The United States Premier Hockey League saw five 2020-21 champions skate away victorious at the York City Ice Arena in York, Pa., on Sunday, March 7. One team, the Springfield Pics, repeated as the champion in their USPHL 16U American Division. The USPHL congratulates all of its 2020-21 Midget Champions.
18U National: Boston Junior Bruins
The Boston Junior Bruins were the only 18U National team to skate through the Round Robin (March 4-6) completely undefeated at 3-0.
They picked up victories against the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders (4-0), the Rockets Hockey Club (3-1) and CP Dynamo (3-1) to earn the top spot in the four-team semifinal round late Saturday night.
That evening, they faced the Skipacks Hockey Club (a 2020 finalist) and skated away with a 7-2 win - one that came with a major cost to the Junior Bruins, however. The team exceeded the 15-penalty limit for a game set by USA Hockey, meaning they’d have to move forward to the finals without Head Coach Blake Bellefeuille.
The team was able to overcome this potential obstacle with flying colors, as they posted a 4-0 win against the Philadelphia Hockey Club (3-1 to that point) for the championship. Matt Bogdanski made 13 saves, and goals came from Jack Felicio, Michael Stevens, Mike Santonelli and Bob Lockwood, who also had two assists to lead his team in points.
18U American: Maine Moose
With seven players who had won the 2019 Tier-2 16U National Championship for the Moose, the 2020-21 18U Moose prospered despite facing some intense challenges en route to glory.
With no semifinal in this eight-team tournament, each finalist had to win their pool to move forward. They started with wins against Connecticut Jr. Rangers (3-1) and the Philadelphia Hockey Club 18U Elite team (5-0) before their toughest challenge.
On Saturday night, they were up against the other 2-0 team in their pool, the Northern Cyclones 18U Premier team. The Moose faced a 3-2 deficit going into the third period, before goals by Cam Knowles and the GWG by Brendan Manning sent them onward to Sunday’s final.
There, they met the Palmyra Black Knights, who’d gone 3-0 against the Islanders Hockey Club (5-1), Northern Cyclones 18U Elite (6-2) and South Shore Kings (2-1).
Owen Arend scored a pair of goals, and Gabe Poirier and Cam Rizzo each scored one apiece as they held off a comeback attempt by Palmyra to win 4-3. Josh Girard had 25 saves on 28 shots.
16U National: Islanders Hockey Club
After round robin wins against Palmyra (4-0) and the Connecticut Jr. Rangers (6-3), the Islanders needed just a tie against the Boston Junior Bruins on Saturday to advance.
The Islanders - coached by Islanders HC NCDC Head Coach Tim Kyrkostas - set the tone early with a first period goal by Jake Murphy, but the Junior Bruins’ goal 17 seconds into the third said that Coach Topher Bevis’ team had every intention of getting the W and advancing. The Islanders defense and goaltender Alex Lafreniere shut the Junior Bruin offense down the rest of the way, but also couldn’t get any more past Junior Bruins goalie Aidan Bickford (24 saves). Nonetheless, they got the point needed to advance, going up against the CP Dynamo.
The Dynamo had gone 2-0-1 in their round robin to make it to the finals and Head Coach Dennis Kravchenko was intent on his team being crowned with its first USPHL Midget title.
That tight Islanders defense, plus Lafreniere, however stymied those plans. The Dynamo had held off the Islanders for two periods, and most of three themselves, but Jackson Kyrkostas scored a shorthanded goal at 12:16. The Islanders sealed their second title in three years with an empty-netter with 13 seconds remaining by Aaron Schwartz. Lafreniere stopped all 15 shots he faced.
16U American: Springfield Pics
Yes, the Pics repeated as 16U American Champs, but this was actually an entirely new team put together by Coaches (and brothers) John and Anthony Sarno. That certainly speaks to the organization’s dedication to putting forth a first-class Midget program every year.
The Pics came right out and asserted themselves in their first three round robin games, with wins over the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders Premier (7-2), Philadelphia Hockey Club Elite (6-1) and Potomac Patriots (6-0). Their final game of the round robin was a 2-2 tie with Skipjacks Hockey Club, which set them as the No. 2 seed in the semifinals on Sunday morning - against the same Skipjacks.
Two goals by Ryan Shaw were a huge help in a tight game that saw the Skipjacks’ Trevor Risser score a late goal, but there wasn’t enough time for a full comeback.
In the final, against the 4-0 Northern Cyclones Premier team, the Pics got back to the busy offense of their first three games in a 6-1 win. Goals came from Ryan Shaw (2-2-4 line), Matthew Hanscom (two goals) and each of Brigham Dubey and Nick DiSanti. John Hanscom stopped 24 of 25 shots for the win.
15U: Jersey Hitmen
Teams needed to win their pool to get into the final and the Hitmen were all business through their first three games.
The opener was certainly a challenge, as the Philadelphia Hockey Club - on the back of a 39-save effort by Ian Schmitt - got the tie. The Hitmen came out of that knowing they’d have to win the rest of the way. They did just that against the Springfield Pics (9-0) and the Utica Jr. Comets, who gave them a tough go of it in a 2-1 match. Massimo Monteleone scored to break what would have been a devastating tie.
On Championship Sunday, the Hitmen took to the ice against the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders, who’d gone 3-0 in tight games to reach the final.
Joshua Shpungin scored two goals to lead the way, while Jake Rosolanko, Braedan Guiterman and Monteleone also scored for the title. Kyle Ozgun made 23 saves on 24 shots.