The Academy League Conference finals have two top seeds battle it out in the Blue Conference while the 6th seed faces off against the 7th seed in the Orange Conference. Regardless of their seeds, all final four teams have proven they have the ability to dominate play and win games. Only one team can take the championship and each of these four will continue to prove this weekend why they deserve the title. Let’s take a look at the final four teams in the Academy League Playoffs.
Orange Conference – Satruday, Dec. 12th
#6 Outlaws vs. #7 Tyrants @ 7pm ESt on MLESPORTSGG
I try not to show my personal opinions too much when writing but there’s one thing I think should be made clear. I love underdogs. No matter my personal views, these two teams should give everyone a reason to be excited. The 6th and 7th seeds may seem like they have a slim shot at the final. But if you watch their play from last week you’ll see two teams that are ready to take home the trophy for their franchise.
Full disclosure as a Bears player that bleeds blue the Tyrants vs Bears match still hurts to think about. To say the Tyrants stunned the Bears seems like an understatement. They took on the best offense in the conference and held them to just seven goals in four games. DDia and Cheeto came out of the gate in game one like they were the top team and the Bears were the Monstars from Space Jam, but before they transformed and they were just goofy cartoons that couldn’t dribble. At no point in the first two games was any respect given to the considerable mechanical ability of Bacon and Nty. The speed of play from both DDia and Cheeto was not at all what the Bears were comfortable with and any attempt to slow the play down was met with an immediate challenge. And those challenges were dominated all series long by the Tyrants. In Game three, the Tyrants let off the gas slightly and the Bears seemed to find the space they needed to show why they have dominated the league. But after one overtime win for the Bears, the Tyrants simply answered back with their own impressive shooting and composed counter attacks.
The Outlaws have yet to lose in the first two rounds of the Academy League playoffs since they joined the league in season 8. So if nothing else, I think this should be the beginning of the #NerfStovvads movement because clearly, he is somehow OP as a General Manager. When the Wizards and Outlaws both won in game five overtimes I predicted that this series would be a close five-game matchup as well. And boy, did this series not disappoint. This time it was the Wizards with the confidence out of the gate. They quickly put the ball on the Outlaws backboard and made sure to keep it there until Mario_RL could go up to find the back of the net. After the Wizards went up two games, the Outlaws knew they had a tough task ahead of them. But in game three we saw the power shift that can happen with the simple act of controlling the kickoff. The Outlaws took the offense to the Wizards first and the speed of FlaMEz and Daywalker immediately changed. The Outlaws began attacking the play and taking the ball up the boards. On the defensive side, Daywalker became a solid wall, putting up 14 saves including a few in game five to send them to overtime.
These two teams aren’t affected by the play of their opponents. If anything they’re elevated by the level of play they face. The Tyrants will come into the conference finals with a salary advantage. But the history of both these franchises proves that you’d be a fool to count either of them out before the game is over.
Blue Conference – Sunday, Dec. 13th
#1 Hawks vs. #2 Puffins @ 7pm ESt on MLESPORTSGG
The finals of the Blue conference will be a clash between styles and mentalities. While both teams have proven why they’re the league’s top teams they both showed flaws in their game with the Hawks dropping two games to the Ducks while the Puffins dropped a game to the Sabres. Now as these two teams face off, who will be able to expose their opponent’s mistakes and who will be able to adapt and overcome to make it to the Championship Finals
The Hawks came out hot in their series against the Ducks. After winning the first two games 8-2 and 8-5 it looked like the match was going to be the Hawks show. More specifically it looked like it was going to be the Lawrence show. Lawrence spent the first two games glued to the ball. Any time a Ducks car even got close to a possession, Lawrence was right there to put in a challenge. ITSLAPPY was perfectly content to sit back and watch his partner pressure the opponents, effectively cleaning up any free ball that pinched into the open. It seemed like a perfect strategy until the Ducks adjusted their pace in game three and were able to find quick touches around the pressure defense of Lawrence. Once ITSLAPPY began to get stuck with a few 1v2s it was clear that the Hawks gameplan changed quickly and not for the better. Once the number one team fell behind, the double commits came out, the trust left the team and Lawrence went from ball possession to ball chasing. But all credit to the Hawks who must have had a pow-wow in between games 4 and 5 because they were able to regroup in a game five decider, spread out their positioning to give them both space to make mechanical plays and shut out the Ducks to take the series.
The Puffins duo didn’t come out with quite the same statement game of the Hawks. But it did look as though Bango and AurbeyE came out with a clear game plan and were able to execute it successfully for the first two games. Once this Puffins team had the ball they continually worked the offensive corner rotation and their opponent’s backboard until the Sabres defense crumbled under the pressure and the lack of boost. It’s a classic strategy but it’s time tested and the Puffins seem to do it better than anyone. It helps of course to have a player like Bango who seemed to be automatic in putting away any ball coming off the Sabres backboard. However, just as the Ducks did to the Hawks, The Sabres seemed to find answers in game three to combat the Puffin’s strategy. Long clears and long shots burned the Puffins time and time again. As game three began to slip from their grasp they seem to only double down on their offensive pressure and would often get caught with the last man diving for a ball at midfield rather than shadowing the play. It only took the Puffins one game to regroup and find their rhythm, with the help of some incredible saves form both players they held off the Sabres and got back to their relentless offensive rotation for long enough to pull ahead in game four.
The Hawks have individual mechanical plays and a weapon like Lawrence who will dive bomb a wall to air dribble in an instant. The Puffins have a relentless team attack and a weapon like Bango who takes shots off the backboard with pinpoint accuracy. These teams are some of the best Academy League has seen, yet neither is invincible. What will be the difference maker is which team will be able to do what they did last week and adapt to their opponents when they face adversity. The first team to do that will be the team that punches their ticket to the final.
Everything is on the line for the final four. A chance at being the Conference Champion and more importantly, a shot at the ever so elusive MLE Championship Title. Find out this weekend who will prevail over on the MLE Network.