Week of Oct. 21, 2022
The Florida Cup begins on Saturday, and Day 1’s play-in games will set up Championship Sunday where two gorgeous trophies await the winners of each of the USPHL Premier and USPHL Elite division winners in the four-team tournament following an in-season college hockey tournament format featuring championship and consolation games on Day 2. It’s all the Florida teams hitting the ice – the Florida Eels and Florida Jr. Blades (both in their first game action since before Hurricane Ian laid waste to their home region), along with the Tampa Bay Juniors and Palm Beach Typhoon.
And in a great show of resilience in the face of weather-caused adversity, it’s all being played at the Fort Myers Skatium, Fort Myers having been scant miles away from landfall for the Category 4 Hurricane Ian on Sept. 28.
Here, we’ll look at how the Florida Division teams fared this past weekend, and some matchups.
Records are for games between Oct. 12 and 18.
Atlanta MadHatters (2-0)
Three weeks after a 1-3 performance at the USPHL Southeast Showcase, the MadHatters looked like a new team as they put up a big sweep of the Columbia Infantry (fresh off their own post-showcase sweep of Tampa one week earlier). Atlanta defeated Columbia by scores of 5-2 and 7-6 in overtime and pulled into a tie for fifth in points with a 3-6-0-0 record.
- This was the MadHatters’ first sweep of a common opponent since Feb. 19-20 when they defeated the Palm Beach Typhoon twice at the tail end of last season.
- Second-year MadHatter Matthew Cunningham (‘04) has points in each of the team’s last three games, including their showcase-closing 6-1 loss to Hampton Roads on Sept. 24. He is carrying a 2-2-4 streak over three games into his fourth.
- Gavin Graham, who had a 1-3-4 line over the weekend, scored his first OT goal in two seasons, and fourth game-winner.
- The MadHatters last won an OT game on Dec. 4, 2021, when they beat the Florida Jr. Blades, 6-5, with Beau Depencier scoring the only OT goal of last season.
The Road Ahead: The MadHatters will watch the Florida Cup from Georgia as they are off until next weekend, when they’ll travel to Palm Beach for three against the Typhoon.
Tampa Bay Juniors (1-0)
Smarting from a tough stretch of three losses, the Juniors hit the road to cross the state to the Atlantic coast, where they were able to work their way to a 4-3 hard-fought victory against the Palm Beach Typhoon. It was no walk in the park. Two third period goals by Typhoon veteran Vesse-Wincent Lampen had the score sitting at 2-2. However, two right after that from the Juniors’ own Milan Levcenko – a great example of #USPHLAdvancement, having come up from the Elite where he was a 2021-22 all-star – essentially sealed the deal, despite one last try for a tie from Palm Beach.
- Juniors’ veteran Jack Fleer (‘02) scored an assist in his fourth straight game and currently has a 1-4-5 streak heading into the Florida Cup.
- Newcomer ‘03 Aleksis Ostankovics, who just joined prior to the Oct. 8-9 series against Columbia, posted another 1-1-2 performance and how has two goals and three assists for five points in his first three North American games.
The Road Ahead: The team will draw the Florida Jr. Blades in Game 1 of the Florida Cup on Saturday, and the Juniors hold an all-time series lead of 30-10-1-0 against their Gulf foes from Estero.
In Other Action
It’s the Florida Eels vs. the Typhoon in the Saturday opener of the Florida Cup tournament. The Eels won all eight of their games against the Typhoon last year, the inaugural season for the Palm Beach side..
Columbia vs. Carolina
The Infantry will look to shake off their pair of losses to the MadHatters when they cross state and divisional lines to face the Southeast’s Carolina Jr. Hurricanes in a home-and-home – Friday night in Morrisville, N.C., and Saturday night in Columbia, S.C. It is the first games ever for these two squads which share common ownership.
The Spartans certainly had their best weekend of their short 11-game existence so far, picking up three straight wins against the Elmira Jr. Enforcers in a non-division weekend. They pulled their record to 5-6-0-0, but in a tight and tough Southeast Division, they are still in sixth place – the same winning percentage of .455 would give them fourth in a different division and third in still another. Nashville won the three-game set 5-2, 6-4, 5-3.
- The Spartans did set some new team records, including most goals in one game (six, in a Saturday 6-4 victory), most goals in three consecutive games against one opponent (16) and even most goals in two straight games against the same opponent (11, counting either Friday and Saturday or Saturday and Sunday). This was only the Spartans’ third time facing the same opponent at least two games in a row.
