Forward: Mike Villanova, Carolina Eagles.
Wow, the Carolina Eagles really want to make the USPHL Elite playoffs. If you needed any other evidence, look at how they went 8-0 through January and are in a game-to-game battle with the Atlanta Jr. Kings for the fourth and final Southeast Division playoff spot.
The determination takes almost concrete form when you witness ‘01 Mike Villanova’s 16 points through seven January games. That contributed to a month in which Carolina outscored its opponents 51-9.
Villanova continued a scoring streak he began in early December when the holiday break gave way to the USPHL Winter Showcase. There, he put up an 11-point show through four games as the Eagles obviously swept the showcase. There was no post-showcase letdown, as he scored three goals and one assist in his first game back in action the next weekend against Potomac.
Villanova climbed to the tie for the scoring lead on the Eagles with teammate Garrett Auriene, with 36 points apiece.
Honorable Mention:Garrett Auriene, Carolina Eagles; Jake Court, Florida Eels.
Defense: Parker Chadwell, Tampa Bay Juniors.
The Tampa Bay Juniors entered February as the favorites to clinch the Florida Division title in the USPHL Elite, as they try to punch their airplane tickets for Boston and the USPHL Nationals in March.
The team would go there with a defensive corps that has five of the top six defensemen born in 2001, so this is a young but very talented group. Among the ‘01 blueliners is the Valrico, Fla., resident Chadwell, who earned nine points in his seven January appearances.
He helped keep the Juniors’ opponents to 25.7 shots per game during the month, as the Juniors went 6-1 in January. Chadwell started the month off right with a three-assist effort, and later posted six points over the space of four games.
Honorable Mention: Dylan Blue, Carolina Eagles; Georgiy Samodelkin, Florida Eels.
Goal: Thomas Steere, Florida Eels.
The Eels have been hot on the Tampa Bay Juniors’ rear bumpers all season, and they remained so in January, matching Tampa’s 6-1 record, including the two teams’ split series at the end of the month.
At the helm of four of the Eels’ wins was Steere, a big body (6-feet-4-inches, 216 pounds) who can also move with the best of them. He went 4-0 and had a 20-save shutout against the rival Florida Jr. Blades on Jan. 13 to boot. His goals against average for the month was a miniscule 1.50, and he stopped 90 of 96 shots for a .938 save percentage.
On Jan. 27, he held a powerful Tampa Bay offense that had scored eight on Florida one night earlier to just three goals for the Eels’ bounceback win in Game 2 of the weekend series.
Steele (‘99/Exeter, N.H.) stands third in the league among goalies with at least 400 minutes played in save percentage with a .934, and he is in the top 10 for goals against average at 2.15.
Honorable Mention: David Blue, Carolina Eagles; Greg Moon, Hampton Roads Whalers.