Play late Wednesday (March 7) and then on Friday cut the field of eight in half for United States Premier Hockey League (USPHL) Championship tournament semi-finals.
The Final Four all started out the event against each other and only one, the Hampton Whalers came through the pool play portion unscathed. In the opening round the Whalers edged the Jersey Hitmen while the Charlotte Rush started with an 8-0 shutout win against the Beijing Shougang Eagles. Those four were the survivors at the end of pool play.
Whalers remain perfect.
The Whalers followed up its opening round win on Wednesday night with a 5-1 margin against the Florida Junior Blades and then wrapped up pool play Thursday with another 5-1 win against the Islanders Hockey Club.
The Whalers and Jr. Blades played through a scoreless opening period and Bryce Leger, 18, from Leonardtown, MD notched the lone goal of the middle period to put the Whalers up 1-0 heading to the final 20 minutes.
Caelan Bolanowski, 21, from Virginia Beach, VA added another 94 seconds into the final frame and two goals in eight seconds, from Bolanowski and Gary Eastwick, 19, from Mantua, NJ made gave the Whalers a 4-0 cushion with 8:50 to go.
Nick Darrow, 16, from Rio Rancho, NM fired another about three minutes later and it was Richard Ovaitte, 18, from Morristown, NJ gaining a small consolation, firing the lone Blades goal with 66 seconds to play, shattering the shutout bid of Nathan Yasinski, 20, from Seattle, WA who stopped 19 previous attempts.
At the opposite end, Luke Eslinger, 19, from Hershey, PA stopped 53 shots for the Blades.
On Thursday, the Whalers wrapped up the sweep against the Islanders, again playing through a scoreless opening period before notching four unanswered middle period markers.
Yasinski again carried a shutout into the late stages, this time Mario Colosi, 18, from Greensburg, PA notching the lone goal with 4:17 to go. Tianyou Zuo, 20, from Harbin, China made it official for the Whalers with his empty netter 41 seconds from the final buzzer.
Eastlack scored two of the middle period goals, others added by Bolanowski and Jacob Kaplan, 18, from Bowie, MD.
Yasinski finished the game with 19 saves again while Islanders split the work between Matt Goulian (14-17), from Melorse, MA and Billy St. Amand, 17, from Haverhill, MA (14/15).
Hitmen bounce back
After its tough opening loss to the Whalers in its first round the Hitmen responded later the same day with a 3-2 edge against the Islanders and then wrapped up a semi-final spot with a 7-1 win against the Jr. Blades Thursday.
The Hitmen never trailed against the Isles, but never had more than a single goal gap either as the Islanders battled back from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits. The Hitmen led 1-0 after a period and 2-1 heading to the third.
Brody Selman, 17, from Mahwah, NJ had the lone opening period goal for the Hitmen with Eddie Dahdah, 18, from Washington Twp. NJ restoring the lead late in the second period. Gregory Trapp, 17, from Paramus, NJ fired the game winner 9:03 into the middle period.
John-Henry Kaso, 18, from Stuart, FL fired the first Islanders goal and Jared Lamothe, 19, from Fort Wayne, IN pulled them within a goal again with 3:09 to play.
Trevor Stenberg, 18, from Randolph, NJ turned aside 37 shots to get the win for the Hitmen and Goulian had 30 saves for the Islanders.
In the third round, it was the Blades with the 1-0 cushion, but all Hitmen after that. The Jersey Boys owned a 3-1 lead after a period and piled on another four in the final frame.
Seven different shooters picked up goals for the Hitmen including: Eddie Corvelli, 19, from Glen Rock, NJ; Chris Conway, 19, from Rockaway, NJ; Rob Sheahan, 17, from Rivervale, NJ; Matt Freitas, 17, from Washingtonville, NY; Marc Perez, 18, from Wayne, NJ; Liam Carroll, 18, from Roxbury, NJ and Alex Kelly, 17, from Basking Ridge, NJ.
