TRAVERSE CITY — Traverse City has to go from zero to 100 in a week.
The TC Hounds had an unexpected weekend off after Alpena decided to forfeit their playoff series. Now, they’ll have a dogfight with Sault Ste. Marie for the Midwest Junior Hockey League championship.
“We were really shocked to see Alpena drop out like that,” Hounds defenseman Kevin Hansen said. “It’s kind of hard playing a playoff game without having played in two weeks. But we should be able to do it.”
The series starts with a 7:30 puck drop Friday at Centre ICE. Game 2 is Saturday at 7 p.m., and the final contest in the best-of-three series would be Sunday at 1 p.m., if necessary.
Alpena still hasn’t explained why it dropped out of the playoffs. Traverse City won seven of eight regular-season matchups, but Hounds head coach Scott Gardiner said the Street Cats’ official story is that they didn’t have enough players.
“Lack of players, but we’re not sure we’ll ever find out what happened,” Gardiner said. “But at the end of the day, they just didn’t have enough players to come over here and compete.”
Gardiner said some of the Street Cats’ numerous Russian players had to return, although the two the Hounds acquired from Alpena have been able to stay.
“It’s not ideal,” Gardiner said. “The glass half full is that we’ve had more time to heal. We were pretty banged up a month ago. The last couple games we played, we only dressed 12 or 13 players. Now we’re pretty much back to full strength. We may be a little rusty in the first few shifts, but after that I think we’ll be fine.”
While Traverse City dominated the season series with Alpena, the matchup between the Hounds and Firehawks is about as close as you can get on paper.