By Lexi Obrycki / USPHLPremier.com
Seed: Great Lakes #1
All games at Utica University Nexus Center, Utica
Day 1: Thursday, March 23, vs. Islanders Hockey Club, 5:30 p.m. EST
Day 2: Friday, March 24, vs. Vernal Oilers, 3 p.m. EST
Toledo Cherokee is gearing up to head off to the USPHL Nationals in Utica, N.Y. This year being the third consecutive season the team has made an appearance at Nationals, they have some veterans to help pave the way for the new players.
Having made a good run last year before losing in the quarterfinals to their division rivals the Metro Jets, the team is doing everything they can to win this year.
The Cherokee are coming in off two decisive victories in the division playoffs against the Cincinnati Jr. Cyclones, after winning the Great Lakes Division regular season title. The Cherokee went 38-6-0-0, giving them 76 points – fourth best points total in the entire 69-team USPHL Premier Conference.
The team’s head coach, Kenny Miller, spoke about his team’s performance in the playoffs, stating that they played well and scored a lot of goals. He also expressed excitement about the team’s third consecutive qualification for Nationals.
“It’s exciting for our organization. We have three guys – Dominik McNamara, David Crandall and Zeth Stelmaszak – that have been to all three trips and a handful of veteran guys that were there last year that our new guys can lean on while we are out there,” Miller added.
The Cherokee’s veteran-laden attack saw them rise to become a top 10 in both offense and defense. They gave up just 2.07 goals per game (sixth), while tormenting opponents with 5.68 goals per game (eighth). Their defensive corps gave up just 24.98 shots on goal per game, third lowest in the Premier.
However, basically every team at Nationals will have a place on some big statistical leaderboard for the league. Coach Miller acknowledged that Nationals will be a challenging event, with every game being a battle against the best of the best. He emphasized the importance of how it’s important to prepare his players to hit the ice ready to play.
Miller also highlighted several key players who made a difference in the finals series, including Nicklas Millhorn, Jason Crossland, Collin Preston, Jacob Slater, Ryan Stanley, and Frank Murphy. With these players leading the way, the team will no doubt be a force to be reckoned with at Nationals.
With 82 points, Millhorn finished just five outside the Premier’s Top 10 overall leaderboard, but his 45 goals were good for sixth. Veteran blueliner Ryan Stanley’s 41 assists finished ninth among Premier defensemen. Murphy was the winningest goaltender in the Premier, taking 25 W’s and was top 10 in goals against average (1.82).
In preparation for nationals, the team will be practicing all week long to ensure that they pay attention to details, stay fresh, and fully understand the game plan for their first game.