#USPHLNationals Premier Team Preview: Fort Wayne Spacemen 

By Joshua Boyd / USPHLPremier.com 


Year 1 at the Nationals was a good start for the Fort Wayne Spacemen. Head Coach Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock hopes that last year’s success – in reaching the quarterfinals in their first Nationals run – is only the hint of better things to come here in 2024. 

They certainly feel like they’re battle-tested, even before Game 1 in Utica.

“It feels great. The Chicago Crush gave us a huge scare,” said Schrock. “We’ve been in a Game 3 to get to Nationals all 5 years of our existence. Fortunately for us, the last two years we’ve found a way.” 

The Crush won Game 1 of their series, in hopes of sending both their Premier and Elite teams to the Nationals. In the end, only the Crush Elite (who advanced against Fort Wayne’s Elite team) would move on. Fort Wayne’s Premier team won the next two games, 4-1 and 5-4 in an overtime Game 3. Jace Lacey registered the game-and series-winning goal. 

“I thought we played scared. We had a lot of guys that haven’t been part of a playoff series with getting the bye in Round 1,” said Schrock. “We did have some age-outs step up big.”

During the series, ‘03’s Noah Takitani (four goals) and Wyatt Fischer (2-2-4) were the leading scorers, while second-year ‘04 goalie Maxim zZnchenko went 2-1 for the series victory. No one player blew the doors off the Crush, but they did get points from 15 different skaters in the three games. So that also means for success at Nationals, every player needs to be in their best shape (champions play six games in six days) and make sure every skater can contribute when faced with adversity. 

“[The plan is to] try to stay healthy and improve every day,” Schrock said. “It’s easy to get caught up in who you’re playing. We need to put a heavy emphasis on the defensive side of the puck.” 

When asked about which teams he sees as the toughest at the Premier, his answer is both simple and practical. 

“Vernal and Potomac, because those are our first two match-ups,” said Schrock. “In a tournament like this, typically the team that controls their emotions and weathers the adversity storm comes out on top.” 

The Spacemen will face the Vernal Oilers and the Potomac Patriots in the Nationals Seeding Round. They’ve never faced either team since the Spacemen’s first season in 2019-20. 

Obviously, the Nationals team that Fort Wayne saw the most was MJDP, being fellow Midwest East Division competitors. Fort Wayne went 3-1-0-0 against MJDP this year, though two of those wins were in overtime and shootout. They’ve defeated both Midwest West representatives the Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings and Minnesota Squatch, both during the USPHL Detroit Showcase. They took a tough loss to Bold City at the USPHL Tampa Showcase in January.