TRAVERSE CITY — The Traverse City Hounds earned a berth in the Midwest Junior Hockey League's playoff championship series without playing.
The league announced Friday morning that the Alpena Street Cats would be forfeiting this weekend's first-round series against the Hounds.
"We found out this morning," Hounds coach Scott Gardiner said. "We're getting conflicting rumors out of the Alpena camp. We don't know exactly what happened, but they said they could not compete this weekend due to a lack of players."
When contacted for an explanation, Street Cats coach-owner Igor Myaskovskiy refused to comment on the situation.
The Hounds won the regular season title to earn the No. 1 seed. Alpena was the No. 4 seed. The best two-out-three series was slated to begin Friday night at Centre ICE.
"We're disappointed," Gardiner said. "We've been off a couple weeks. We were ready to go, chomping at the bit to play."
Now, the Hounds will face the winner of the Soo Firehawks-Detroit Fighting Irish for the Veteran’s Memorial Cup championship. That series will be here next weekend. The Hounds won the Memorial Cup last season when the team was based in Hartland.
The Hounds are guaranteed a spot in the national tournament in Las Vegas.
"I wanted two weekends to get us ready to go," Gardiner said. "But we'll make the best of it. We'll have some good hard practices over the weekend and next week. That will be a tough series next weekend no matter who we play. That should get us ready."
Traverse City had won the regular season series with Alpena 7-1.
The league said the forfeit was "due to circumstances beyond the control of the Midwest Junior Hockey League."