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Cred: Emina Muratovic

Weekend Recap: Tampa Bay Sweeps Columbia

02/01/2023, 1:15pm EST
By Christian Adams

After a rough weekend against the Eels the Tampa Bay Juniors rebounded in big way with a sweep of the Columbia Infantry. Although Elite has had fits with Columbia this year, they dominated start to finish and earned a birth in the 2023 postseason. While elite clinched, premier kept their postseason hopes alive with their two wins. Although they had to hang on to a late lead in game one, they never trailed through the duration of the series and dominated game two. Both teams are now in a better position heading into the last month of the season. 


Solving Van Brunt

Despite elite being a far better team than Columbia, wins were far from a certainty coming into the weekend. In fact, Tampa Bay had struggled dealing with the Infantry this season. This was in large part due to the spectacular play from goaltender Daniel Van Brunt. Back in October he backstopped Columbia to a shootout win by stopping 67 shots. At the Tampa showcase he stopped 47-of-49 which allowed the Infantry to carry a 1-0 late into the third period before the Juniors finally got on the board and would go on to win 3-1. 

This time around however, Tampa Bay would solve the Van Brunt problem early on as just 1:21 into the first Peter Tedeschi grabbed the opening goal. Brody Sheets added on to make it 2-0 just under halfway through the period. Although Columbia would score early in the second to cut the lead in half, Sheets would pick up his second tally in the closing seconds of the period to make it 3-1. Then in the third Garrett Bagnal scored the only goal in the third as Tampa Bay would win 4-1. 

Despite finally figuring out Van Brunt, it was the Juniors penalty kill that propelled them to a win in game one. Tampa Bay killed off all five penalties, which included three minors and a major in the third period. 


Elite Dominates

After beating Van Brunt in game one, the Juniors dominated game two from start to finish. Tampa scored four times in the opening frame. Ari Blatt picked up two while Brenden Sickles and Artur Prymakou each got one as the ended the first period with a 1-0 lead. Although both teams went scoreless in the second period the Juniors would score two more in the third. Gabe Elie picked up his fourth of the year and Prymakou notched his second of the game. Once again the penalty kill would go a perfect 5-for-5 as Elite would cruise to a 6-1 win. 


Premier had to have it

At this point in the premier season any loss could mean the end of the road. Although Columbia is all but out of the playoff race, Tampa Bay was on the outside looking in coming into the weekend. Needing every point they can get the Juniors did not disappoint. Although things were dicey towards the end of game one, Premier did not trail throughout the two games. 

Game one was filled with penalties. The teams had a combined 34 penalty minutes with each team getting at least five powerplays. So, it should come as no surprise that the first goal of the game was shorthanded. After a weird bounce and a failed attempt by the Infantry to clear the zone, Connor Nelson found himself with the puck just inside the blueline. One-on-one Nelson was able to beautifully execute a drag move and sneak a backhander behind Parker Dietz to give Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead. Although Thomas Filoramo would tie the game just 38 seconds later, Milan Levcenko would give the Juniors the lead late in the first. Judd Ginther would score just 1:31 into the second marking the only consecutive goals of the game to make it 3-1. Aleksis Ostankovics got the game winner as Tampa Bay held on for a 4-3 win. 


Premier’s Turn to Dominate

Where Saturday’s game was back and forth, Sunday’s game was all Tampa. Premier scored five goals in the first period. The Juniors sported 4 different goal scorers as Aliaksandr Kamliuk grabbed two as Nelson, Ostankovics, and Ginther each had one. Leading 5-1 in the second the juniors gave up the next two goals. However, the defense held Columbia at three as Nelson and Tyler Cullen both grabbed empty net goals to make the final 7-3. 


Road Ahead

The Tampa Bay Juniors will head home for a two-game series with the Palm Beach Typhoon. For Premier these games are of the upmost importance. Although Palm Beach is currently on a three-game losing streak, they are just two points back of the Juniors with two games at hand (one of those will be played Thursday against the Jr. Blades). If Tampa Bay can find a way to win both games, it would put them in an advantageous position to make the playoffs. 

Since Elite’s playoff spot is locked up, their goal is to finish with the second seed and home ice advantage. They need just three points to secure a finish higher than Atlanta. Mathematically Elite needs 11 points to secure second place but that is assuming that Palm Beach wins out the rest of the way. However, it won’t be easy as the Typhoon are looking to secure their first ever playoff berth. They need just one point to do so. 

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