For the first time ever, the Rochester, Jr. Americans descend upon the Fort Myers Skatium in Fort Myers Florida to play two games against the Florida Eels Empire team. This is an unprecedented event for the Florida Eels as this Jr. Americans have traveled over 1500 miles for this weekend games.
Normally it is the Eels who travel north to play the Northern Teams. The Eels make those trips often with 2-3 times in-season showcases with the USPHL and 2 trips off-season showcases as well. The, Jr. Americans will also play 3 games against the Florida, Jr. Blades this weekend as well. The fact that the Rochester, Jr. Americans are coming to Florida is a clear and convincing demonstration of the emphatic commitment from our Northern brethren to support our teams. Like the Eels who travel north it is great to have this reciprocity with our league partners.
This is pretty special for the Eels as they and the Blades are the only two teams Rochester will be playing during their Florida debut. The Junior Americans are a very solid organization. Last season, Rochester’s Elite team performed so exceptionally well they were elevated to a Premier team. That was an amazing accomplishment. This season, Rochester does not have an Elite team so their Empire team is their second level. These are high-end players who are pushing the envelope to play on their Premier team.
The Junior Americans Empire team has some very talented players. For example, #28 Brenda McFall is their leading scorer. In 17 games he has 20 goals and 24 assist for 44 points. McFall is 4th in the entire Empire league in scoring. With him is # 93 William Shaffer is another sniper. In only 15 games he has 17 goals and 25 assist for 42 points. Shaffer is 6th overall in the Empire league in scoring. Then there is #71 Said Khamidov who in 18 games enjoys 17 goals 21 assist for 38 points. Connor Rotenberg is an ever-present threat where he has in 17 games 7 goals and 10 assist for 17 points.
On the Blueline they have one of the league’s top defenseman # 11 who is a playmaker where he boast 5 goals with 17 assist.
These two matches are not exhibition or scrimmage games. They are regularly scheduled league games. Coach Frankie and his squad are not taking these two games lightly. They have a game plan and intend very much to execute on it. The Eels Empire team did quite well against the Northern teams at the IHC November Showcase. They went 2-1 in their contest and felt very comfortable. Even in their only loss it was against the New York Aviators who are the number one ranked Northern Empire team. In that match we only lost by 2-0 score. That team has defeated most opponents by double digits.
The Eels Empire team has made a few changes in the past few weeks and they are really staring to come together as well. All of our guys are dialed in, says Head Coach Frankie Scarpaci. Defense wins games and that is a strong element of the Eels Empire team. They are very deep in that department. Moreover, with the return of Brandon Halvorsen on Defense, he should bolster both the offensive aspect of the game from the blue liners as well as steady up the d zone.
We know we need secondary scoring from the 2nd 3rd and 4th lines. Michael Kohler returns to the Empire team and as 2-year veteran player and skills should help lead the Eels into a playoff birth. The Eels picked Maksim Gruzdev from the NAHL and he joins the Eels Empire squad for the remainder of the season. These two additions joining high scoring Jordan Court, Clayton Boyd, Gonzalo Ruiz, Zachary Briscoe, and Bryan Miller and Stephen Bourque will undoubtedly make the Eels a strong contender in the remainder of the season. This is true of Goaltending has been solid so the Eels are intending to win these two key games.
In January another top Northern Team is making its way to Florida to play the Eels Empire team. The Syracuse Stars. Again these are great games for our boys who do not have to travel to the North to engage in these high level games