The 2021 USPHL Summer Showcase is in the books, with four new champions for the first time since 2019. The P.A.L. Jr. Islanders organization were the big winners, bookending two divisions - the NCDC and 16U - with their championships. The Islanders Hockey Club picked up the 18U title with an amazing late come-from-behind victory and the Springfield Pics Premier squad earned the Premier Division title.
The 2021 Summer Showcase brought back the popular tournament format, which was scrapped for the 2020 Summer Showcase, due to COVID restrictions. Below is a breakdown of the winning teams’ routes to their respective championships, as well as those of runners-up and other semifinalists.
NCDC: P.A.L. Jr. Islanders White
The Islanders White squad was the only NCDC team to go completely without a loss or tie for the entire tournament, finishing a perfect 5-0. They got the ball rolling on Friday with a 3-0 win over the Utica Jr. Comets Black, followed on Saturday by two close wins against the Boston Advantage Blue (6-5) and Boston Junior Bruins (2-1).
On Sunday, morning, they faced first the Connecticut Jr. Rangers (3-0 in round robin) and again had to eke out a close 2-1 win to earn the championship berth to face the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs Purple (3-0).
The Jr. Monarchs road to the final saw them beat the Junior Bruins (3-1), Twin City Thunder Green (5-3) and Utica Jr. Comets Red (3-2). On Sunday morning, they won their semifinal game vs. the Northern Cyclones Black team, 3-2.
The Monarchs started the scoring in the final 5:05 in, and the Jr. Islanders countered at 7:33. The rest of the 30-minute mini-game regulation portion was a knock-down drag-out battle that also encompassed 5 overtime minutes to push it into the shootout. P.A.L. scored the only shootout goal to capture Summer bragging rights.
Premier: Springfield Pics Premier
The Pics’ road to the final saw them actually facing their Elite brethren along the way (in the semifinals), and also two games against the Connecticut Jr. Rangers.
First, it was a pair of Friday wins against the Northern Cyclones Elite (3-1) and Junior Bruins Premier (4-2) and their single Saturday game against the Jr. Rangers Premier (3-2).
On Sunday, the Pics Premier faced the Elite Pics, who had gone 2-1 in the Round Robin. The Premier team defeated the Elites 3-1 in their fourth game played at the Janas Rink, and moved about 10 miles over to Merrimack College for the final against the Jr. Rangers. The Jr. Rangers advanced to semifinals on a 1-1-1 record, and then squeaked by the Hampton Roads Whalers Green with a 1-0 shootout win.
In the final, the Pics had their best offensive show of the tournament, winning 5-1 to claim the Premier title. Ten minutes in, they held a comfortable 3-0 lead. With 7:12 left, the Rangers got on the scoreboard, but the Pics countered with two more at 1:49 and 24 seconds on the board.
18U: Islanders Hockey Club
The Islanders had advanced to the playoffs as the No. 4 seed after going 2-1 in the round robin. However, they ended up making good on a massive come-from-behind effort to turn around a final game in which they almost looked cooked to win the division championship.
It all started well enough with 5-0 and 4-2 wins on Friday against the Northern Cyclones Gold and Junior Bruins, respectively. They lost their only Saturday game 1-0 to South Shore Kings Nickulas, but were still able to remain healthy enough to move on.
In the semifinals, the Islanders defeated the Cyclones Black, overcoming a 2-1 deficit within the first five minutes to eventually score three unanswered goals in the final 12:26, including a shorthanded empty-netter with 50 seconds remaining.
In the finals, they went up against the Jersey Hitmen, who had tied Palmyra Black Knights (3-3) to start before beating the N.H. Jr. Monarchs White 4-3 and the Junior Bruins 8-7 in a back-and-forth battle on Saturday night at the Tri-Town Ice Arena in Hooksett, N.H.
Jersey had to go to the shootout against the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders and earned the 2-1 win to advance to the final.
In the final, the Hitmen got on the board first at 6:33 remaining, but the Islanders never gave up, scoring on a power play with 48 seconds left in regulation. They wasted no time in the OT, scoring 25 seconds in for the “Cinderella story” victory.
16U: P.A.L. Jr. Islanders
The Jr. Islanders were the clear winners of the 16U Division in so many ways. The only team to go 5-0 also gave up just four goals over the three-day weekend - and none on Championship Sunday.
They had just one game Friday, defeating the Islanders Hockey Club 6-2. On Saturday, they shut out the Northern Cyclones 6-0, and closed out Saturday with a decisive win against the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs to make their semifinal spot official as the No. 1 seed.
A 1-0 win over the Connecticut Jr. Rangers earned the Jr. Islanders the right to contend with the Jersey Hitmen in the final, the last game of the Summer Showcase and the only one to reach into Sunday’s p.m. hours.
The Hitmen had also earned a big win against the Monarchs, which started their journey to the finals. They narrowly edged the Junior Bruins 4-3, and then beat the Springfield Pics 6-1 to reach Sunday morning.
A 3-2 win over the Rockets Hockey Club early Sunday in Nashua, N.H., sent them about 10 miles over to Cyclones Arena in Hudson, N.H., to face the Jr. Islanders.
The Jr. Islanders won with goals at 22:55 and 18:42 remaining, and fantastic goaltending kept the Hitmen off the board to help the P.A.L. organization win its second title of the day.
Congratulations to all of our champions and playoff participants, and the USPHL thanks all 62 teams for entering and competing in the 2021 USPHL Summer Showcase.
Next stop: The 2021-22 Regular Season!