- Third-year Premier veteran Jakob Holley led the way for the team against the Jr. Enforcers with a 2-7-9 line over all three games – and his active four-game scoring streak is currently showing a 2-8-10 line.
- Niko Schoner, who joined the Spartans after the Southeast Showcase, has 7-2-9 over all five games since Oct. 2.
- Daniel Duzek, an ‘06 goalie from Slovakia, went 2-0 in Elmira, stopping 58 of 63 shots for a .920 save percentage.
The Road Ahead: The Spartans remain out of divisional competition until early November. This weekend, it’s another big trip north and east to Wayne, N.J., where they will face the Jersey Hitmen for three games.
Carolina Jr. Hurricanes (2-0)
The Jr. Canes looked mighty, well, mighty in coming off a sweep of the Hampton Roads Whalers at home this past weekend. This marked their first sweep of a common opponent over two games this season (in only three situations so far). Their regulation wins of 3-2 and 7-2 gave them their first weekend sweep in six tries going back to Feb. 5-6 last year, when they defeated Potomac 4-3 in OT and 4-2.
- Not once in 2021-22 did the Jr. Canes fully deprive a common opponent of points in a weekend series. You have to go back to a Dec. 4-6, 2020, three-game sweep of Potomac to find the last time they left an opponent without a point over a full weekend.
- With their Oct. 9 shootout win over Charlotte, the Jr. Canes are on their second three-game winning streak of the young season. Their first came in their first three games at the Southeast Showcase Sept. 24-25.
- Scoring has been largely by committee for the Jr. Canes. Twenty-one players have points for the Jr. Canes early on, and 17 have multiple points. Only two veteran Jr. Canes players – leading scorer Zach Nicholls (6-6-12 in 10 games) and former Elite All-Star Ryan Grant (4-6-10 in nine games) – have a point per game or better.
- Goaltenders Max Geddes and Levente Chmelik combined for the two wins this past weekend, stopping a combined 73 of 77 shots (nearly evenly divided) for a .948 save percentage.
The Road Ahead: Carolina heads south to Columbia for their first-ever match-up with that first-year squad out of the Florida Division.
Charlotte Rush (2-0)
The Rush’s two-game sweep of the Richmond Generals flipped the top of the Southeast in Charlotte’s favor. They defeated Richmond in a pair of two-goal decisions, 6-4 and 3-1, last weekend.
- This marked the Rush’s third full weekend sweep out of four weekend series against a common opponent, dropping only the aforementioned shootout to the Carolina Jr. Hurricanes a week earlier.
- Coincidentally, it was a little over a year ago that the Rush got their last sweep of Richmond beating them 3-1, 2-1 on Oct. 9-10, 2021. The three remaining weekends of 2021-22 between the rivals saw a Richmond sweep (including a shootout win) and two split weekends.
- Veteran goaltender Nick Anderson (‘03) stopped 74 of 79 shots against the Generals to earn both wins and remain one of just three goaltenders across the vast USPHL Premier landscape to remain undefeated after at least five games. He stands at 7-0-0-0 with a 1.84 goals against average and a .944 save percentage.
- Anderson’s 44 saves on 45 shots in the 3-1 win on Sunday marked a career-best, one save better than a 43-of-45 performance against the Florida Eels at the 2021 USPHL Florida Showcase.
- Livio Azevedo and Carter Schram are both in a four-way tie for longest active scoring streak at 10 games apiece. Azevedo’s streak has seen a 4-17-21 line and Schram’s is at 6-9-15.
- Azevedo has only missed the scoresheet once since joining the team from Switzerland this year, posting 27 points and a league-leading 20 assists in 11 games.
The Road Ahead: A trip to Virginia to face the Potomac Patriots is next up for the Rush. The Rush have not yet faced the much-improved Patriots, who stand at 8-3-0-0, by far their best start in the current incarnation of the USPHL Premier. The Patriots had never previously been above .500 after 11 games (their closest was 4-6-1-0 in 2018-19). In 29 meetings, Potomac has only been victorious three times, including a 7-1 Patriots win on Oct. 17, 2021, Potomac’s last in the all-time match-up.
In Other Action
Richmond and Hampton Roads are both eyeing each other like outlaws on a dusty Old West street, with the equal hunger to pull away from a couple tough weekends against Charlotte and Carolina, respectively, by dropping a sweep on their Virginia rivals. The Whalers hold an all-time series lead of 26-15-0-1, though only a 12-9-0-0 lead in the last three seasons, include their earlier split on Sept. 17-18, which saw a 4-3 Whalers OT victory and a 6-1 Gens win.
Drop The Pucks!