January 5, 2023 – USPHL Tampa Showcase Edition
It’s a new year, and with it comes a new USPHL Showcase Series event – the 2023 USPHL Tampa Showcase at AdventHealth Center Ice in Wesley Chapel, Fla. Most of the Southeast and all of the Florida Division teams will be heading right back to the Sunshine State after last playing there Dec. 16-19 at the USPHL Florida College Showcase in Estero, Fla.
This time, however, they are joined by teams from around the USPHL landscape, with six of the 10 USPHL Premier divisions represented at the event. We’re going to dig deep into the top four teams by winning percentage in each of the Florida and Southeast Divisions, and overall see what every team in those divisions is up to coming up this first weekend of new year competition.
(Order is by 2022-23 winning percentage)
The Eels continue to set the standard in the Florida Division, which they have won the last four years running, from 2018-19 through 2021-22. Only the Tampa Bay Juniors, in the inaugural USPHL Premier season of 2017-18, have kept the Eels from a complete monopoly on the division crown. Currently, the Eels stand at 19-4-1-1, good for 40 points and a spot in the Top 15 overall of the 69-team coast-to-coast circuit. Remarkably, the Eels were 19-4-0-2 with 40 points at the same 25-game mark last season, and one point off their best 25-game record ever, 19-3-1-2 for 41 points.
- The Eels have expanded their lead year-over-year. They were just seven points ahead of Tampa Bay at this time last year, while they are currently 11 points ahead of the second-place Florida Jr. Blades.
- The Eels have only trailed after the first period three times this year, and they’ve won all three instances. They share the only undefeated record when trailing after one period with the Northern Cyclones (5-0-0-0).
- Collin Patterson’s 22-game, 35-point scoring streak is the second-longest in the league, after Fresno Monster Chris Miraldo’s 23-game, 62-point streak. It is a long way for anyone to go to break Brandon Osmundson’s 35-game, 80-point streak from his Hampton Roads Whalers’ championship season of 2018-19.
- Duncan Rolleman stands at sixth overall in Premier wins with 12, the majority coming off six-and five-game winning streaks posted this season.
The Road Ahead: The Eels are diving in full-bore, with five games in the four days at the Tampa Showcase. They’ll start with the Fort Wayne Spacemen, entering on a 14-0-0-0 winning streak after most recently sweeping the USPHL Chicago Showcase.
From there, it’s on to the Minnesota Blue Ox on Saturday, the Great Lakes Division-leading Toledo Cherokee, and two more Nationals staples in the Chicago Cougars and Metro Jets.
- Out of their showcase opponents, they’ve seen two – the Minnesota Blue Ox, once during the 2017-18 regular season (a 5-4 win), and in the 2021 Nationals round robin (3-3 tie); and the Chicago Cougars at the 2022 Nationals (4-2 win).
Florida Jr. Blades
The Jr. Blades are currently having their best regular season in the USPHL Premier, as judging by their all-time best of 29 points at the 24-game mark. They surpassed the points they put up in their Nationals campaigns of 2019 (17) and 2022 (19) at the same milepost. They have the runway to continue to push the Florida Eels for first place, but they are more concerned now about the three teams within six points of them behind. The Atlanta MadHatters are two points back, the Tampa Bay Juniors four points and the Palm Beach Typhoon are six points back. The Jr. Blades helped themselves by going 3-1 at the USPHL Florida College Showcase Dec. 16-19, though three other Florida Division teams did the same (Eels, Typhoon, and Columbia Infantry).
- The Florida Jr. Blades have handled themselves well in one-goal games, never losing in regulation at 4-0-1-0. They’ve also won a lot when holding the definite upper hand, standing at 4-0-0-0 in games decided by four or more goals.
- Matt Mongeau rode three four-point performances and an 18-point month of December to rise to No. 1 in team scoring with 38 points in 24 games, two points ahead of teammate Charlie Chinian, and one behind the division leader Collin Patterson (39 points).
