TRAVERSE CITY — Most area hockey teams kick off their playoff runs Tuesday, but Traverse City West and the Bay Reps will get out of the playoff chute a day earlier.
The two local rivals will meet this evening for a 7 p.m. rematch at Howe Arena.
Going into the playoff fracas, what are some of the top questions facing local hockey teams?
1What’s the most interesting opening-round matchup featuring local teams?
That’s easy. Partly because it’s the only one featuring two northern Michigan teams facing off, but it also happens to be a good one.
Traverse City West and the Bay Reps will meet today in a rematch of their 2-3 game that was won by the Reps in the final seconds on a Zack Bargy rebounds with six seconds remaining.
The two teams are fairly evenly matched. Both have good defenses, good goaltending and have struggled scoring goals.
In every one of West’s setbacks this season, the Titans scored two or fewer goals. In each win, they scored four or more in nine of 10.
2 Who received a bad tournament assignment?
Traverse City Central, in a way.
It’s not the competition as much as the geography. The Division 2 regional the Trojans are headed to includes some solid teams like first-round opponent Muskegon Reeths-Puffer (12-8-1 and ranked No. 14) and Portage Northern (13-7), plus always-dangerous Muskegon Mona Shores.
But Central has to travel two-and-a-half hours to Muskegon for regionals when another Division 2 bracket is only an hour away in Gaylord and it doesn’t even have a full eight-team bracket. The Gaylord regional contains No. 4 Midland Dow, No. 5 Saginaw Heritage and No. 9 Escanaba, but Central has played a tough schedule all year, so that shouldn’t matter.
So while the travel would be shorter to Gaylord, the competition is a little more stiff as well. It could all be moot, as those two regional champions meet up in the quarterfinals anyway.