#USPHLPlayoffs: Nashville Spartans vs. Toledo Cherokee

Great Lakes Division 

Toledo Cherokee (3) at Nashville Spartans (2) 

All Games At Gary Force Acura Ice Arena, Nolensville, TN

Sunday, March 10, 7 p.m. CST

Monday, March 11, 1 p.m. CST 

Tuesday, March 12, 1 p.m. CST


By Joshua Boyd / USPHLPremier.com 


The Toledo Cherokee enjoyed being part of the 1-2 punch at the top of the Great Lakes Division – until this year, when it became more of a power trio than a duo. 

The Cherokee and Metro Jets qualified for each of the last three straight USPHL Nationals, and there were few in the Great Lakes Division that could challenge them for those berths. The Nashville Spartans came in this year and shook up the power balance by finishing second to the Metro Jets, and only just by six points. Toledo came in third by nine points. They also had a 45-point cushion over fourth. 

Toledo lost all four of their games to the newcomers this year, the most recent being the closest, a 2-1 Spartans win on Feb. 2. The Spartans also shut out Toledo twice, so Cherokee GM/Head Coach Kenny Miller knows what kind of hill he has to climb. 

They certainly had our number this year. We’ve been able to add some guys that we feel will help our current roster in the series but we understand it is going to be tough to go in there and win two out three against them,” said Miller. “We have had a really good week of practice as we prepared for them so our guys should be ready to go.”  

“The Cherokee are a good team, with a history of winning,” said Nashville Head Coach Liam Tully. “I have no doubt the coaching staff will have them prepared and ready to compete this series. We have been expecting to play them for a chance to go to Nationals for the past several weeks. Based on our games against each other this season, we anticipate it will be a battle. We are very prepared and hungry to compete.”

Toledo skated without much of a problem through their series with Cincinnati, scoring 19 goals in their two games against the sixth seed Jr. Cyclones. 

“We got scoring from a bunch of guys, which was good and when our goalies were tested, they responded well not allowing a goal in the series,” said Miller. 

During the season, the Cherokee were able to lean on very strong veteran players like Jacob Ammar, Brett LoGelfo, Santino Multari and Cameron Reel. Ammar’s 91 points set the Cherokee mark for most points in a single season in their USPHL history. Ammar was also first on the team in plus-minus at +60

LoGelfo improved to 61 points from 43 last year; Multari improved from 32 to 56 points; and Reel scored 49 points in 36 games this year. Reel was also the faceoff specialist, winning 442 draws for 64 percent success. Defenseman Zane Myler put up 41 blocked shots, while Grant Hendrickson and Nick Minghine each blocked 40. 

Austin Nowak and Caleb Kril split the goaltending duties almost evenly, with Nowak going 13-6-0-0 with a .924 save percentage, and Kril went 11-5-2-0. 

Liam Tully said that for Nashville, the team has been utilizing the time off well. 

“At this point of the season it’s a lot of review of our team systems and details,” he said. “We are keeping our practices intense and our compete level high. Playoffs are the best time of the year, and the team is very excited to play.” 

The Spartans featured some heavy hitters, including a number with NCDC experience, such as later arrival Sean Karaman, who had 48 points in just 17 games playing both defense and forward. Through the year, the team was led by six-year USPHL veteran Ronan Keenan, who registered a career-high 88 points, 42 points higher than last year’s first season with Nashville. Keenan is also credited with a team-leading 544 faceoffs for a 63 percent success rate. Add to that his expertise on team buses, starting up a dead bus during the USPHL Tampa Showcase.

Defenseman Austin Micale and forward Khyle Flynn each scored 87 points for more than 250 among the top scoring trio of the team. Micale led the team with a +71, and defenseman Alec Pool was the leading shot-blocker with 41. 

In net, the main man was Daniel Duzek, with an 18-6-1-0 record and a .922 save percentage.