Peoria Mustangs,NA3HL,Dave Karpa,USA Junior Hockey

Peoria Mustangs: NA3HL regular season schedule prepared Mustangs well for playoffs

Peoria Mustangs advanced past the first round of the Silver Cup playoffs over St. Patrick’s Day weekend, sweeping a series against Nashville. The Mustangs won 6-2 and 6-1, setting up that second-round showdown with rival St. Louis.

The Mustangs’ 2016-17 season came to an end on March 26 after a hard-fought series was won by the rival St. Louis Jr. Blues, 2-1.

By Brian Lester

Playoff wins were what the Mustangs were striving for all year, and head coach Dave Karpa was thrilled to see his team win its first round series.

“I preached to the boys after the series that we have been building all year to get to this moment, which is called the playoffs,” Karpa said. “The first round went well for us. We did a pretty good job. It was nice to take two against a good team. We did it by sticking to the game plan and executing it.”

Austin Wisely played a pivotal role in the two rounds, scoring seven goals. Jordan Hillman put in five goals and one assist, Anthony Iacullo had three goals and three assists, and Thomas Kolaz scored one goal and added five assists in five playoff games.

Andrej Buchko and Jack Healy each had four assists, with Buchko adding a playoff goal.

J.T. Kossakowski was solid in goal in the two playoff wins over Nashville, making 39 saves. He made 70 saves in the three-game series against St. Louis.

Karpa said his team’s ability to play well in even strength situations was key for the Mustangs.

“Our five on five play was really good,” Karpa said. “We can hang with almost anyone when we play that way. We also got great goaltending.”

Being in the same division, Peoria and St. Louis were familiar with each other. Karpa believed his team was ready for the challenge based on Peoria’s rugged regular season schedule. He believed his team was in the playoffs because of that schedule.

“The schedule helped us tremendously,” Karpa said. “It gave the boys a lot of confidence that we can play with anyone. We took our licks early, but as the year moved on, we got better. Our schedule was a huge part of us getting here. I wouldn’t change it for anything.”

 

Read past Peoria Mustangs articles in our archives:

Stewart, Wisely lead way during surge

NA3HL team happy with players taken in draft