The USPHL 18U league will see two divisions full of highly reputed organizations’ teams hitting the ice for full seasons of 20+ games right through the end of February, when the playoffs will crown one champion.
Here, we take a look at the 18U American Division’s 10 teams.
The Advantage have representation in all levels of the USPHL 18U and 16U Divisions, and they will continue to build their program and also help to build the new NCDC squad.
“Our team is a hard-nosed, gritty team, with some high-end skill giving us a solid base,” added Head Coach Rob Himberg. “We play an extremely structured game with an emphasis on puck possession.
“We will look to Mike Holland, Trent Seger, and Anders Bowen to set the tempo physically and produce offensively,” Himberg added. “On the back end, we have a duo of Ty’s with Ty Ray and Ty Pimental - two solid, puck-moving, two-way defensemen. Finally, we will lean on Liam Rice in net. He’s a strong goalie with great puck skills.”
Connecticut Jr. Rangers
The Jr. Rangers are happy with the progress of their players from their last season, and if they can move players forward from this year again, Head Coach Chris Myrho and the organization have done their job.
“We have a very committed group of players and I am happy to help develop them to the next level,” said Myrho. “We moved six players up from last year’s team to the junior level and the majority went to college. Fortunately, we were able to build off a great 16U group.”
Players already in the Jr. Rangers system that they’re excited about are two-way center Mario Paganini, Dominic Powilatis, with his willingness to help the team in any way possible, smooth-skating defenseman Pavel Khorkin, high scorer Robbie Jolliffe, and natural leader Jacob Silva.
On the newcomer sice, watch for defensemen Brendan Briggs, forwards Nick Orenstein and Aaron Reich (both coming up from the 16U Elite team), Owen Zomb, Shubham More and Charlie Morris. The team is developing four goaltenders - Tommy Brown, Mike Pippo, Chris Spano and Alexa Madrid, “who is very good and will be pushing the boys and competing for time.”
CP Dynamo returns to the ice with four returning players, led by forward Adam Rourke, who scored 32 points in 37 games overall last year.
“I’m excited to be a part of another year and see what this season’s team can really do. My expectations for this season are high,” said Adam Rourke.
Returning to Dynamo for the 2020-2021 season is forward Yuri Ushakov, who accumulated a total of nine points in 22 games played.
Defenseman Dylan Kowalsky brings a veteran presence to the defense. Kowalsky, a strong and reliable defenseman, had 13 points in 49 games. Finally, the Dynamo managed to ink returning goalie Daniel Guy, who was in net for 13 games this past season (.919 save percentage, 2.09 goals against average).
"We are excited to have our core players returning for the 2020-21 season. These guys have been in the program and have experience to compete,” said Rourke. “They are key contributors for our success. We are excited to see them in their last season here in Clifton Park."
Islanders Hockey Club North
The Islanders North team provides a great introduction to the top level of Midget hockey.
“Our team is a very young team making a jump to the 18U level as well as the Tier 1 level for most,” added Head Coach Brian Umansky.
Preston Wilson and Ben Bernard return to the net, giving the team immediate strength there, while Islanders veteran James Garrison will serve as team captain.
Stephen Sullivan (‘04) will be a key player to watch, while defensemen Austiin Weber and Patrick Gallavan will be major contributors.
“The team is also excited for the anticipated return of Jacob Ahumada, who is expected to lead the team up front,” said Umansky. “Ahumada suffered an ACL tear at the end of last season. He is expected to complete his full recovery early October.”
Sometimes it’s hard to see players move on. After bonds are created, goodbyes are said and a new team has to be put together. So why not give the new team a new (but familiar) name? The Maine Moose returns, with the Twin City Lightning name being retired.
“College commitments, and moving players on to Tier 2 that we developed last year, hit us hard. All very, very positive reasons but we had to rebuild the team this year,” said Head Coach Matt Lavallee.
“I’m excited with this group, we have the potential to keep building on the culture we established in Year 1,” Lavallee added. “I expect to have the same problem at the end of this year with these players getting pulled up.”
USPHL 18U All-Star Nate Marcotte (6-4, 186) comes back and Lavallee expects he’ll be moving right into college in 2021-22.
Gabe Poirior also returns as an ‘03, while joining him up front will be Brandon Manning, Ryan Joyce and Owen Drummy, a Northern Cyclones NCDC Draft prospect. Defenseman Jake Harshman, out of Colorado, has already earned college and Tier-2 attention, while the Moose are expecting a big year out of ‘03 goalie Josh Girard.