Once again it was Ovaitte with the lone Blades’ tally.
Stenberg stopped 30 shots to pick up the win in goal for the Hitmen and Wesley Ellingson, 20, from Surrey, BC also stopped 30 for the Jr. Blades.
Late stumble can’t stop Rush
After its lopsided win against the Shougang Eagles, the Rush had a spot in the finals clinched with a 7-2 second round win against the Boston Bandits, but dropped its final game against a tough Tampa Bay Juniors team who wrapped up a 2-1 win.
Against the Bandits, the Rush opened a 3-0 first period lead, adding another before the Bandits finally hit the board 6:06 into the second. The Rush held a 5-1 edge after a period and outscored the Boston crew 2-1 again in the third.
Joshua Hemmer, 19, from Chicago, IL and Mark Kishko, 20, from Inman, SC led the Rush with two goals apiece, other goals added by Logan Falkingham, 19, from Canfield, OH; Joey Ferro, 18 who celebrated his 18th Birthday on the same day, from Weddington, NC and Anthony Keating, 17, from Farmingville, NY.
Akhmed Malsagov, 17, from Moscow, Russia and Tyler Schaeffer, 18, from Edwardsville, IL both scored for the Bandits.
Jack Reidell, 18, from Greensboro, NC stopped 29 shots to pick up the win in goal for the Rush, Jack Walsh, 17, from Oceanside, CA turning aside 40 for the Bandits.
In the finale against Tampa Bay Juniors, all the scoring took place in the first 40 minutes as the Juniors led 1-0 after a period on a goal by Zach Parker, 18, from Wesley Chapel, FL and then got the game winner from Trent Gephart, 17, from Tampa Bay, FL. In between was a second period goal for the Rush, scored by Joshua Hemmer, 19, from Chicago, IL.
Perry Giannino, 20, from Wellington, FL stopped 24 shots to grab the win for the Juniors, Jack Riedell, handling 24 of 26 for the Rush.
Big bounce back by Eagles
It didn’t take the Shougang Eagles long to shake off its first-round defeat as the Chinese team battled back with a 6-4 win against Tampa Bay Juniors in the second round and punched its ticket to the Final Four with a 4-2 doubling of the Boston Bandits the following day.
Against the Juniors, the Shougang Eagles trailed 1-0 after a period but scored two in the first 72 seconds of the third, on its way to a 3-2 lead after 40. The Eagles opened a 5-2 lead before the Juniors struck back with a two in 52 seconds to get within one with 2:44 to play.
Ethan Hou, 17, slid his second of the contest into an empty goal with 25 ticks on the clock to wrap up the game for the Eagles. Other Beijing goals came from Leon Guo, 19; Harry Zhang, 18; Carl Wang, 17 and Michael Zheng, 16.
Mark Louria, 18, from Sarasota, FL scored twice for the Juniors with others from Evan Hoffberg, 17, from Brandon, FL and Parker.
Daniel Perepezko, 19, from West Islip, NY stopped 22 shots to earn the win for the Shougang Eagles and Giannino stopped 27 for the Juniors before dashing to the bench with 70 seconds to play.
Against the Bandits it was Beijing up 1-0 after a period and 2-1 heading to the third, both teams doubling its total down the stretch.
Jerry Zhu, 19, fired a pair for the winners with others for Zheng and Hou and Perepezko picked up the win in goal with a 30-save effort.
Jason Lee, 18, from Thousand Oak, CA and Noah Clark, 19, from New Lenox, IL both scored for the Bandits. Hans Martin Meling, 20, from Stavanger, Norway also turned aside 30 in goal for the Bandits.
Semis on Friday
Semi-final contests were scheduled to go Friday morning with the Hitmen set to play the Rush while the Shougang Eagles look to unseat the Whalers.
The two winners will return to play one more time for the championship Saturday at 11:30 a.m. at the Worcester Ice Center.