The Jamestown Ironmen became the 2013 North Division champions after defeating the Soo Eagles, 5-2 on Thursday night in North American Hockey League playoff action.
After winning a pair of games on the road, the Ironmen swept the top-seeded Eagles with a Game 3 victory in front of a raucous home crowd at the Jamestown Savings Bank Arena.
The Ironmen jumped all over their opponents in the first period, taking a 3-0 lead into the first intermission.
The Jamestown Ironmen celebrate after they defeated the Soo Eagles on Thursday night at the Jamestown Savings Bank Arena to win the North American Hockey League North Division championship. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Scott Reagle
Ironmen forward Daniel Cesarz sparked the scoring with a goal only 3:07 into the game. The assist came from Tyler Dunagan.
Evan Ritt buried a goal and later provided the assist for a Ryan Doucet score while Luc Gerdes provided a pair of assists in the first period.
In the second period, the Soo came out swinging and managed an early goal to snap a five-period scoring drought which began in Game 2. The Eagles notched another goal later in the period and entered the second intermission, trailing the Ironmen, 3-2.
Ironmen defenseman Dylan Zink beat the goaltender with an unassisted goal 5:23 into the third to stretch the home team's lead to two goals.
Jamestown played gritty defense the rest of the way and protected their lead with excellent play in goal by Joey Ballmer.
Ballmer finished the night with 24 saves on 26 shots and has led the Ironmen to a perfect 6-0 record throughout the playoffs, the only team in the league to do so.
"We had a game plan and we stuck to it," said Ironmen head coach Dan Daikawa. "We played very well in the first, but allowed them to dictate in the second. Before we went out in the third, we said in the locker room, 'If we win this last period we will win the game and be on our way to Frisco.' We stuck to it, played hard and everyone on this team has sacrificed all year long to get to this point."
Jamestown outshot the Eagles, 36-26 while Huba Sekesi added an empty-netter with an assist from Cesarz en route to a 5-2 Ironmen victory.
After finishing last in their division just a season ago, Jamestown has fought its way to the top and will now represent the North at the Robertson Cup Tournament in Frisco, Texas, next weekend.
"No matter the situation, we are a tight-knit group," said Daikawa. "Nobody picked us to be here and that motivates us. Our goal remains the same; to bring a national championship back to Jamestown, and we are going to give it all we got."
The Ironmen now prepare to compete in Frisco for the NAHL's league championship, the Robertson Cup. The Robertson Cup Tournament will take place from May 10-13, where four division winners (North, Central, South, West) will compete in a round-robin style tournament. After each team has played each other once, the two teams with the highest point totals will square off to determine the NAHL Champion.
So far, the Amarillo Bulls have won the South to join the Ironmen at the big dance in Frisco while the Central and West Divisions have yet to crown champions.