Northern Cyclones Premier
The Cyclones will be powered at the Premier Division by some heavily experienced players, including at least one with five years of USPHL hockey to his resume.
Defenseman Luc Fricchione (‘02) began in the league as a 15U player in 2016-17, and this past year, he was a USPHL Elite All-Star, registering 44 points in 44 games.
“Luc is a great, modern-day, two-way defenseman. He has the ability to create offense with his speed and vision while maintaining great defensive awareness to be a shut down defenseman,” said Head Coach J.T. Henke. “Luc was also chosen by the team to be an assistant captain.”
Anthony Domina (‘03) moves up from the the Cyclones’ 16U team and is another player to watch.
“Anthony has the size, speed and top end skill set to play at any level and be a dominant player. He is a player that will be heavily relied on this year and will thrive in that role,” said Henke. “Anthony was also chosen by the team to be our Captain.”
“Tommy Gilligan is the definition of an ‘all-around player,’” added Henke. “He is a phenomenal skater with first class speed and a great offensive mindset.”
“Our team has the mindset of ‘Have A Purpose.’ This is a quote that is put up in our locker room for the boys to see everyday,” Henke added. “We are a team that will play hard and will come with waves of speed, skill and grit.”
Northern Cyclones Elite
Tim Plummer will bring the Cyclones’ other 18U group to the ice, featuring many veteran 18U players.
“At this point, most of them understand my expectations and what it takes for us to be successful,” said Plummer. “I feel very confident that I have strong leadership below me re-delivering that message every day.”
Billy Dougherty comes in after leading the USPHL 16U in scoring for two straight years. His linemate Austin Larson is right behind him in the top 10 each year. Also watch for Jo Heinzelman and Nick Grasso to make impacts up front, while Drew Zielinski and James Lesnick are going into their third year of USPHL Midget hockey.
Victor Gonzalez, an ‘04 from California, “shows a lot of potential.”
“He came in with a high skill set and continues to set the bar high with his work ethic,” added Gonzalez.
Blake Alexander is a strong lefty capable of playing on both sides of the puck.
“He is a great skater, with fantastic vision, and an unmatchable attitude towards his teammates and the game overall,” Plummer added.
Palmyra Black Knights
The Black Knights had a successful first year, winning 20 games and earning a playoff win against a National Division opponent.
“After a very successful year last year, we expect to build off of what we started and prove why we can be a top team in this league,” said Head Coach Russell Armbruster. “We are going to be a tough team to play against and we will not back down to any team in our path.
“This season I expect that the scoring will be spread out across the team along with having some of the top 18’s in the league like last year.”
After two strong years in the USPHL 16U, Captain Zachary Jesse - a 16U All-Star last year - will help form the foundation of success with assistants Kyle Kerrigan, Owen Carpenter and Jack Bell.
“With our depth and willingness to compete no matter who we are playing, we expect to make this season a long one heading to playoffs to show people what Palmyra is all about,” added Armbruster.
Philadelphia Hockey Club
Head Coach Dennis Postiglione is excited to work with all 40+ players of the Philadelphia Hockey Club 18U program, coaching both the National and American teams.
“For both teams, we need to be tight, hard-working teams and capitalize when we can, and be more focused on the defensive zone,” said Postiglione.
The majority of the American PHC team consists largely of 2003’s and a pair of ‘04’s as well.
“Ben Cheskin and Luis McCarthy are returning PHC players from last year’s 15U team that I expect to step right in, but we have a big team with at least four kids over 6 feet,” Postiglione said. “We need to use the body to win games and need to work hard to get dirty goals.
“Having a new team from top to bottom, I’m hoping to have everybody contribute to lead and score,” he added.
South Shore Kings
The Kings hit the ice with new Head Coach Jon Skarlis on board, and a largely new squad.
“We have a solid group of young men on and off the ice. I feel our group this season is well-balanced with skilled and grinder-like players top to bottom,” added Skarlis. “We have two lines that are offensively gifted, as well as two lines that eat minutes and make the game hard on opponents.”
The top line of Jake Thibeault, Mitch Cassella and Ethan Davidson will be counted on for the majority of offense. Watch for the line of Chris Bebelos, Matt Hamacher and Collin Costello to “bring offense and energy to our lineup.”
“Our goal for the season is to develop players on and off the ice for the next level, and I think if you are doing that properly the wins will follow,” Skarlis added.