Generally, the USPHL Elite Southeast Division teams serve as the “opening act” on game days before the Premier squads hit the ice.
That doesn’t mean the five Elite level squads don’t create plenty of excitement with this group, like their Premier brethren, producing the League’s ‘National’ Champion more often than not in recent seasons.
The 2018-19 defending champion Richmond Generals retain the crown for another season with the absence of a league champion from this past winter. They did take the division title again this past season but the top three were separated by just seven points and nothing was settled until the end.
Following is a look at the five Southeast Elite Division teams heading into a new season, in alphabetical order.
Carolina Jr. Hurricanes
The Elite Hurricanes endured a rare season off the pace, finishing fourth overall in the Southeast despite a nice 25-15-3-1 record overall.
Head Coach Brad Gaylord chalks it all up to learning the ropes and he is confident the payoff for that experience will come this season.
“With Elite having 12 first-year players, we still have our sights on getting to the playoffs and competing for a National Championship,” said Coach Gaylord. “We were very excited for our opportunity last season but that fell short due to the virus. We’re very excited for this year’s group. The players all buy in to our culture and soon they will understand even further, our identity of how we play.”
“We will count heavily on our 12 returning players for leadership to be infectious. Our team motto is ‘One Family, One Goal!’” added Gaylord. “The 12 returners understand what that means. They’ve already started expressing that on and off the ice, which is great to see.”
The 12 returners are: Ethan Chapman, Luke Havener, Holden Techet, Jacob Collinson, Andrew Robbins, T.J. Runci, Brett Repage, Nate Becker, Lucas Bowers, Cam Trainer, Nolan Tabraham and Jack Hansen.
As usual, the Rush were in the battle for the regular season title in the Southeast Division last season, ultimately missing out by just three points behind the Richmond Generals. The season ended with a bit of a sour taste, however, as a hungry Jr. Hurricanes team shook off playing on the road and upset the Rush in the Division semis and snatched away a National Championship tournament berth.
Expect a hungry Rush team using that late season disappointment as the incentive to make things right once again in 2020-21 beginning with four straight home games in the final two weekends of September to kick off tthe season.
Hampton Roads Whalers
The Whalers’ Elite team enters the 2020-21 USPHL season with an incentive it seldom brings – a chip on its shoulder.
The Whalers were absent from the National Championship tournament last season, sent to the sidelines following a loss in double overtime in the second and deciding game of their best-of-three playoff with the defending champion Richmond Generals last season.
It was strange not seeding the Green and Blue Whale Tail in Beantown for the championship event and for a team like this, that is plenty of incentive to make things right this season.
The Whalers are always among the league’s toughest teams to play. Now the focus and intent will be even more in place.
The past couple seasons have been tough for the Patriots with a young crew learning the ropes, but in his written report, Head Coach Zach Vit said the Elite team is looking to break out this season, just like their Premier counterparts.
“The Potomac Patriots Elite group will feature a large group of players with USPHL experience. Returning contributors Gio Delgado (2002), Jordan Adams (2000), Isaac Balough (2002), and Jake Hanna (2000) will be joined by a strong group of newcomers that include Liam Hanna (2002), Noah Ludeman (2003), Sean Hoffman (2003), Allen Dement (2002), and Carter Lyons (2004).
“Jacob Sanders will look to build on a strong rookie campaign to backstop what should be a fast, exciting Elite team this season.”
With the cancellation of this past spring’s National Championships, R.C. Lyke’s Richmond Generals Elite squad gets a second year as the league’s defending champions. Even without the title event concluding, they were a solid contender to wrap up a second straight title this past spring.
Among the key returners looking to keep the trophy in Virginia for another year is defenseman Easton Evans, the team’s only ’00 entering the season along with ’01 returning forwards Noah Farley and Camden Schamberger and ‘02’s including defensemen Cade Pawluk and Kameron Williams along with forward Declan Murray
Among the key newcomers this season are goaltenders Chase Golden and Everett Bailey, forwards Ryan Kotz, Gabriel Page, Caleb Gold, Jackson Good, Gannon Steggall and Josh Hixson along with defender Jonathan Beiber.