By PATRICK SLACK
With eight days left in the regular season, the Minnesota Flying Aces sat seven points out of the fourth and final playoff spot in the North American Tier III Hockey League (NA3HL) West Division.
The top three seeds had already been locked up and the Aces had only four games left on their schedule, leaving the opportunity to earn eight points if they won out.
Entering the final weekend, the Aces had picked up a pair of wins to close within three points of the Twin City Steel.
While the Steel were being clobbered 14-1 by North Iowa, March 9, the Aces played the visiting Alexandria Blizzard to a shootout, guaranteeing one point even with a loss but leaving another point still up for grabs.
After missing out on a chance to end things in regulation when the Blizzard scored the game-tying goal with 15 seconds left in the third period, the Aces were not to be denied again.
Andre Pison and Mason Wyman scored as the Aces took the shootout 2-1, closing within a point of a playoff spot heading into the final day of the season.
Needing a win against visiting Breezy Point to clinch a playoff spot, March 10, the Aces broke the game open with a three-goal second period to break an early tie and earn a 5-1 victory.
The Aces will now play in a best three-of-five opening round series against the North Iowa Bulls.
The series is scheduled to open at North Iowa, Friday – Saturday, March 16.
It will then return to Little Falls with the Aces hosting game three Thursday, March 21 and a potential game four Friday, March 22.
If necessary, a decisive fifth game will be played at North Iowa, Saturday, March 23.