By Joshua Boyd / USPHL.com
New England Division
Northern Cyclones (1) vs. South Shore Kings (8)
All games at Cyclones Arena, Hudson, NH
Friday, March 3, 1 p.m. EST
Saturday, March 4, 1 p.m. EST
Sunday, March 5, 1 p.m. EST (if necessary)
The Northern Cyclones finished in the top 10 of the league in points and winning percentage for the second straight year, as well as garnering repeat New England Division champion honors. This veteran-laden team is driven to send their ‘02’s off into the sunset with the top prize available, a National Championship.
“We have a good veteran group of 02s that are hungry to win and we have good depth / health going into the playoffs,” said Head Coach Bill Weiand, of his team that finished 37-3-3-1 for seventh overall in the USPHL Premier. They face the South Shore Kings, who went 14-26-4-0.
It is a long, long road for any team to get to their ultimate goal in March. The Cyclones have two best-of-three New England Division series to get through just to hope to punch their ticket to the Nationals, to be held in Utica, N.Y., between March 23-28. Whichever team wins Nationals has to win six games in six days, as well.
They will face two other opponents hungry for the same trip, even if they’re statistical underdogs in their series against the Cyclones, the No. 1 seed for as long as their New England postseason stand lasts.
Defense was always a strength for the Cyclones this year. They were sixth in team goals against average (2.15) and their blueline corps was one of the best in the league, giving up just 26.24 shots on goal per game, ranked fifth.
The team was led by Billy Dougherty’s 55 points, followed by Justin Tremblay with 49 and Simon Rulc and Scotty Swain, both with 37. In net, Jeffrey Fillion was a top 10 goaltender in save percentage at .932, and he and Mason Meyer both finished in the top 10 for GAA (1.96 and 1.78, respectively). The team is loaded with several NCAA Division III commits who are expected to make their best last stand in junior hockey.
“The Cyclones are really good and well-coached. They make you earn everything you get. They did win the season series,” said Kings Coach Dave O’Donnell.
The Cyclones may have won the season series by a 4-1 record, but the Kings had the last word, winning 4-3 on Feb. 8.
“We are going to have to play our best to compete. We will need to play with high tempo, discipline, quality puck management and detail focused,” added O’Donnell.
The Kings have had some strong showings through the season as well, including from scoring leader Easton Stafford (42 points), Daniel Sieto (28 points), Salem State University commit Ryan Meagher (22 points), Tyler Maxner (15 points) and Chris Allain (12 points).
He is also highly confident in his group of six defensemen, as the Kings will rotate three pairs throughout the game to keep the troops fresh. This group consists of Donat Horvath, Mitch Jongmans, Dylan Heck, Stanley Johnston, Wilson Webster and Quinn Collins. In net, Aidan Boyd (24 games) and Trevor Roy (23 games) have split the season almost dead evenly.
“We have dealt through a lot of adversity with injuries this season. We are as healthy as we have been all season, except for not having defenseman David Lacroce and forward Jacob Lewis. This has given our guys a chance to improve their games,” said O’Donnell. “I believe the guys are ready. We will give it our best and see where it takes us.”
“The Kings are a strong team with some key guys who are able to make things difficult for anyone,” added the Cyclones’ Weiand. “They will bring the effort and compete each game.”