As usual, there are some great matches on tap for the USPHL Premier League heading into the second weekend of January. Listed below are some of the high stakes battles on tap in the eight Premier Divisions, in no particular order.
New Hampshire Monarchs at Northern Cyclones – This is a big weekend for the Monarchs in the New England Division with a pair of crucial contests. On Friday, the Monarchs travel to Cyclones Arena for a 1 p.m. Matinee contest for the division’s runner-up spot. The Cyclones enter the game with a one-point lead on the Monarchs and Islanders Hockey Club.
Metro Jets at Lansing Wolves – The Jets could all but secure the Great Lakes division title this weekend with some good results in three games against the two teams chasing them. The Wolves remain a dozen points behind the Jets and just two up on the Pittsburgh Vengeance, who also have a couple fewer games played. The Wolves are 0-5 against the Jets so far this season and these rivals still have three more meetings to go.
Hudson Havoc at Minnesota Moose – The Moose suffered a rare stumble last weekend, dropping both ends of a set on the road against the Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings. The team will need to recover quick though as the first place and surging Hudson Havoc await them for a two game weekend.
While the Moose dropped a pair, the Havoc wrapped up three consecutive wins last weekend to extend their current win streak to 10 games.
These two teams last met in September, splitting its first two games of the season. The Moose will have home ice advantage this time around with opening faceoffs at 7 p.m. (CST) both Friday and Saturday night.
Charlotte Rush at Richmond Generals – Charlotte holds a six-point edge on the Generals for second spot in the Southeast Division and are 3-0 against the Generals so far this season. But those games were all played in the opening month of the season.
Both teams went into Christmas Break on hot streaks and the Rush collected one more point at the Winter Showcase. It’s now or never for the Generals if they want to make a move toward the top of the division. The Generals will host the Rush at 7:30 (EST) p.m. Saturday night with the same two teams wrapping up a weekend set at SkateNation Plus at 11:15 a.m. Sunday.
DME Swamp Rabbits vs. Tampa Bay Juniors – The Tampa Bay Juniors grabbed a narrow win at Daytona last weekend to split a weekend series and grab its only ‘W’ in five tries against the Swamp Rabbits this season.
The unexpected loss to the Juniors was costly for the Swamp Rabbits though, as it allowed the rival Florida Eels a chance to pull even in the standings and ultimately pull ahead with a midweek victory.
The Rabbits and Juniors will renew acquaintances this weekend with a 5 p.m. (EST) faceoff in Daytona Friday and a 4 p.m. follow up in Wesley Chapel (near Tampa) Saturday.
Chicago Cougars at Midwest Blackbirds - Just five points separate the second place Cougars and third place Blackbirds in the Midwest-East Division but the Cougars have won all three head to head meetings so far this season.
This will be the first of two weekends that sees the team’s facing off in home-and-home sets, the opener at Midwest Training & Ice Center, Dyer, Ind. Saturday at 6:50 p.m. and the return match back at the Leafs Center, West Dundee, IL on Sunday at 4:10 p.m. The Cougars could be a little more worn by Sunday afternoon, opening weekend with a game against the Decatur Blaze on Friday.
Metro Jets at Pittsburgh Vengeance - After closing the gap on Lansing in the Great Lakes Division with a nice showing at the Winter Showcase last weekend, the Vengeance look to show they can compete with the Great Lakes frontrunners in a pair of home games at the Alpha Ice Complex – Saturday at 6:30 p.m. (EST) and an 11:30 a.m. getaway game Sunday.
The Vengeance heads into the weekend just two points behind the Wolves and while the Jets a comfortable 14-points ahead of the Pittsburgh crew, the Vengeance have split its four meetings with the Jets so far this season.
South Shore Kings at New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs – Another battle of interest in the New England Division will see the Jr. Monarchs hosting the Kings at Tri-Town Arena at 8 p.m. (EST) Saturday. With just five points separating second place from fifth in this tightly bunched group, teams move up or down the standings with each game and they are becoming more and more crucial.
Northern Cyclones at South Shore Kings – So, maybe it is a bit redundant this weekend, but once again, every meeting between one of those four New England Division teams ranked between second and fifth seems huge. Depending on results from their earlier respective games, there could be desperation to keep pace in this one or a chance to gap a great weekend for either of these teams. Puck drops at 12:20 p.m. (EST) at the Foxboro Sports Center on Sunday.
Motor City Hockey Club at Detroit Fighting Irish – This one might not have the impact standings-wise, but anytime these Motor City rivals meet, it must be a thriller. The game starts at 7:30 p.m. (EST) at Brownstown Sports Center, sandwiched between a home-and-home pair against Tri-City Icehawks Friday and Sunday for the Irish while the Motor City crew moves on to play at Fraser Hockeyland against the MJDP squad Sunday.