The South continues to provide some of the toughest competition anywhere in the USPHL. All you need to look at is how well three of the Southeast Division teams fared on their trip to New Jersey for the Rockets Hockey Club Showcase. Additionally, even the Charlotte Rush – still undefeated in regulation, as are the Richmond Generals – came up against hard luck with their first loss of the season in a shootout against their Tarheel State rivals the Carolina Jr. Hurricanes. Down south, the Columbia Infantry enjoyed their best weekend yet as a young team, putting up two W’s. And of course, as aforementioned, the teams going north fared very well indeed. We’ll break down all the teams that enjoyed the best success this weekend.
Hampton Roads Whalers (4-0)
Defending regular season champions? Defeated. Defending National Champions? Defeated. Busy but productive weekend for the Whalers, for sure. They trekked up to New Jersey for the Rockets Hockey Club Showcase and racked up victories against the Boston Junior Bruins (4-2), P.A.L. Jr. Islanders (5-0), Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights (3-2) and, to end it on an especially high note, those defending champs, the Rockets Hockey Club (4-3). They ran their winning streak up to nine games, their best since putting up 18 in a row in their second of two straight Premier Championship seasons, in 2018-19. Max Maziarchuk had been Mr. Hot with a seven-game point streak of 7-8-15 through Oct. 9.
The Road Ahead: The Whalers will next face the Carolina Jr. Hurricanes.
Richmond Generals (4-0)
The Generals are one of the five teams that have not lost in regulation after at least six games. They have just finished their second straight showcase sweep. Two weeks ago, they went 4-0 in the Southeast Showcase, and the Rockets Hockey Club Showcase proved just as productive. With shutouts against the WBS Knights (4-0), the Junior Bruins (4-0) and P.A.L. Jr. Islanders (7-0), they extended a team shutout streak to 172:46 going back to Sept. 23 and ending Monday with the Jersey Hitmen’s first goal in a 7-3 Richmond win. Garrett McCabe remains on a tear with 5-8-13 in his last eight games, and Lenny Perno has posted shutouts in three of his last four starts. Jadon Lee, a key to the Generals’ USPHL Elite National Championship team last spring, got his first Premier shutout as well over the weekend.
The Road Ahead: The Charlotte Rush is an obviously perfect starting point to test just how good they are.
Potomac Patriots (3-0)
It was a trifecta of perfection for Southeast teams up in New Jersey, as the Patriots won all three of their contests. One contest had to be postponed due to bus transportation issues, but once they were there, they made no mistake about taking care of business.
The Patriots were handed the defending National Champion Rockets Hockey Club as their first opponents, and calmed their nerves after a 2-0 first period Rockets lead to come back and win 3-2, with all their goals scored in the second. Mauritz Persson’s first North American goal in his first North American game was the difference-maker. He ended up posting that goal and five assists over the weekend.
Next up was a 7-3 win over the Jersey Hitmen on Sunday evening, ahead of a decisive victory to end their run on Monday against the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders. All told, veteran Valerii Kneib led the way with two goals and seven points over all three games, part of a four-game, eight-point scoring streak. Vylodymyr Borodenko is also on a four-game streak of 3-2-5, with a goal and two assists coming at the RHC Showcase. Dawson Smith (2-4-6) and Oscar Sjolander (2-1-3) also registered points in each game.
The Road Ahead: The Patriots are off this week, and will get back in action Oct. 22-23 against the Charlotte Rush at home.
Columbia Infantry (2-0)
Congratulations to this first-year program, as they achieved their first-ever weekend sweep of a single opponent. The Infantry went to Tampa and toughed out a 5-4 victory in Game 1 against the Juniors, and then came back a day later and put up a 5-3 win. This was absolutely statement-making that the Infantry have completely and fully arrived. Recently, the Infantry have been led with point streaks by Nathan Fisher (2-4-7 in four games) and Caden Glamkowski (2-4-6 in three games).
The Road Ahead: The Infantry will host the Atlanta MadHatters on Saturday and Sunday.
Charlotte Rush (1-0-0-1)
Let’s just lay this out there – the Rush are still one of the very best in the USPHL Premier, and one of only five teams league-wide still undefeated in regulation after at least six games. So they lost in a shootout. It literally (obviously) happens to the best of them. After a 6-1 win over Carolina in Game 1 of the weekend, they obviously got under the Jr. Canes’ skin and boom, they were in a shootout. Carolina scored one and were backboned by a fantastic goalie (more on Jared Packman below. Zach Gmerek, Peter Keese and Hunter Berry put up three points over the two games. Berry is on an 11-game, 21-point scoring streak, while Livio Azevedo – the league’s leading scorer with 23 points, has 17 points in his last eight straight.
The Road Ahead: Bring on the Richmond Generals. This one needs no hype. It’ll be amazing hockey.
Carolina Jr. Hurricanes (1-1)
The Jr. Canes’ Ethyn Hopp put in the only goal on Saturday, and then assisted on a Sunday goal and now has points in three straight games. Nigel Morris had his second career shootout goal – and both are winners. The fourth-year Premier veteran’s last shootout goal came in the 2020-21 season as a member of the former Charleston Colonials – against the Carolina Jr. Hurricanes.
The Road Ahead: The Hampton Roads Whalers will pay a visit to the Jr. Canes this weekend.