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Hockey playoffs? You’ll find them in Elmira

On the same day that the Buffalo Sabres players were cleaning out their lockers and saying their farewells, a different kind of drama was unfolding just 140 miles away from the First Niagara Center, down in the hockey hotbed of Elmira, New York.

The East Coast Hockey League’s Elmira Jackals are their league’s Eastern Conference regular season champions, and have already started their playoff rounds, 15 teams competing in multi round action to the Kelly Cup finals and the champions of the “AA” tier of professional hockey.

And so it went for Elmira, the number 1 seed, facing the 8 seeded Reading Royals in a best of 5 showdown. Reading took the first two games at their home, meaning the Jackals would have to be perfect at home and win three to advance to the second round.

On Monday night, they did just that at First Arena in downtown Elmira, dispatching the Royals 4-2 to win their best of 5 series, three games to two, setting up a raucous celebration by over 2000 Elmira fans who hadn’t seen a playoff series win in the team’s last three tries.

The Jackals took a 1-0 lead into the 3rd period, only to see Reading tie the score twice, knotting it at 2-2 with just over 6 minutes to play. But Elmira’s Corey Cowick took an end to end rush up the center of the ice and scored with 3:19 left. He added an empty netter to seal the deal.

Elmira has been aided in their quest for championship by the presence of NHL standout and former Sabre Craig Rivet, who saw plenty of ice time on the power play, penalty kill and helped captain the desperate final minute and a half when the Reading net was emptied for the extra attacker. “There’s no quit in these guys,” said the head coach Pat Bingham. “We could have folded at that moment.” Rivet added, “It’s a great series win, but there’s work to be done.”

The Jackals move on to play the 5th seeded Florida Everblades in the second round. Home dates are listed below. Need a hockey fix? Hockey Heaven, Elmira style, is a 2 1/2 hour ride away.

Friday, Apr. 13, 7:05 p.m. – Elmira vs. Florida, First Arena, Game 1
Saturday, Apr. 14, 7:05 p.m. – Elmira vs. Florida, First Arena, Game 2
Monday, Apr. 16, 7:30 p.m. – Elmira at Florida, Germain Arena, Game 3
Wednesday, Apr. 18, 7:30 p.m. – Elmira at Florida, Germain Arena, Game 4
Friday, Apr. 20, 7:30 p.m. – Elmira at Florida, Germain Arena, Game 5 (if necessary)
Monday, Apr. 23, 7:05 p.m. – Elmira vs. Florida, First Arena, Game 6 (if necessary)
Wednesday, Apr. 25, 7:05 p.m. – Elmira vs. Florida, First Arena, Game 7 (if necessary)

  • Julia Ciesla-Hanley

    Don’t forget the other big hockey team just 1.5 hours away in Rochester that features half the Sabres hockey team (or at least it seemed that way). The Rochester Amerks are vying for a play-off spot in their division and have some games left.

  • Go Jackals!