The Road Ahead: The Jr. Blades start with two games Friday against the Toledo Cherokee and Minnesota Mullets, both first-time regular season matchups. They continue with a single game against the Cincinnati Jr. Cyclones on Saturday and close with the Metro Jets Development Program (MJDP). The Jr. Blades last faced MJDP at the 2019 USPHL Southeast Showcase, winning 4-2 in October 2019.
Palm Beach Typhoon
The Typhoon’s 3-1-0-0 performance at the USPHL Florida College Showcase in Estero, Fla., to close their 2022 action also lifted them to the .500 mark. At 11-11-1-0 overall, they are also 5-5-0-0 in their last 10, so the up-and-down elevator of the season is something they’ve gotten used to, making their showcase performance even sweeter. Currently in fifth place in points outside of the top four cutoff, they hold a better winning percentage than the current fourth place team the Tampa Bay Juniors, on whom they have four games in hand. A first-ever playoff berth is certainly in the realm of possibility. With at least one win against each Florida Division opponent so far this year, the Typhoon can’t help but be optimistic about their chances if they get into the postseason dance.
- The Typhoon join the WBS Knights as the only teams to have stopped all of six shootout attempts against them league-wide.
- Vesse-Wincent Lampen leads the team in scoring with 32 points. With 10 more career points, he would become the Typhoon’s only 100-point scorer in their short 18-month history. His next goal will also be his 50th career goal, which would put him into the top 10 for goals among active players since September 2021.
The Road Ahead: The Typhoon start their Tampa Showcase run on Saturday afternoon, going up against the Jersey Hitmen. Sunday’s two-fer schedule sees them up against the Minnesota Mullets and then the Decatur Blaze. They finish on Monday morning against the MJDP.
- The Typhoon defeated the Blaze, 7-4, at the 2022 USPHL Winter Showcase in Marlboro, Mass., the only previous time they’ve faced any of their Tampa Showcase foes.
The MadHatters stand at 12-12-2-1 overall, and even at .500, they have a chance for “home ice” advantage at the Florida Division playoffs. They are only two points back of the second place Florida Jr. Blades and plenty of time to make a run and seal up a good spot. Lot of hockey to be played, including their four games at the USPHL Tampa Showcase coming up. Like the Jr. Blades, the MadHatters are enjoying unprecedented success at their milepost of 27 games. With 27 points, that beats their previous best of 24 in 2018-19 as the Atlanta Jr. Kings, and almost double their 14 points after 27 games in 2021-22. A true benchmark for how far the MadHatters have come can be seen in their Nov. 4-6 series against the Florida Eels, over whom they went 2-0-0-1. They are currently 8-7-1-1 against Florida Division opponents this year.
- Veteran forward Ben Baker, leading the MadHatters with 32 points, officially crossed the 50-goal and 100-point milestones for his three-year career at the USPHL Florida College Showcase. Both were attained on points from his 4-2-6 performance against the Carolina Jr. Hurricanes in the MadHatters’ final 2022 game. His career line reads 50-51-101 in 105 Premier games. His history in the USPHL, however, goes back to 2017-18 – he spent three seasons with the Northern Cyclones at the USPHL 15U, 16U and 18U levels before joining Atlanta.
- Defenseman Owen Larson entered the season already standing as the MadHatters’ all-time leading scorer (going back to the transition from the Jr. Kings to the MadHatters in 2019-20). He crossed the 100-point barrier in November and now stands with 109 points in 149 games. The fourth-year MadHatter has played exactly a full 44-game season’s worth of games more than his nearest teammate on the all-time games played leaderboard (Baker, with his 105).
The Road Ahead: The MadHatters begin Friday afternoon at the showcase against the first-year Minnesota Squatch. Saturday sees games against the Chicago Cougars and Toledo Cherokee, and they wrap up Sunday against the Decatur Blaze.
