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The Week In Review: USPHL Premier/Elite Divisions

By Jim denHollander / USPHL.com, 09/20/18, 11:00PM EDT

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There were some big highlights over the second weekend (Sept. 14-16) of play for the United States Premier Hockey League (USPHL)’s Elite and Premier Divisions, topped by a 139-shot, 29-goal offensive explosion by the Florida Eels’ Premier team.

Eight Eels players collected five or more points in the set and goalies combined to stop 44 of 45 shots against.

After an opening weekend split with the Tampa Bay Juniors, the Eels sit at 3-0-1 with an impressive 38 goals for.

Despite that solid start, the Eels sit second in the division behind the Swamp Rabbit,s who collected a 4-2 win at home against Tampa Bay on Friday and a 4-1 win at Florida Hospital Center Ice Saturday to run its record to a still perfect 4-0.

The eight points collected in the standings have the squad halfway to last season’s 16-point output.

Leading the way for the Eels offensively was Colton Crabtree, a ’98 forward from Brighton, Mich., in his third season with the organization. Crabtree fired four goals and four assists against the Hawks for his first points of the season.

Hayden Haldane, a ’98 from Clifton Park, N.Y., added four goals and three assists in the two matches, running his season total to 10-points already, just one behind league leading Daniil Avdioukhin, from the Swamp Rabbits. The ’98 from Centerville, VA has one extra assist through four games.

The fast start has the Eels with five players listed among the league’s Top-10 scorers early in the season.

Meanwhile, between the pipes, Zach Kott and Swede Viktor Paulsson have combined to handle 100 of 107 shots against so far.

Meanwhile, in Elite Division matches, the Eels were equally as dominant, outscoring their opponents, 24-3.

As a result, the Eels hold down the top four spots in Elite scoring and six of the top seven.

Gage Dill, a Fort Myers hometowner and ’01 has five goals and eight assists just three games into his second season with the Eels for a three-point margin atop the scoring list, ahead of the three goals and seven assists for Jake Court, ’00 and from Fort Myers.

The Tampa Bay Juniors also picked up a big 14-2 win, led by a five-point game by Jack Mazur, an ’01 from Trinity, Fla.

 

Havoc knock off division champs

The Midwest West Division showed early signs of parity as six teams kicked off the season and none went 2-0 or 0-2.

The Hudson Havoc served notice they are not about to be abused by the other eight Midwest West entries with an impressive showing against the Minnesota Moose in a pair of home games that matched the defending regular season champs against last season’s ninth-place finisher.

The Moose took Game 1 by a 4-1 score, but led by some stellar work in goal by Hunter Koch, a ’99 from Mountain Lakes, N.J., the Havoc pulled out a 1-0 win the following night.

The Havoc have several returners who appear to have learned well from last season’s baptism of fire.

In other Midwest West Division games, the Wisconsin Rapids RiverKings made the trip to Dodge County Ice Arena to face one of the division’s newest entries Friday night and got a bit of a surprise in a 4-3 defeat against the host Kasson Vipers.

Justin Gibbons, a ’99 from Stoughton, Wis., in his third season of junior hockey, made some history as the Vipers’ first game-winning goal scorer with 2:08 to play.

Nick Barrett, a ’98 from Leonard, Mich., backstopped the historic win, turning aside 36 shots to help the Vipers claim victory despite being outshot 39-20.

The next night, the RiverKings took vengeance with a 5-0 win over Kasson, including a 60-16 shot advantage.

Dom Paciocco, ’99 from Whitby, Ont., kicked off his second season with the RiverKings with a 16-save goose egg.

The Dells Ducks and Minnesota Mullets also turned in a pair of exciting contests, the Ducks rallying back from deficits of 2-1 and 4-3 to capture a 5-4 overtime win in the opener at the Poppy Waterman Ice Arena in Wisconsin Dells. The visiting Mullets moved into the division lead with a 4-1 win in the second game.

Nate Holm, a ’98 from Hastings, Minn., kicked off his third USPHL season and second with the Mullets, with three goals and two assists. That earned him USPHL Premier Midwest Forward Of The Week honors.
 

Hitmen roll over Rockets

An all-Jersey weekend saw the Jersey Hitmen grabbing four points with a 5-3 edge on the road against the New Jersey Rockets at Bridgewater Sports Arena Friday night and a more impressive 8-1 win at Ice Vault Rink on Sunday.

Other Mid-Atlantic Division play saw the Philadelphia Hockey Club making its league debut a win, taking a 3-2 shootout win against the Skipjacks Hockey Club at York City Ice Arena Friday, before the host Skipjacks rallied to pull back a 4-2 win the following day.

Christian Kazoleas, ’98 from Irvine, CA stopped 39 shots through 65 minutes and two more in the shootout to lift Philadelphia to the win in the first game. It was Stefan Vronsky, a ’99 from Riga, Latvia, with a goal and assist to pace the Skipjacks in the Sunday contest.

New York Aviators opened its second with a 5-1 edge against the Jersey Shore Whalers.

Arkhip Ledenkov, ’99 from Polotsk, Belarus helped the Aviators to the win, scoring twice and setting up another.

Elite Division play from the Mid-Atlantic Division saw the Hitmen pick up two wins over the Rockets, before the Rockets managed to find the win column Sunday with a 3-2 edge at home against the New York Aviators.

