By Joshua Boyd / USPHLPremier.com
Seed: New England #1
Seeding Round Schedule
All games to be played at Utica University Nexus Center, Utica, N.Y.
Game 1: Thursday, March 23, vs. Tampa Bay Juniors, 8 p.m. EST
Game 2: Friday, March 24, vs. MJDP, 5:30 p.m. EST
Remainder of schedule to be determined by results of seeding round
The Northern Cyclones, for a good portion of the season, enjoyed the best winning percentage in the USPHL Premier – and then finished in the top seven in that category so they are still in the upper echelon of serious contenders for the ultimate USPHL Nationals prize.
“We expect to have a good showing every year we make it to Nationals. We look forward to playing the best of the best and giving our players the opportunity to compete at the highest level and getting the exposure for them. Being here also helps our players get exposed to the best colleges in the country,” said Head Coach Bill Weiand.
The Cyclones went 36-7-1-0 on the year. All year long, they only went to two shootouts, a telling stat that shows teams couldn’t generally hang with them for all 65 minutes of available full team play. Conditioning and an intense dedication to detail marked the season – as well as their ability to face adversity headlong and come back. It was a recipe that spanned the Premier, Elite (also at Nationals) and NCDC teams and earned all three division titles in the respective leagues.
“It’s a good proof of what our organization is able to accomplish each year. This will be our third straight season and fourth out of five years of making it to Nationals at the Premier level,” said Weiand. “It’s proof that our program has been a leader in the league for winning, which also translates to college commitments.”
The Cyclones were one of the leaders in the Premier coming out of the 2022-23 regular season with six NCAA Division III commitments – and with the Cyclones reaching the league’s biggest stage again, expect more to come.
Getting there was a battle in itself. Down one game to zero after the Bridgewater Bandits posted a 3-0 shutout to kick off their second round playoff series, the Cyclones rallied with wins of 7-3 and 6-2 in Games 2 and 3 to punch their ticket.
“It was a very tough battle. The Bandits won Game 1 and we had to dig deep to beat them,” said Weiand. “They made things very tough for us, but we were able to come together to get past them.”
The Cyclones have much in common with many of the teams in their corner of the USPHL galaxy, putting forth a squad with massive depth that gets you from everywhere, rather than having one or two players stand out as superstars for opponents to mark. Three players – Billy Dougherty (55 points), Justin Tremblay (49 points) and Simon Rulc (37 points) – averaged more than a point per game, while 29 in total scored at least one point.
“Our veteran leaders all year have been the driving force for us – Seth Orozco, Spencer Craig, Benji Orgil, Adam Skard, Connor Crawford, and Garrett Connor,” added Weiand. “We have gotten good performances from our ’03’s as well who have been key guys for us, in Billy Dougherty, Justin Tremblay, Scotty Swain, and Max Abramson.”
NCAA scouts love the Cyclones defense, as three are already set for the next level – Orozco (Lake Forest), and the duo of Alex Ferris and Spencer Craig (Mass. College of Liberal Arts). The Cyclones gave up the fifth-fewest shots on goal per game in the regular season, at 26.32.
The Cyclones and the WBS Knights – another Nationals team – are the only two teams who had two goalies in the top 10 of goals against average this year, with Mason Meyer ranking fifth (1.78) and Jeffrey Fillion eighth (1.96).
Making the trip to Utica alongside their Elite compatriots, the Northern organization got some sendoffs put together, but the laser focus was on what must be done in upstate New York.
“The team will have some team events before Nationals, but again will keep things very normal and the same as it has been all year!” said Weiand.
The Cyclones hit the ice for a practice just over 24 hours before their 2023 Nationals debut on Thursday night at 8 p.m. against the Tampa Bay Juniors. At this point, nothing new is going to be taught or learned – it’s all about the reps and staying loose and ready.
“We will keep everything the same as it has been all year,” said Weiand. “We are going to be consistent. Just working hard each day on the ice and in the weight room.”