New Jersey Devils Jim Hunt (Jersey Hitmen) interview
Veteran Forward Dylan Wells 2001 Allen Park Michigan has signed to return to play for the Detroit Fighting Irish for 2019--2020 Season. the 6'1 Winger played in 44 games for the Irish during the 2018-2019 and is a 2017 graduate from Allen Park High School where he played for the Jaguars hockey team under coach John Brinthinee. Dylan is literally one of best locker room and team guy in the game. Players look up to him and his never panic "Cool hand Luke" approach to the game. Dylan scored some big goals for our team last season and possess a very heavy shot, very dangerous in the paint . We look for Dylan to have a big season for us this year. Coach David Taylor
The North half of the USPHL Elite Division sees seven teams in two divisions battling it out for supremacy this season.
It’s a tough group to handicap as based on injuries at the Premier team level or standout performances in Elite, the roster can change on a minute to minute basis.
Last season, the Jersey Hitmen put together a solid season, dropping just eight games in regulation on their way to a 34-8-1-1 season and 70 points to top the Mid-Atlantic group. They also made a trip to the Nationals.
Head coach Jim Raymond said his team could have eight returners, so they could be a team to beat once again.
Forwards Ryan Andrews, Tyler Botta, Evan Granier, Liam Heffernan, Chris Kourgelis and James Sandberg should provide the offensive leadership while defensemen Vinny Hunt and Sean Mason give the team a solid nucleus on the back end as well.
Raymond said he is impressed with a solid group of newcomers as well.
“All of the guys are expected to work hard, play important roles and contribute,” said Raymond. “Keep an eye on Marcus Boigris, Jason Finan, Nick Johansson, Jacob Jureidini, Ryan Keaveney, Joseph Vocca, Jack Nairich and Joseph Coons. Michael Bagi, Dane Beltramini, Sal Benvanuto, Stefan Brockman, Sam Buins, Trace Cowart, Liam Egan and Nick Miller are great additions to the team as well.”
As far as goals for the season, Raymond said hard work will help his players get better and return to a solid playoff run. He is looking forward to a trip to an early showcase tournament at Hampton Roads.
The New Jersey Rockets finished second in the division, albeit a distant second, some 28 points behind the Hitmen with a record of 19-21-3-1.
The also have some key returners that could help them close that gap though, said Head Coach Todd Wagenbach.
Deven Ralph has 167 points in the past two seasons and should continue to dominate on offense while defenseman Derek Golkin will also be a leader along with veteran forwards Asher Zenstein, Jason Lastra, Alex Ulikowkis, Lars Blackman and Patrick Brannen with defensive help from Nick Jervas, Patrick Flaherty, Matt Bucci and Gavin Ruschmeier.
Key newcomers include forwards Matt Emmer, Matt Pliszak, Brandon McKane, Daniel Seamon, Tyler Blicharz, Kyle McCarthy and Kamden Collins. On the blue line, the team will get help from Alex Thode, Tommy Atanacio, Gio Falk and Lucas Skolnick.
Facing a tough assignment right off the bat should provide a look at whether the Rockets have closed the gap.
“We open with Division rival Jersey Hitmen at home Sept. 21-22.” said Wagenbach. “(We are) really looking forward to making our first road trip to the Hampton Roads Showcase Sept. 28-30 to play against some of the Florida Division teams.”
The other Mid-Atlantic entry, the New York Aviators, will be looking to rebound from a so-so 2018-19 campaign, beginning with a pair of home games against the Boston Bandits this weekend (Sept. 14-15).
Along with the Bandits in the North Division will be the Junior Bruins, Northern Cyclones and Springfield Pics, all looking to improve on last season’s performances.
The Cyclones finished second in the division last season with a record of 32-8-1-2 and they were one of four teams from the Region to qualify for the National Championship tournament, joining the Hitmen, New Hampshire Junior Monarchs and New York Aviators – the latter bouncing back from a rough regular season to eliminate the Rockets in a hard fought best of three series, not settled until overtime of the third game.
The Cyclones were the lone North-based team to advance out of National Championship pool play and missed a berth in the National Championship game with a 5-4 loss to Tampa Bay in semis.
The Bandits return forwards Robert Byrne, Adam Mazurowski and defenseman Nick Rooney.