The Hitmen held a 57-16 edge in shots in the opening contest. Ryan Andrews, ’01 from Oakland, N.J., led the offensive charge with two goals and two helpers while Chris Malota, ’01, from Warwick, N.Y., scored twice and assisted on one.

 

Motor City takes two from Cougars

One of the most impressive runs last season belonged to the Motor City Hockey Club. They turned on the afterburners to climb from near the bottom of the Midwest- ast division to a top two position and ultimately, a spot in the league championship tournament.

It seems the momentum is still with the club, as Motor City opened with a pair of home wins against the defending division champion Chicago Cougars.

 

Junior Bruins, Monarchs start well

A year ago, the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs and Junior Bruins were at opposite ends of the North Division, the Monarchs taking the regular season crown with a 35-8-0-1 campaign and finishing 34-points in front of the last place Bruins.

One weekend into the new season and a new New England Division, the two are neck and neck, both with impressive weekend sweeps.

The Junior Bruins started it off Friday with a 4-1 win at Norway Savings Bank Arena against the expansion Twin City Thunder and held off the same Thunder on home ice at the New England Sports Center a night later, 4-3.

Teams were even at 1-1 after 20 minutes the first night but the Bruins, who dominated the shot clock 38-22 outscored the home team 3-0 the rest of the way.

The defending champs opened on the road against the Syracuse Stars at the Adirondack Bank Center, grabbing a 6-2 win on Saturday night and a 7-0 win the following night.

USPHL Premier North Goaltender of the Wek Raphael Gaughan, a ’00 from Somersworth, N.H., stopped all 21 shots he faced for the shutout win and Christian Heller, ’98 from Pittsburgh had the other win with 25 saves for the Jr. Monarchs.

One other team in the division got off to a winning start as the Boston Bandits picked up a 3-1 edge against the Islanders Hockey Club..

In Elite play, the Bruins and Monarchs went head to head in the lone game of the weekend, capturing by the Monarchs 4-0 at the New England Sports Center on Sunday.

Peter Barry, ’00 from Stoneham, Mass., handled all 16 shots he faced to grab the shutout win in goal and Owen Haas, ’99 from Keene, N.H., scored the first two Monarchs’ goals of the season.

 

Jets already grabbing control

The Metro Jets dominated the Great Lakes Division in its former league and have already opened a bit of a gap three games in. Devlin Macaulay, ’98 from Clarkson, Mich., scored one and set up a pair. He was named USPHL Premier Midwest Forward Of The Week.

Meanwhile, three other teams saw action with parity in effect among the rest of the pack.

After dropping a pair to the Jets, the previous weekend, the Lansing Wolves hit the win column with a 4-3 overtime edge against the Toledo Cherokee at the Summit Sports and Ice Complex on Friday, but the Cherokee rallied back with a 3-2 win in regulation at Team Toledo Ice House the following night. Both W’s were the clubs’ first-ever in the USPHL.

For the Wolves, Noah Piper ’98, from Okemos, Mich., scored the historic overtime winner from Jacob Deratany, ’98 from Macomb, Mich. Deratany also had all three regulation goals in the win.

One other team – the Pittsburgh Vengeance also picked up three points, crossing over to the Northeast Division to play the Niagara Falls Thunder. Thunder took the opener at the Alpha Ice Complex in Pittsburgh Saturday 4-1 with the hometown Vengeance rolling back for a 5-4 in the other match. Once again, it was a pair of first USPHL W’s.

 

Nighthawks get by Jr. Rangers

Along with Niagara from the Northeast was a home and home set for the Connecticut Nighthawks and Connecticut Jr. Rangers.

Denis Kuzminov, ’98 from Klaipeda, Lithuania, fired the game winner in the third minute of overtime to lift the Nighthawks to a 4-3 road win Friday afternoon at Chelsea Piers, then broke open a 2-2 draw after two periods with a 4-1 margin in the final 20 for a 6-3 win Saturday night at the International Skating Center of Connecticut.

Kuzminov ended up with two goals and three assists on the weekend. The USPHL Premier North Forward Of The Week Austin Marini, a ’99 from Hyde Park, Mass., enjoyed a big weekend with two goals and six assists, getting a point on all but two Nighthawks’ goals.

 

Eagles get by Rush

Early reports called for postponement of the scheduled games between the Carolina Eagles and Charlotte Rush with threatened hurricane conditions, but the teams did manage to get the Sunday contests in. Jarret Greene, a ’99 from Ohio, fired a pair of third period goals for the visitors to snap a 1-1 deadlock.

Also, in action in the Southeast Division, the League champion Hampton Roads Whalers stayed perfect with a pair of wins, 5-4 Saturday and 4-1 Sunday against the host Richmond Generals at SkateNation Plus.

The Generals turned in an impressive effort Saturday, storming back from a 4-1 deficit and pulling even early in the final period before Oliver Freden, a ’98 from Helsinki, Finland fired his third of the game, lifting the Whalers in front to stay just 1:45 from the final buzzer. That helped name Freden as the USPHL Premier South Forward Of The Week.  

Elite Division play saw the Richmond Generals take two from the defending league champion Hampton Roads Whalers at SkateNation Plus: 5-1 on Saturday and 8-2 the following day. The Charlotte Rush hit the win column in a Sunday home game 2-1 against the Eagles at Xtreme Ice.