Florida Division 1st Seed
28-13-2-1 (59 points)
The Tampa Bay Juniors finished on top of the USPHL Elite Florida Division, 21 points clear of the fourth place Atlanta Mad Hatters, but Head Coach Garett Strot knew it would be a mistake to look past their opponent heading into its playoff round last weekend.
“The Mad Hatters played us tough all season, “ said Strot in an email interview. “Because of that, we knew going into the best of three we had to be on top of our game and play soundly in our own end.
“The key was our guys just kept to the game plan and didn’t panic when, in Game 1, Atlanta scored two to go up one and in Game 2, we gave up a two-goal lead. In both games we kept coming at them and took over in the third periods.”
Those moments of adversity showed the team’s resilience and showed the team fully recovered from a tough stretch in the second half of the season.
“I felt the Hub hurt us a little bit,” said the coach. “Playing 17 games in 38 days, we never had our full roster, but once we got back to a regular schedule, the guys seemed to get their jump back.”
The team wrapped up the season following the Hub City Tampa games with a 4-2 run and Strot was pleased with the change on the ice.
“Right now, I feel we are playing like we did early in the season with speed and moving the puck, making plays,” said Strot.
After that flurry of games in the post-Christmas part of the schedule, the Juniors wrapped up its berth at the National Championship tournament with some time to spare and that will come in handy recharging the squad.
“We took a couple days off after the Atlanta series and got back at it this week, having a high-tempo practice and then more of a battle-type drills practice before we spend the rest of the week leading up to Game 1 (at Nationals – March 18) working on special teams.”
Tampa Bay Juniors National Championship Schedule
Thurs., March 18, vs. Jersey Hitmen, 6:40 p.m. EST
Fri., March 19, vs. Northern Cyclones, 1:30 p.m. EST
Sat., March 20, vs. Richmond Generals, 1:30 p.m. EST