It’s time to show the rest of the country how they do things in New Jersey.
The New Jersey Rockets are in Plymouth, Mich., and will take the ice at 6 p.m. on Wednesday in Game 1 of their three-game round robin portion of the Tier 1 15 Only National Championships.
“It’s very gratifying for us as a team and as an organization to be able to represent the Atlantic District and the USPHL at Nationals,” said Rockets head coach Noel Rubin, whose team went 56-17-2 overall this year.
The Rockets lost just once all year in USPHL competition, but it came at an inopportune time, the USPHL 15U Championship game.
“We started back in August and we had some changes, and we went through some tough times. We lost one at the USPHL playoffs and that was a good learning experience for us,” said Rubin. “It was a good opportunity to right the ship, then we had a good districts, and we’re excited to have an opportunity to compete for a National championship.”
The Rockets defeated the North Jersey Avalanche in two games to win the Atlantic District title and its companion Nationals berth in mid-March. Since then, the Rockets have kept practicing to remain sharp for the big trip to Michigan.
“We’ve just been trying to go hard and keep up a fast pace. We’re working on conditioning to get into the best shape we can,” added Coach Rubin.
For Noel Rubin, this is his seventh trip to the Nationals, and he won his eighth District title. He has coached three teams to National finals at the 12U and 14U levels. His ‘98-born 12U team won the National Championship in 2011.
This year’s team is essentially the same team that competed and won its way through roughly 99 percent of its USPHL games.
“We have a really excellent top few lines, including forwards like Matt Brille, Gleb Veremyev, Jared Kordonsky and Cole Hanan, and they’re all peaking at the right time,” said Rubin. “I loved our depth at the Districts. All three lines were very productive.
“On defense, we are pretty good by committee,” Coach Rubin added. “They are keeping it simple, making the easy plays and trying to stay out of trouble.”
The Rockets played goalies Matthew Bridger and Daniel Gerts pretty evenly throughout Districts.
They’ll need all hands on deck at Nationals - they have the No. 3-ranked Little Caesars (out of Michigan) and the No. 7-ranked Pittsburgh Penguins Elite in their first two games. They also face the Sioux Falls Power out of South Dakota, a top 40-ranked team all season.
“This is a really good level. The birth years have been great coming up the last few years, and this is a USHL draft year for the ‘03’s,” said Rubin. “This is also a year with no NCAA [championships], so there will be a lot of NCAA coaches in attendance. It’s a great opportunity for all 16 teams in the venue where the National Team Development Program practices and plays.”
New Jersey Rockets 15 Only National Championships Schedule
Wed., April 3, 6:00 PM, at Pittsburgh Pens Elite
Thurs., April 4, 5:45 PM, at Little Caesars
Fri., April 5, 2:00 PM, Sioux Falls Power