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Sparts open first playoff under cloud

The Southern Oregon Spartans will host the first playoff game in the NorPac franchise's four-year history tonight, but it's uncertain what the coaching staff will look like following the recent arrest of an assistant who reportedly attempted to ship a box of marijuana through the mail.

The game against the Eugene Generals, the opener of a best-of-five series, is at 7:30 at the The Rrrink.

The Spartans might be without head coach Steve Chelios as well as assistant coach Erik Hamlet, who faces felony drug charges after reportedly trying to mail more than 20 pounds of marijuana to New Jersey.

Hamlet, 39, turned himself over to Albany police Saturday after police say postal workers grew suspicious about a box the Ashland resident attempted to ship on Friday. Hamlet was with the team on a road trip to Vancouver, Wash., at the time.

Police estimate the box contained about $65,000 worth of pot. Hamlet was booked into the Linn County Jail for investigation of marijuana possession and distribution; he was later released on bail. Hamlet could not be reached for comment.

On Monday, Chelios declined comment on his status with the team and the playoff series against Eugene, other than to say neither he nor his players were involved in the case.

Chelios deferred questions to owners Forest Sexton and Troy Irving, who could not be reached.

Reference to Hamlet was removed from the team's website early Monday evening, but Chelios was still listed as the head coach and general manager.

Southern Oregon, which won only 12 games its first three seasons, placed second in the Pacific Division with a record of 36-14. Eugene was third at 24-26.

Seattle (46-4) captured the division title and plays a best-of-five series against fourth-place River City (14-36). The championship was the Totems' fourth straight.

The two series winners will then meet in a best-of-five series, with the winner advancing to play whichever team emerges from the NorPac's America West Division.

The Spartans won 10 of the 12 games against Eugene in the regular season, but eight of the contests in the series were decided by two or fewer goals.

The Generals' two wins came at home on Nov. 6 and Jan. 1. Corey Grummick was in net for both victories against the Spartans.

Southern Oregon outscored the Generals 55-30 this season.

Vance Bridgman and Chris Whitten lead the Spartans in points in the series with 20.

Whitten was third in the NorPac in scoring for the season with 101 points, and Bridgman was fourth with 93 points. Whitten had 34 goals and 67 assists, while Bridgman had 50 goals and 43 assists.

Southern Oregon's David Lamb is 7-0 with 2.14 goals against average, a 92.3-percent save percentage and one shutout.

For the season, Lamb ranked fifth in the NorPac in goals-against average at 2.84 in 26 games.

Kirby Carlson (12) and Brad Main (11) led the Generals in points in the 12 games against the Spartans.

Game 2 of the series will be Wednesday at 7:35 p.m. at the Lane Events Center in Eugene, and the teams return to Medford for a 7:30 p.m. contest on Friday. Games 4 and 5, if necessary, will be Saturday and Sunday.

General admission tickets are $10 for adults and $6 for students with identification. Children 5 and under get in free. Reserved seats are $15 and must be purchased in advance.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or e-mail ttrower@mailtribune.com