#USPHLNationals Premier Team Preview: Connecticut Jr. Rangers

By Joshua Boyd / USPHLPremier.com


The Connecticut Jr. Rangers are part of the USPHL Nationals field for the first time in the organization’s seven years in the league. However, their head coach Mike Stanaway is no stranger to the event. 

A former New York Aviators head coach, he has qualified teams for the Nationals four times at the Premier level (2019-21 and 2023), so the Jr. Rangers are in good hands for their maiden voyage in the championship tournament.

The Jr. Rangers won the regular season championship for the USPHL Premier, going 41-3-0-0, including finishing on a league record 30-game winning streak. They made it 34 with their postseason victories.

“I am thrilled that we were able to have the success that we have had in our first year at CJR. The support that our players and coaches receive from the CJR organization is outstanding and I am happy that we were able to see results right away,” said Stanaway. 

The Jr. Rangers played a pair of two-game series to get to the Nationals. After decisive victories against the Brooklyn Aviators, they went on to defeat the Rockets Hockey Club 3-1 and 6-0. 

“I do not feel that we had our ‘A’ game against the Rockets. We were battling some injuries and sickness but we should be pretty healthy as we get to Nationals,” added Stanaway. 

Connecticut had the league’s second best offense at 7.65 goals per game (following the Metro Jets’ 8.35), and they were also top 10 in goals against, giving up just 2.42 per game during the regular season. In the postseason, their goal output pretty much remained, at 7.75, while giving up an average of 0.25 goals per game with those three shutouts. They need to continue on this trend of powerful offense and stifling defense in the Nationals. 

“We are just focused on the small details within our game. We are doing what we can to be rested and prepared,” said Stanaway. “There is a lot of hockey to be played in a short amount of time so we want to make sure we are doing what we can to take care of ourselves beforehand.”

Leading the way for the Jr. Rangers during the postseason were Max Tanskanen (10 points in four games) and Joona Juntunen (nine points in three games), as well as Yakov Yakzhin (eight points in three games). Yakzhin joined Fresno’s Noak Persson as being the two players to pass the previous career scoring record in the Premier. Yakzhin passed Jake Meure’s 221 with 231 points, while Persson set the new record at 240.  

In goal, Adrian Lamp stopped 37 of 38 in two wins, and Teddy Ecker registered two shutouts with a total of 38 saves. 

The Rangers will face one of the three teams that gave them losses this year, when they face the Islanders Hockey Club on Friday. IHC did what no other team could do this year – they shut out the Jr. Rangers, defeating them 1-0 on Oct. 29. IHC saw the Jr. Rangers the most out of Connecticut’s opponents, and Connecticut came up with a 3-1-0-0 record against the Islanders. They faced their divisional mates the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights twice, and won both games. 

The other two Nationals teams they’ve faced this year are the Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings (3-0 win on Oct. 9 at the Hitmen Classic) and another of the three teams that defeated Connecticut, the Utica Jr. Comets. The host team defeated Connecticut 4-1 on Sept. 30 at the BJB Shootout. 

The first day at Nationals, Thursday, they will take on the Charlotte Rush, who are making their seventh straight trip to Nationals. The Rangers and Rush have never faced each other. 

“The only opponent we are focusing on is whomever we play next,” said Stanaway. “All of the teams are here for a reason, so we can only take it one opponent at a time.”