- Atlanta teams have faced the Decatur Blaze twice before, but never as the MadHatters. The former Jr. Kings defeated the Blaze 7-1 in October 2018, and the former Atlanta Jr. Knights beat them 6-2 in October 2017, both at the USPHL Chicago Showcase.
In Other Action
The Tampa Bay Juniors started the showcase Thursday afternoon with a massive statement win against the Fort Wayne Spacemen, who entered the Tampa showcase on a 14-0 winning streak, one of the best in the league at the time.
From there, the Juniors are on to face the Jersey Hitmen on Friday evening, and a two-game Sunday featuring the Minnesota Squatch and the Metro Jets. They finished Monday against the Minnesota Blue Ox.
The first-year Columbia Infantry draw the Cincinnati Jr. Cyclones on Friday, the Decatur Blaze on Saturday afternoon and the Squatch on Saturday night, and they finish with the Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings on Monday at noon.
The Rush inhabit a space they’re used to. The 2021 National Champions have been in first, second or third league-wide after 30 games every season going back to the inaugural USPHL Premier season of 2017-18. And when the dust settles in late February, they’re also in that same spot. So it’s no surprise to see the Rush No. 2 in points with a 24-4-1-1 record. They are Top 10 in winning percentage with an .833 so it’s certainly expected they’ll be right in the Nationals conversation when all is said and done. They also enter the new year on a 7-0 winning streak, including all four games at the USPHL Florida College Showcase.
- Scoring the first goal says a lot about the type of team you are, especially in the case of the Rush and the league-leading Utah Outliers. The Rush’s 20 first goals are second only to the Outliers’ 23, matching their 1-2 position in the league points race. The Rush are 20-2-0-1 when drawing first blood.
- The Rush like a little insurance when they win, so it’s no surprise they join the Outliers in leading another category – best record when winning by two goals (6-0-0-0).
- Offensively, the Rush are powered by the 1-2 punch of Livio Azevedo and Hunter Berry, who have 46 and 45 points, respectively. Azevedo is 10th in the league in assists with 35.
- Goalie Nick Anderson is tied for second in wins with 14.
The Road Ahead: The Rush were hoping to play their planned outdoor game on Friday, but weather postponed that tilt against Carolina yet again. So it’s on to Tampa, where they’ll start Saturday evening against Wisconsin Rapids.
Sunday will see the Rush face the Metro Jets and Minnesota Blue Ox, followed on Monday by the Chicago Cougars. All three have been Nationals regulars the last few times out.
- The Rush earned a decisive win over Wisconsin Rapids in their only previous meeting back in 2017-18.
- Including Nationals games, the Rush are 2-1-0-0 all-time against the Cougars, defeating them in the 2021 round robin at Nationals, and splitting games in 2017-18 (6-0 Rush win) and 2019-20 (1-0 Cougars win).
- The Rush and Jets have met twice before with the same result both times – a 4-3 Rush win, first at the 2018 USPHL Chicago Showcase and more recently at the 2021 Islanders Hockey Club Showcase. There, the Jets came in on a 20-0 record out of the gate, a streak which was ended by Charlotte in OT.
- The Rush’s only game against the Minnesota Blue Ox was at the 2019 Nationals and ended in a 3-3 round robin tie.
It’s been written many times this season just how good a year this is for the Patriots. So why not pull that vinyl out of its sleeve and play it again? At 22-7-1-0, the Patriots are tied for seventh in points, with 45. That is more than their points at the same mark the last two seasons – combined (31 after 30 games in 2021-22 and seven points at the same mark in 2020-21). They’ve only been .500 or better twice after 30 games – last year at 14-13-2-1 and 2019-20 at 14-14-2-0. But in neither of those seasons were they able to break through into the playoffs. They’re getting close to clinching for the first time – so when that day comes, get ready for the roar along the Potomac River.
