Tampa Bay Struggles to Find Back of Net in Raleigh Showcase
The Tampa Bay Juniors had a rough Southeast Showcase this past weekend in Raleigh, North Carolina. Both teams lost 3 of 4 games in the showcase. However, it was a gauntlet of tough opponents. The schedule included the Charlotte Rush, who won both the premier and elite national championship last season, both Richmond and Hampton Roads have championship pedigrees, while Carolina is always a top finisher in the Southeast Division. So needless to say, it was quite an intense schedule to pack into a weekend.
Elite was outscored 12-8 on the weekend, with their win coming against the Hampton Roads Whalers. Premier on the other hand struggled to score outright. They were shoutout in 2 of the 4 games and only scored 4 goals the entire weekend.
Despite not scoring, they played well. Tampa had tons of opportunities that just didn’t go. Overall, the team will have lots to work on if they hope to compete for a national championship.
Elite Keeps Pace.
Despite losing 3-of-4, elite was able to keep pace with some of the top teams in the league. After arriving in Raleigh on Thursday, the Juniors would play two games Friday. The first of which was against the Carolina Jr. Hurricanes. After trailing 3-0 late in the second, Tampa Bay would strike for 2 goals from Daniel Yusupoff and Jacke Duhaime. The teams would split the next two goals before Carolina would put the game away. Although the Juniors would muster two powerplay goals, they finished the game 2-for-8 and left plenty of opportunities on the table.
Playing two games in a single day is one of the toughest challenges a team can face. The fact that the team only arrived the night before didn’t help their cause. In addition, they were facing a powerhouse program in the Richmond Generals. Richmond eliminated Tampa Bay last year at nationals and they would take advantage of a tired Juniors team in game 2. Richmond would score 5 times with 2 coming from Aidan Urie. Tampa’s only tally would come from James Jorge on the powerplay. Jorge’s first of the year came from Cooper Hunt and made the game 2-1. However, Richmond would go on to take control of the game and run away with a 5-1 victory.
Tampa Bay’s best game by far was their contest against the Hampton Road Whalers. After trailing 2-0 halfway through the game, the Juniors would go on to score 5 unanswered goals. Hunt scored twice in the second including a powerplay goal, while Nate Furuseth, Bryson Uhrig, and Jake Duhaime would all score in the third. Furuseth had a huge game with 2 goals and 2 assists for 4 points as he helped Tampa Bay to a 5-2 victory.
The team’s toughest test would be the last game of showcase against the defending national champion Charlotte Rush. Despite being shutout, they limited Charlotte to only 2 goals. They went 4/4 on the penalty kill and played a strong defensive game. Tampa was backstopped in this one by Charles Garon who stopped 30-of-32 in fantastic effort. At the end of a long weekend,
Tampa should be happy with their effort against the Rush but will have some tuning up to do if they hope to get over the hump at nationals.
Premier Struggles to Score
Premier had bad puck luck for most of the weekend. They got tons of opportunities that didn’t find the back of the net. In their first contest against Richmond, they were able to limit the damage to a goal per period. However, they could not muster any of their own as Generals goaltender Ryan Piros turned aside all 28 of Tampa Bay’s shots.
Despite playing a much more sound overall game, there were only able to put one goal past the Carolina Jr. Canes. Again, itwas a tough break for the Juniors. After earning a 5-on-3, Connor Nelson was able to score, but only after the first penalty had expired. With their lead cut in half to 2-1, Carolina would shut the door and grab an empty netter to defeat Tampa Bay 3-1.
The third game was much like the first. Tampa limited Hampton Roads to 2 goals in the first and one in the second and third periods. However, the Juniors would again fail to score in a 4-0 loss.
There best game of the showcase came Sunday against the defending national champions. They played physical, used their speed and played within their structure. The first period ended in a stalemate but Tampa Bay would get on the board early in the second. Jack Fleer scored at 4:38 of the second from Adam Custable and Nash Cobbs. At 10:09 Beau Courneya would add his second of the year to the tally. Tampa Bay would surrender their lead late in the second.
However, they would look it down in the third and send the game to overtime. In OT the Juniors jumped out of the gate. Courneya had a glorious opportunity on a breakaway that was stopped. Then after forcing a turnover in the neutral zone, Courneya was able to skate in on a 2-on-1 and was able to find Connor Nelson who sealed the deal.
If there was another bright spot in the weekend for premier, it was the play of young goaltender Onni Taskilla. The Rookie stopped 45-of-49 in his two games played including some miraculous saves in the final game against the Rush. He now holds a .904 save percentage and 2.58 GAA. A very good start to a rookie season.
Tampa Bay will be at home for most of the month of October with 3 Friday home games. It kicks off with another matchup with the Florida Jr. Blades on October 1st . Elite will drop the puck at 5:30 pm with Premier starting at 8:15 at Advent Health Center Ice. All the action can be streamed on HockeyTV.