After a promising start, the Alpena Street Cats' season ended with a thud.
The Street Cats were scheduled to play the Traverse City Hounds in a best of three Midwest Junior Hockey League playoff series beginning Friday night, but have forfeited those games due in part to a lack of players.
On Thursday, four Alpena players left to go back to Russia, leaving the team with less than a dozen players to take on Traverse City. In addition, Alpena's top goaltender, Alexsandr Shishkin. was the only available netminder for this weekend and Shishkin was already injured.
News File Photo
Alpena Street Cats forward Vladislav Khasanov (white) is defended by a Traverse City Hounds player during a junior hockey game at Northern Lights Arena in January. Alpena has forfeited a playoff series against the Hounds due in part to a lack of players.
"What it came down to is we didn't have a goalie on the roster to play," Alpena assistant coach Steve Bailey said. "We would've had about 10 players, but at that level with the slashing and hitting, it would've been tough on them."
The Street Cats (22-19-0-1) were one of four teams to earn a playoff spot this season and would've faced the top-seeded Hounds, who won the MWJHL regular season title to earn a spot in the AAU national tournament in Las Vegas. Traverse City will now have a first-round bye and will play either the Soo Firehawks or the Detroit Fighting Irish next weekend.
Traverse City was informed Alpena would forfeit early Friday morning and the Street Cats will likely be fined for forfeiting the games.
"We've obviously very disappointed. I'm disappointed for the players on both teams because they were looking forward to playing those games," MWJHL Commissioner and Hounds coach Scott Gardiner said. "We'll revert back to our bylaws and the league will get together with the board and see where we go from here."
The Street Cats' inaugural season in Alpena started with a bang back in October. They won their opener 12-2 over the Bloomington Blaze, won their first three games and were in contention for a playoff spot nearly all season despite injuries among other issues.
Alpena struggled over the last month of the season however, losing six of their last seven games. The roster also took a hit as several players signed with other teams in the league.
Two ex-Alpena players including former No. 1 goaltender Vladislav Graveski signed with the Hounds and another, Tommy Hrynkiw signed with the Blaze.
Alpena head coach Igor Myaskovskiy declined to comment on the specifics of Alpena's playoff situation, but said he is looking forward to next season.
"Right now I don't want to give any comments about it," Myaskovskiy said. "Our season ended at 2 a.m. and I was already sitting at my table at 3 a.m. (getting ready). Next season looks very good for us."
Vladislav Khasanov finished the season as Alpena's points leader with 91 (42-49). Defenseman Savelii Skurikhin finished with 70 points and forwards Pavel Bocharov, Andrei Yanovich and Konstantin Khramov had 65, 58 and 44 points respectively.
James Andersen can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.