USPHL Premier 2023-24 Midwest East Division Players Of The Month: February 2024

Summaries by Joshua Boyd / 

Selection Process: The league media office sends top candidates to divisional coaches for review and coaches either approve or challenge the nominations.


Forward: Gerdas Paulauskas, Chicago Cougars 

Paulauskas (‘04/Lisle, Ill.) is one of just four Cougars all-time to have cracked the 100-point mark for his career, finishing 2023-24 with 139 in 122 games over three seasons. Paulauskas got to this number with a 10-15-25 run over 10 games in February, giving him a career-high of 57 points. Paulauskas also finished the season with a team-leading +4 for the month of February. During the playoffs in March, Paulauskas scored two of the Cougars’ five goals, but it wasn’t enough against Motor City to move on. 


Forward: Alexis Toussaint, Fort Wayne Spacemen 

The 40-goal season posted by Toussaint (‘04/Varennes, Que.) was good enough for him to make the Premier Top 10 in goal-scoring, and he’ll hope to bring that into the Spacemen’s postseason series against the Chicago Crush, and potentially beyond. He put up 12 goals and 21 assists in the Spacemen’s seven February games to close out the regular season. Toussaint’s 40 goals and 84 points were both good for second all-time in the Spacemen’s five-year history. In February, Toussaint also led the way in plus-minus (+9) and won a team-high 51 faceoffs, which was good for a 59 percent success rate in the circle. 


Forward: Austin Combs, Metro Jets Development Program 

The MJDP joined the Spacemen in finishing 1-2, respectively, and earning a first round bye. They’ll start their playoff run this second weekend, and the MJDP hopes to earn its fourth straight qualification. Combs (‘03/Milford, Mich.) will be a big part of this year’s playoff push, coming in hot off a 4-12-16 month of February over 11 games. Combs had previously played with the MJDP in 2021-22 before rejoining the MJDP after a season with the Motor City Gamblers, whom he will see in the second round of the Midwest East playoffs. This year, he finished with 45 points and he has 90 points in 94 career Premier games, all but 12 games and four points of that with MJDP. His 86 points with MJDP is second all-time to teammate Robert Grasso’s 89. 


Defense: Josh Boze, Metro Jets Development Program 

Boze (‘04/Livonia, Mich.) passed the 100 games played mark with MJDP during February, becoming only the second blueliner to play that many games with MJDP. Boze is the current leader among all-time blueliners in career goals with 23. He scored four of those 23 during the month of February, and he added nine assists to stand at 13 points in 11 games. During the month of February, Boze led the MJDP in average ice time at 17:39 per game, and also led in blocked shots with 13. 


Defense: Jake Knieling, Motor City Gamblers 

Knieling (‘05/Arlington Heights, Ill.) put up two goals and 10 assists for 12 points in his final nine games of the regular season in a very successful first junior season with the Gamblers, which saw him finish with 28 points in 39 games. During February, Knieling also led the team in ice time with 23:39 and his +4 was tied for the team lead. He also had one assist in his first two playoff games during the Gamblers’ early March defeat of the Chicago Cougars. 


Goaltender: Sam Burcal, Chicago Cougars 

Burcal (‘06/Countryside, Ill.) certainly showed just how much future upside he has as a rookie ‘06 goalie in the Premier during a 3-0 run in February, in which he gave up just one goal per game. Burcal made 64 saves on 67 shots during his three games of February, good for a division-leading .955 save percentage among goalies with at least 180 minutes played in the month. For the season, Burcal closed with an 8-4-0-0 record with a 2.74 goals against average.