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Illiana Blackbirds advance to MJHL finals

Illiana Blackbirds advance to MJHL finals

DYER | In their final home game of the 2014 season at Midwest Training and Ice Center on Sunday, the Illiana Blackbirds defeated the Tri City Icehawks 5-3 to claim the deciding game in their best-of-three series and advancing to the final-four round-robin for the Minnesota Junior Hockey League championship.

The Michigan-based Icehawks drew first blood midway through the first period shortly before Blackbird goals by Chad Miller (unassisted) and Nick Riscossa (Sean Gruenhagen assist) put Illiana up 2-1 after one.

Miller's second goal of the game (Colin O'Connor and Jakob Smith assisting) extended the lead to 3-1 midway through the second period.

The Icehawks rallied to tie the game by the end of the second before power-play goals by Griffin Mason (Smith and Nathan Aloisio assisting) and Aloisio (Mason and Smith assisting) capped the scoring.

Latvia native Konstantin Shipunov stopped 32 of 35 shots for the Blackbirds, who will travel to Oregon, Wis., this weekend to square off against Great Lakes Division leader the Marquette Royales, and respective top-two Minnesota Division leaders the Wisconsin Dells Ducks and the Hudson Crusaders.

Each team will play three games in the round-robin to determine the top two teams for the MJHL championship game on Monday.

Both finalists qualify for the 2014 Tier 3 Junior National Championships, April 3-7 in Simsbury, Ct.

The Blackbirds had won the first game of the series on Friday by a score of 8-4 after taking a 7-0 lead. Mason had two goals, and Miller, Riscossa and Austin Ahlers each had a goal and an assist for Illiana.

The following Saturday, Illiana rallied from a 4-0 deficit before losing in overtime, 5-4. Mason had three power-play goals for the Blackbirds.

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