#USPHLPlayoffs: Fort Wayne Spacemen vs. Chicago Crush 

Midwest East Division 

Chicago Crush (3) vs. Fort Wayne Spacemen (2) 

All Games At SportONE/Parkview Ice House, Fort Wayne, IN

Friday, March 8, 7:30 p.m. EST 

Saturday, March 9, 7:30 p.m. EST 

Sunday, March 10, 7:30 p.m. EST (If Necessary) 


By Joshua Boyd / USPHLPremier.com


Fort Wayne made a great USPHL Nationals debut in 2023, not only just in the great feat of making it for the first time, but they also made it to the quarterfinals – and they only missed the semifinals by one overtime goal. 

In their way of making a return trip are the second-year Chicago Crush, who improved from a 13-win first season to their 25-15-3-1 record this year. The Crush defeated the Battle Creek Kernels, 2-0, to advance to the second round. 

The Spacemen finished the regular season against the Crush on Feb. 22, winning 5-2 and closing their season series at 4-2-0-0. Two of the games – a win for each team – were decided by one goal, so both teams know full well they’re going into a razor-tight series with a USPHL Nationals berth on the line. 

“I expect a tight series. We’ve been in close games all year long with these guys and it’s only going to get tighter with a higher effort from both teams,” said Spacemen Head Coach Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock. “They have great coaching, goaltending, and players we know it won’t be easy.”

The Spacemen – whose No. 2 finish gave them a first round bye – have had a lot of practices while also scouting the opposition by video, keeping a close eye on the first round last weekend. 

“Our goal in the bye week was to create competitive practices and keep the effort high with 14 days off,” said Schrock. 

The Spacemen were rich in depth this year, with 21 players racking up double digits in points, led by the leader Alexis Toussaint with 84 points in 43 games. He was also the team’s plus-minus leader at +30, and he won 405 faceoffs (58 percent success).  

Additional point-per-game performers this year included fellow forwards Noah Takitani (41 points in 41 games), Oscar Axelsson (37 points in 37 games) and Hunter Mangan (38 points in 36 Spacemen games after trade from Nashville), and defenseman Ludovick Janvier with 20 points in 20 games since signing in late November. 

Defenseman Fisher Moore led the team in ice time (18:08 per game) and also posted 34 points in 40 games, while fellow blueliner Dylan Uehlin was tops in blocked shots with 49. 

Goaltender Maxim Zinchenko went 15-7-1-0 with a 2.39 GAA and a .918 save percentage, while William Ferland finished the season with seven straight wins en route to a 13-1-0-0 record and a .913 save percentage. 

Up front, the Crush were powered in the regular season 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. 

In the postseason, it was once again Day leading the way with a 3-1-4 line against the Battle Creek Kernels, while Nick Zehelein put up three assists in two games. Jack Sundhall (22 saves) and Patrick Johansen (23 saves) each put up one win in the Kernels series.