Once again, the Tampa Bay Juniors and the Florida Eels battled for first place last weekend. And as usual the games matched every expectation. Tampa Bay secured two comeback wins Friday night. Elite scored twice in the third to grabb a 2-1 victory while Premier erased three separate one goal deficits to win 5-3. Sunday Elite got out to and maintained an early lead to win another one goal game. However, it was the opposite for Premier as they got down early and never recovered. All in all, it was a solid weekend for Tampa Bay
Night of Comebacks
Despite the skill and firepower of both teams, Friday nights elite contest would turn out to be a defensive tilt, and it did not start well for Tampa Bay. In addition to allowing the opening goal just two minutes in, Tampa Bay Struggled to get out of their own end. Their passing wasn’t great, and it was magnified by and aggressive eels forecheck. Tampa Bay would be outshot 19-9 in the first period. However, despite all the things they didn’t do well, they did play well defensively. They covered their man and didn’t allow the Eels to get very many second chance opportunities.
With the Eels playing the second half of a back-to-back, Tampa Bay started to flip the script in the second period. Despite not being able to cash in, they doubled up the Eels in shots on goal and started to build momentum. With the eels starting to lose their legs Tampa Bay would finally take advantage halfway through the third. After a James Jorge holding penalty, Philip Wsol would score one of the prettiest goals of the year. Wsol skated from end to end and walked through two Eels defenders to put it past Matthew Schoer to tie the game at one. Then with less than three minutes to go, young gun Dawid Wawrzkiewicz would secure the win for Tampa Bay on the powerplay. For a team that hasn’t trailed much this season, it was a relisant win.
Much like the elite game the Premier match-up was no high scoring affair. Each team would split goals in both the first and second periods with the Eels scoring first. Jonah Mortenson would tie the game at one with a bomb of a one-timer on the powerplay while Filip Kuba tied it at two in second with a bullet from the point. Going into the third it felt like the game was going to go to the team that made the fewest mistakes. Then less than two minutes into the third the Eels would capitalize for their third lead of the day. However just when they needed it, Tampa Bay got a powerplay and they took advantage. Noah Weisjahn let lose a one-time in the slot to tie the game. Then less than two minutes later Tampa Bay would take their first lead. After the Eels were unable to clear the zone, Jackson Studebaker would find Connor Nelson who beat Duncan Rolleman short side to complete the comeback. It was another resilient and hard-fought win for the Juniors.
On Sunday elite flipped the script on the Eels. Just three minutes in Myles Jackson would score his third of the year to give Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead. Then just three minutes later, after missing a golden opportunity, Tyler Macindoe would cash in to give the Juniors a 2-0 lead. Despite giving up a goal late in the second, Tampa Bay would hold on to secure their first win of the year in Ft. Myers. The win gave Tampa Bay some breathing room in the standings putting them 6 points ahead of Florida.
As exciting as it was to see elite finally win in Ft. Meyers, it was equally disappointing to see Premier continue to struggle on the road. Tampa Bay limited Florida to just one goal and the first and would again erase two separate one-goal deficits in the second. However, they would lose all and any momentum by allowing a goal late in the second. Despite Friday’s third period comeback, Tampa Bay could not muster another. They would allow the next three unanswered for a 6-2 final. Unfortunately for Tampa Bay this put them right back to where they started before Friday’s game, trailing the Eels by two points.
The Tampa Bay Juniors will have the weekend off before traveling to Estero for the Florida Showcase. The Juniors will start Friday the 17th with the Charlotte Rush and play the Potomac Patriots on Saturday. Then they will finish Sunday with two games against the two of the better teams in the entire league in Richmond and Carolina.