The Tampa Bay Juniors headed north for the past weekend to compete in the Southeast Showcase. Both squads struggled at times, but ultimately got to test their skills against some of the better teams in the league. The Elite team went 1-3, while the premier team went 2-1-1 over the weekend in Virginia.
Elite’s Tough Battles
The Elite squad over the weekend had their fair share of ups and downs. Tampa Bay played a string of four tough games. Sadly, the team was only able to grab one win which came against Potomac in their first matchup of the showcase.
In the Juniors' first matchup things looked promising. They closed out Potomac 3-1 as Tampa Bay outshot Potomac 36 to 24 and dominated from start to finish. Ari Blatt scored the team’s first goal of the showcase and Tampa Bay never looked back. Alex Wilkey would score his second of the season and Kevin Dionne would add an insurance goal to seal the deal in the Juniors’ victory over Potomac.
Following the game against the Patriots, Tampa Bay set their sights on the Carolina Jr Hurricanes. Carolina turned out to be one of the biggest challenges of the weekend. The Jr. Canes had one of the best showings posting two shutouts and allowing only four goals. The Jr. Canes scored all their goals in the first period which ultimately told the tale. What looked to be a close game on paper proved otherwise as the Jr. Canes dominated Tampa Bay.
Coming off a tough loss to the Jr. Canes, Tampa Bay now looked ahead to the Nashville Spartans. In a very winnable game Tampa Bay got off to a slow start. The Juniors threw everything they could at Nashville late, but it was too little too late. The team fell 3-2 in what felt like a game that the Juniors could’ve won. Joshua Skipper rallied Tampa Bay back from down 3-0 in the third to a one-goal deficit. However, the Juniors were unable to find the tying goal giving the Spartans their first win in franchise history.
In their final game Tampa Bay faced off with the highly touted Charlotte Rush. The Juniors struggled to shoot the puck against a talented Rush squad. Tyler Macindoe would get on the board in the 2nd period with a power-play goal which cut the lead down to one. Sadly, that was all the Juniors could get as they fell to the Rush 4-1.
Even though the elite team didn’t get the outcome they wanted the team did have good moments. was Josh Skipper stood out as he collected two goals in Elite’s game against Nashville. Tyler Macindoe also collected his fourth of the season during the showcase.
Premier’s Hard-Fought Weekend
Over the weekend Premier showed a lot of promise. The team was very impressive against some high-level opponents. Despite the good results, it was clear that the team still has some work to do to get to where they want to be.
In Premier’s first game against the Jr. Canes everything looked solid through one as Noah Weisjahn got Tampa Bay on the board to make the deficit 2-1. Once the 3rd hit, the Canes proved to be too much for the Juniors as Carolina added two more goals and skated away with a 4-1 win.
Despite Premier’s first day loss, the focus was now put to the Nashville Spartans. Tampa Bay played a tight game with the Spartans. Beau Courneya got on the board with his first of the season and would be all the scoring that was needed. Taking the game against Nashville 1-0, Onni Taskilla stopped 19/19 for his first shutout of the season.
From their first win of the showcase Tampa Bay would return for their second game of the day against the Columbus Mavericks. The game was scoreless until the 2rd period when Carson Johnston got Columbus on the board. Once the 3rdperiod hit, the Juniors were able to flip the script and collected three unanswered to snatch their second win of the showcase. Tampa Bay put 16 shots on net in the 3rd period which proved to be the difference maker.
To end the showcase Tampa Bay would square up against the Charlotte Rush. Despite the Rush outshooting the Juniors the game turned out to be one of the best of the showcase. Charlotte got off to a strong start. Outshooting Tampa Bay 15-7 in the 1st period they would get two goals from Shane Adler and Carter Schram. The Juniors played much better in the second as Nelson got the team on the board to cut the lead to one. The teams would trade goals as Weisjahn picked up his third to make it 3-2. Despite being outshot in the third 12-6 Milan Levcenko was able to tie the game with a beautiful move and flip shot.
Searching for a late winner, Charlotte pushed back. They were able to out possess and out chance the Juniors late in third. Although Taskilla would keep them in the game, Jackson Studebaker would take a delay of game penalty with one second left. Knocking the net off he prevented a goal but would give the Rush a man advantage to start overtime. With 4-on-3’s being notoriously difficult to stop, it seemed Charlotte was destined for a quick victory. Despite this, and in large part due to Taskilla, Tampa Bay was able to kill it off. However just moments later Levcenko would take a high-sticking penalty sending Tampa back to the penalty kill. This time Charlotte’s offensive firepower proved to be too much. Although the Rush picked up the 4-3 win, it was a positive showing for the Juniors against one of the best programs in the league.
In a weekend that showed to be a huge success for premier, one guy who really came to play was Onni Taskilla. Onni stopped 40/44 against the Rush multiple game saving stops and was a big reason the game went to overtime. On top of that, Taskilla also captured his first shutout of the season in what turned out to be a big weekend for the second year goaltender.
The Road Ahead
As the Juniors head back home, the teams will now prepare for the Columbia Infantry. Columbia is a new team entering the league and will be a test for the Juniors at home. Even though Columbia’s elite team sits at 2-5 and their premier team at 1-5-1 it should be an interesting considering the teams have never seen each other.
As the Juniors prepare the teams will look to better what they didn’t do well in the showcase. For elite, next weekend’s games will be about getting back on track, while Premier will be looking to continue their success.