#USPHLPlayoffs: Chicago Crush vs. Battle Creek Kernels 

Midwest East Division 

Battle Creek Kernels (6) vs. Chicago Crush (3) 

All Games At Addison Ice Arena Olympic Rink 

Friday, March 1, 7:30 p.m. CST

Saturday, March 2, 4:10 p.m. CST

Sunday, March 3, 8:05 p.m. CST (If Necessary) 


By Joshua Boyd / USPHLPremier.com 


The Chicago Crush have progressed quickly in two seasons, to the point where they are already able to host a playoff series. The Crush rose up from fifth in their inaugural 2022-23 season to third here in 2023-24. The Crush went 25-15-3-1 for their first winning season as well. They will take on another team that saw its first year in 2022-23, the Battle Creek Kernels. 

The Kernels saw a slight increase in points year over year, so these are two new USPHL Premier teams looking to make their mark. One or the other will come out of this weekend two wins away from a USPHL Nationals berth.  

“Season records are just numbers on paper, and in playoff hockey, it’s a whole new game,” said Crush GM/Head Coach Steve Maltais, a well-known name in Chicago hockey circles – he was the 11-year Captain of the AHL Chicago Wolves. “We’ve had success against the Kernels in the regular season, but that means nothing now. In the playoffs, every team is hungry, and the Battle Creek Kernels will fight tooth and nail. We won’t rest on our laurels – it’s time for the Chicago Crush to elevate our game.”

“We are playing some of our best hockey of the year right now,” said Kernels Owner/GM/Head Coach Triston Jensen. “Goaltending has been stellar, we’re finding ways to score and we’re locking down our defensive zone. All the games with the Crush have been close. I am excited to see what this series will bring.”

The Crush went 4-0 against the Kernels this year, quite a feat when you see that every game was decided by either two goals or one. Maltais knows that his team needs to be ready for a close game – and they need to give that extra mile needed in the playoffs to come out on top of such games. 

“From the first shift to the last, it’s about giving 110 percent,” said Maltais. “The Kernels won’t make it easy, so every player on the bench needs to be ready to lay it all out on the ice. In the playoffs, it’s do or die, and we’re aiming to advance to the next round with everything we’ve got.” 

Up front, the Crush were powered by scoring leader Caden Day, a local product of the West Dundee Leafs who put up a 26-26-52 line in playing all 44 games. Next up was second-year Crush veteran Nick Zehelein, who had 35 points in 42 games, and second-year Premier player Ryan Hammer produced 34 points in 41 games. Day was the plus-minus leader at +15 (and he also led in hits with 59), and second-year blueliner Jonathan Wood blocked 83 shots, 36 more than his closest teammate. 

For Battle Creek, the second-year forwards Ryan Jaros and Connor Hasse not only went 1-2 in scoring this year, they’re also tops for the Kernels in their short franchise history. Jaros finished with 53 points in 42 games, and Hasse went point-per-game with 44 points in 44 games. They have 71 and 70 points, respectively, over two regular seasons. Second-year defenseman Caleb Dunuroglu was the plus-minus leader with a +3, though he was only able to get into 15 games this year. Hasse won an amazing 544 faceoffs this year (52 percent), and Hasse also led in blocked shots with 74. 

Premier veteran Sebastien Wigfield led the way in net for Battle Creek, making 24 appearances and racking up a very impressive .927 save percentage. The most frequent crease visitor for the Crush was another Premier veteran in Jack Sundhall, who went 17-7-2-1 with a .923 save percentage.