- Only the Vernal Oilers have more wins without a loss when leading after two periods, as the Patriots have put together a 20-0-0-0 record in that situation (just shy of the Oilers 21-0-0-0).
- The Patriots are one of few USPHL Premier teams with a positive record even when being outshot in games, at 5-4-0-1.
- On a team with several weapons, including four players with 30 points or more, Jakob Johanesson leads the way with 37 points in 29 games.
- Goalies Tobia Iglovsky and Elias Algotsson Holm have combined for an impressive .917 save percentage this year.
The Road Ahead: Potomac and the Hampton Roads Whalers are remaining in Virginia this weekend for a pair of games at the Prince William Ice Center. The Whalers are 32-10-0-2 all-time against the Patriots, who have the better record the last two seasons at 7-4-0-1.
The Generals will extend their holiday break from games by another week, as they don’t get back into action until Jan. 14-15 against the Hampton Roads Whalers. For now, they enjoy a 45-point stance after 31 games off of a 22-8-1-0. They are not sitting on their hands, however, as practices will be intense after a 4-4-0-0 December that is slightly below the Generals’ expectations, especially after starting the season 7-0-1-0 for September and going undefeated in their four November games as well. Next weekend, you will certainly see a Generals team with fire in their bellies and a determination to break a second place points tie with the Patriots and make their charge against the rival Charlotte Rush for the division title.
- The Generals are top 10 this year in penalty killing (89.0, sixth) and in team goals against average (2.32, ninth).
- The Generals have a number of different offensive leaders, such as Jack McCandless (points leader with 32), Maddox Goudie and Joe Petite (assists leaders with 18 apiece) and Matthew Hamacher (goals leader with 17).
- Goalies Lenny Perno and Jadon Lee are so close in the major goaltending categories. Perno leads with a 2.21 goals against average and Lee is just behind at 2.29. Perno has a .929 save percentage and Lee is at .926. Talk about two No. 1’s!
Carolina Jr. Hurricanes
The Jr. Canes sit outside of the top four in points, but hold a slightly higher winning percentage at .607 than the very close Nashville Spartans (.594). With 34 points off a 17-11-0-0, the Jr. Canes are still a force, though they’re just a little off where they were at the same spot after 28 games last year (38 points) or their Nationals season of 2020-21 (40 points), but there’s plenty of time to make a big push further up the ranks. It’s an uphill climb, but overtaking Potomac or Richmond are well within the realm of possibility – if they can keep ahead of the Spartans, who do hold a four-point lead on them. Carolina has four games in hand on the Jr. Canes.
- Leading scorer Ethyn Hopp (36 points) passed Justin Hall and Jordan Hall this season to both cross the 100-point mark and to become the all-time leading scorer for the Jr. Canes – and Jr. Eagles before them. He enjoyed 11 points in eight games during the month of December.
The Road Ahead: The Jr. Canes will face the Metro Jets and Chicago Cougars on Saturday, as well as the Minnesota Blue Ox on Sunday and the Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings on Monday morning.
- Carolina split its only two matchups against the Blue Ox as the Eagles in 2017-18 (win) and 2018-19 (loss).
- The Jr. Canes won their only prior game against the Chicago Cougars at the 2019 Islanders Hockey Club Showcase, 4-2.
- The Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings defeated the Jr. Canes 2-0 at the 2021 Islanders Hockey Club Showcase.
In Other Action
The Nashville Spartans will try to get back to fourth in winning percentage and hold on to fourth in points when they hit the ice in the USPHL Tampa Showcase. Their draw includes two Friday games – against the Minnesota Mullets and Minnesota Squatch – followers by a Saturday showdown with the Fort Wayne Spacemen, coming off their first loss in 15 games, and a game against the Cincinnati Jr. Cyclones on Sunday morning.
As aforementioned, the Hampton Roads Whalers will remain in Virginia and take one of their in-state rivals the Potomac Patriots over the weekend.
Drop The Pucks!