against a New England Stars teams trying to do the same thing.

The Stars are also vying to represent the NA3HL’s Coastal Division, and the top two teams from the reglar season will face off this week for the right to compete against the other seven division champions.

New England has home-ice advantage as the division’s top team and will host Game 1 on Wednesday at 5 p.m., and Game 3, if necessary, on Friday at 8:10 p.m. in Tyngsborough, Mass.

The Nordiques will host Game 2 Thursday at the Norways Savings Bank Arena in Auburn at 7 p.m.

Just like the opening round series with the Northeast Generals, the Nordiques split the regular season matchup with the Stars, each winning three games.

“They won all three at home and we won all three at home,” Nordiques coach Cam Robichaud said. “Definitely the message to the guys has been, in order to win this series, you have to win one on the road.”

The key to stopping the Stars is to limit their speed so they can’t create odd-man rushes.

“They run a trap, they are systematic,” said goaltender Sage Broda, who started this season with the Stars. “Compared to the Generals, they always make a hockey play. What they will do is run their trap in neutral zone and try to develop a lot of odd man (situations) throughout that. They run a box and one on the power play. They try to beat you with brains more than energy. They have a lot of grinders that win a lot of battles.”

The Nordiques know how lethal their power play can be. In the teams’ final meeting of the regular season game in Tyngsborough on February 2, the Nordiques lost 5-3. The Stars’ power play was second in all of the NA3HL in the regular season at 47.2 percent.

“Last time we played at their place, we had a strong game,” Robichaud said. “We were up by a couple of goals and then we had a little bit of penalty trouble. On a 5-on-3 power play they scored three goals in a minute-thirty. In that game (Derek) Flynn had a hat trick and an assist.”

The Nordiques’ penalty kill in the regular season was tied for fifth in the NA3HL at 86.5 percent. They didn’t allow a power play goal in the series against the Generals.

Flynn had 14 goals and 37 assists for 51 points in 45 games this season for the Stars. Half of his goals were on the power play and 17 assists came on the man advantage. Tyson Gudaitis led the team in scoring in the regular season with 29 goals and 27 assists in 47 games. Ian Gatley has made an impact for the Stars since joining the team in December after starting the season in a Swedish junior league. He had 20 goals and 14 assists in 25 regular season games with the Stars.

With three games in three nights, Robichaud believes his team has the advantage in conditioning.

“We practice twice a day for majority of the season,” Robichaud said. “We are fortunate we are able to do that. Most teams aren’t able to practice twice a day. So our conditioning level should be right there and we should be able to handle it.”

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L/A Nordiques forward Connor Kennedy, center, attempts to make a play on the puck during a game against the New England Stars at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee earlier this season. (RAM Sport/File photo)

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