The Tampa Bay Juniors were one of seven teams to finish with between 30 and 36 wins in a season that saw several contenders for the regular season crown.
The New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs came out on top for the regular season points race, but were just six points ahead of Tampa, who came across at 32-10-1-1.
Winning the Florida Division earned the Juniors an automatic berth into the Nationals this season. While most others in the USPHL Elite National Championships played their way through one or two playoff series since Tampa last played (Feb. 16), the Juniors are ready to prove they can be a match for any team they face. They fully plan to live up to their division championship by winning their Elite Nationals pool here in March.
The Juniors hit the ice against the Hampton Roads Whalers in their Nationals opener on Saturday afternoon, with puck drop set for 1:30 p.m.
The Whalers, in their first meeting on Sept. 30, put an 8-0 hurting on the Juniors, but when they faced each other again just two weeks later at the USPHL Chicago Showcase, the Whalers only got out with a 3-2 win.
The Juniors will face the No. 1 overall seed, the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs, on Saturday night. The Monarchs defeated the Whalers, 4-1, at the USPHL Winter Showcase. They also earned two decisive shutouts against the other team in the pool, the No. 16 seeded New York Aviators.
Players To Watch
The Juniors are the second youngest Elite team in the Nationals, averaging about a month short of 18 years old. There were as many ‘02’s as there were ‘98’s (three) on the roster this season.
Zachary Parker is a hometown product for the Juniors, a ‘99 out of Wesley Chapel, Fla., the same Tampa suburb in which the Juniors are based. He finished 10th overall in the USPHL Elite with 27 goals and 65 points,
Rocco Selivanov, the ‘02-born son of former Tampa Bay Lightning player Alexander Selivanov, placed second on the team with 52 points. He was one of four players on the team hitting the 50-point mark, joined by forward Trent Gephart (‘01/Tampa, Fla.) and defenseman Kevin Holman (‘01/Tampa, Fla.). Gephart had 51 points, and Holman led all USPHL Elite defensemen with 50 points scored.
Shaun Hatton (‘01/Bradenton, Fla.) and Nolan Kare (‘98/Shelby Township, Mich.) split time in net almost evenly this year. Hatton posted a .916 save percentage and 2.75 goals against average to lead the way in those categories.
Tampa Bay Juniors Elite Nationals Round Robin Schedule
Sat., March 9: vs. Hampton Roads Whalers, Lawler Arena, 1:40 p.m.
Sat., March 9: vs. New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs, Essex Rink 1, 8:45 p.m.
Sun., March 10: vs. New York Aviators, Gallant Arena, 10:50 a.m.