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USPHL Premier Division Pool Play Wrap Up

By Jim DenHollander, 03/09/18, 11:15PM EST


Talk about facing adversity. Mother nature threw one of her March Lions at the entire field at the United States Premier Hockey League (USPHL) Championship weekend event in New England Thursday.

Forced to change venues due power blackouts from the previous night’s horrible weather that included the New England Sports Center in Marlborough, USPHL Executives did a great job of scrambling and got the second and third rounds of bracket games in Thursday (March 8), playing at three different venues including the Cyclones Arena in Hudson, NH; 495 Ice Sports, at North Andover, MA and the Worcester Ice Center, in Worcester, MA.

As a result, the Premier Division whittled its field of a dozen qualifiers from its six geographic divisions, down to a Final Four which played in a pair of semifinals Friday.

The defending champion Charlotte Rush came out of the Black Bracket ‘A’ group while the Islanders Hockey Club will play out of Black Bracket ‘B.’ Gold Bracket ‘A’ Bracket advanced the Hampton Roads Whalers and it was the Minnesota Moose coming of out Gold Bracket ‘B’


Rush breezes through.

The Rush lost just two games in regulation through 44 regular season contests and the defending champs showed just how hard it is to beat in the lead up games here as well.

After an 8-1 win in its opener Wednesday. The Rush dispatched Midwest-East runners up, the Motor City Hawks by an overwhelming 14-1 count in its second-round match at 495 Ice Sports Friday before clinching its berth in semis with a 6-1 win against the Jersey Hitmen later and the Worcester Ice Center.

The Rush scored first in its second-round match but Kyle Banks, 19, from Detroit, MI pulled the Hawks even just 27 seconds later. That was the last time this game was close as the Rush notched three before the end of the opening period and added two more in the middle before piling on eight third period tallies.

Tyler Dill, 20, from South Lake Tahoe, CA and Kyle Moore, 20, from Indian Trail, NC shared the scoring lead as both scored four times and assisted on two others. Antonio Demacopoulos, 20, from Hickory Hills, IL fired a pair of goals and Tyler Barrow, 20, from Massapequa, NY added a goal and two assists. Nick Godfrey, 19, from Cedar Run, NJ and Matthew Headland, 19, from Nottingham, England each added a goal and assist and the other goal was scored by Brendan McCormack, 19, from Nutley, NJ.

Drew Benedict, 21, from Cooper City, FL needed just a dozen stops in this one while Nathan Norkevicus, 19, from Pittsburgh, PA absorbed the lopsided defeat despite turning an awesome 87-save effort.

Against the Hitmen, the Rush scored the lone goal of the first period, but the Hitmen tied it up 3:18 into the second. Three goals in the final 8:03 of the middle period had the Rush in control and they added two more in the third to put the game away.

Godfrey and Nick Yzaguirre, 20, from Chicago, IL each scored twice in this one, Yzaguirre adding an assist and Dill set up three.

Justin Geary, 19, from Halfmooon, NY and Moore both notched two assists with the other goals scored by McCormack and Headland. Sam Best, 19, from Woburn, MA picked up the win in goal with a 25-save effort.

Charles Stewart, 19, from Littleton, CO fired the lone Hitmen goal and goaltender Trevor Osborne, 19, from O’Fallon, IL stopped 40 shots.


Islanders Move on.

In the opposite Black Bracket, the Islanders Hockey Club followed up its 2-0 win over the Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings from the previous day and wrapped up the spot in semis with another shutout, downing the Florida Eels 5-0 in the second round. The islanders moved outside of its division and got a surprisingly tough challenge from the Motor City Hawks battled them all the way before finally succumbing 4-3 in overtime.

All five goals against the Eels came in the final 20 minutes, Andrew Lusignan, 20, from Brigham, QC ending 45:54 of scoreless hockey with the goal that stood up as the game winner. Other goals came from: Matt Yianacopolus, 19, from Wakefield, MA; John Garrity, 20, from Dublin, CA; Robert Norwalk, 20, from Fremont, CA and Chris Melendez, 19, from Miami, FL, Norwalk also collecting an assist.

Michal Soustal, 21, from Czech Republic turned aside all 30 shots he faced to pick up the shutout in goal and Danick Francoeur, 19, from Laval, QC stopped 42 shots in goal for the Eels.

Against the Hawks, the Isles found itself trailing early as Dominick Yamarino, 19, from Kennesaw, GA put the Hawks on the board 3:35 into the contest.

Melendez responded with a tying goal five minutes from the end of the opening period and the Isles grabbed its first lead on a goal by Ryan Gorbett, 20, from Cleveland Heights, OH near the halfway mark of the middle period. Alec Porzondek, 19, from Macomb, MI responded through a little more than three minutes later and teams were deadlocked again 2-2 heading to the final 20 minutes.

Michael Zampanti, 19, from Winthrop, MA had the Islanders in front again just before the five-minute mark of the third frame, but Kyle Berryman, 20, from Chesterfield, MI pulled the Hawks even again 94 seconds later and that stood up until the final buzzer.

Jordan Hoy, 20, from Avon finally clinched the win for the Islanders 2:04 into the extra period. Trevor Daniluk, 19, from Cambrdige, MA picked up the win for the Islanders while Norkevicus handled shots again for the Hawks.


Late Rally lifts Whalers past Rockets

The Gold ‘A’ Bracket came down to the final round as both the Hampton Roads Whalers and New Jersey Rockets won their first two games.

The Chicago Cougars were the other pool team and after dropping its opener to the Rockets on Wednesday, 6-2, the Cougars were downed by the Whalers 10-2 in the second round on Thursday. Meanwhile, the Whalers started outside of the division, grabbing a 6-1 win over Tampa Bay Juniors in its opener while the Rockets turned aside the Minnesota Moose in its second-round crossover game.

That set up the finale between the two and the Whalers broke open a 2-2 draw with two goals inside of the final 90 seconds of the contest.

Matthew Hanchon, 19, from Bemidji, MN scored the game winner with 1:11 to play and Brendon Osmundson, 19, from Chesapeake, VA clinched it with his second of the contest into an empty net with just 18 seconds to play.

The Rockets held a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes with Luke Benitez, 20, from Ashburn, VA scoring the lone goal, but the Whalers responded with the next two, tying the score with a shot by Kirill Romanov, 20, from Moscow, Russia in the opening minute of the period and Osmundson’s first with 2:19 to go in the period giving the Whalers its first, albeit brief, lead.

Benitez added another goal for the Rockets 41 seconds later to even it up and set the stage for the final minutes.

Sean Dickson, 19, from Millbrae, CA stopped 42 shots to nail down the win for the Whalers and Timotheus Zurbuchen, 20, from Thun, Switzerland turned aside 32 in goal for the Rockets.

In its earlier game against the Cougars, the Whalers scored four times in the first 11 minutes and carried a 6-1 cushion out of the opening period. By the time teams faced off in the third, the Whalers owned a 9-2 margin.

Osmundson paced the offense with three goals and four assists for the Whalers, Romanov adding three goals and two helpers. Hanchon set up five and scored one, other goals coming from John Moncovich, 21, from Wilmington, NC; Zach Zalar, 20, from Kennesaw, GA and Conner Hunt, 19, from Frisco, TX.

Dickson stopped 18 shots to grab the win in goal.

For the Cougars, goals came from Cory Schwarz, 19, from Wood Dale, IL and Gleb Bandrukin, 17, from Moscow, Russia. Luke Martinovich, 20, from Streamwood, IL and Alex Jones, 20, from Verona, IL split the work in goal, combining on a 58-save effort.


Moose rebound to advance.

In the other Black pool, the Minnesota Moose followed up a 7-5 opening round win against the Northern Cyclones with a rough outing, dropping a 7-1 decision to the Rockets in its cross over game early Thursday. However, the Moose returned to division play and got by the Tampa Bay Juniors 7-1 to clinch its spot in the final four.

The Moose carried a 1-0 lead of the opening period against the Rockets on a goal by Matteo Menotti, 18, from Chicago, IL, but it was all Rockets after that.

Five unanswered middle period goals had the Rockets in control and two more in the first nine minutes of the third took away any doubt.

Domenic DeMambro, 21, from Troy, MI fired a pair for the Rockets with other goals added by: Wyatt Light, 19, from Manhatten Beach, CA; Spencer DeRidder, 19, from Fairport, NY; Joseph Vogt, 19, from Franklinville, NJ; Chris Rupp, 21, from Denville, VA and Tyler Glennon, 19, from Kennett Square, PA.

John Massara, 19, from Fenton, MO, turned in a brilliant effort in goal for the Rockets, stopping all but one of the 49 shots he faced while Bronson Moore, 20, from Tri-Cities, WA handled 33 and came up short in 16 games with the Moose.

Needing a win to move on, the Moose rebounded from a 1-0 first period deficit to grab the win against Tampa Bay.

Daniel Seniov, 20, from Prague, Czech Republic had the Juniors in front with the only goal of the opening period, but the Moose responded with three unanswered second period goals and one more early in the third.

Captain Dylan Gast, 20, from White Bear Lake, MN fired three of the goals while Philip DeSaava, 19, from Ludrika, Sweden scored the other. Moore broke back into the win column with a 30-save effort and Tyler Roy, 19, from Brighton, MI also stopped 30 in goal for the Juniors.

Semis were scheduled to be played Thursday afternoon in Worcester as the Moose tangled with the Rush and the Whalers were scheduled to take on the Islanders.

The two winners will advance to play the Premier Division Championship game on Saturday at 4 pm EST.