It took until the final game, on Monday afternoon (Dec. 17), for a USPHL Premier team to put together a true 4-0 record at the USPHL Florida Showcase.
Parity was on full display at the beautiful four-sheet facility in Wesley Chapel, Fla., the Florida Hospital Center Ice. Even the mighty Hampton Roads Whalers, who entered at 24-1-0-0, gave up a single point when they fell in a thrilling Sunday night shootout to Richmond.
Both Richmond and Hampton Roads exited the showcase with seven points. Here are some of the most successful teams from the weekend.
Richmond fell 2-1 in a Sunday afternoon overtime game to the Florida Eels (2-1), but otherwise earned that nice divisional win against Hampton Roads, and two wins against the Florida Division - 3-1 vs. the host Tampa Bay Juniors and 2-1 vs. the DME Swamp Rabbits. They left with a 3-0-1-0 record, pulling them to within six points of the second place Charlotte Rush.
The Rush swooped in on Saturday and started with back-to-back wins that day against DME and the Florida Jr. Blades, 4-1 and 5-2, respectively.
Their biggest test was when they were down a goal going into the final minute against the Eels on Sunday evening. Two quick goals within 20 seconds put the Rush up by one and an empty-net goal sealed the deal for a 6-4 Rush victory.
Charlotte scored early and often in their Monday afternoon game against the Tampa Bay Juniors, closing out a 4-1 victory. That game included two goals by Matthew Jahn, who had also scored the GWG against the Eels the night before.
Hampton Roads Whalers
Richmond and Hampton Roads traded first half goals, and after a defensive tug-of-war in the second half, it went to an overtime and on to the shootout. That required six shooters per side. Nathan Sargent scored the Generals’ first shootout goal, the Whalers’ Osmundson answered two rounds later and then the Generals’ Stefan Owens put in Richmond’s second. Jared Sanchez came down hot on Richmond goalie Aidan Richardson, but Richardson got the save for the shootout win.
Richmond remains the only thing close to a thorn in the side of the Whalers, going 2-0 against Hampton Roads this year.
Otherwise, the Whalers didn’t have much trouble in Florida - they beat the Eels, 3-0, and both the Islanders Hockey Club and Florida Jr. Blades by matching 4-1 scores. They were able to maintain a nine-point lead in the Southeast Division heading into the holiday break.
The Eagles were on a roll starting from Friday at noontime, winning against the host Juniors, 4-2, and taking a 1-0 victory that evening against the Islanders Hockey Club.
On Saturday, they eked past the Florida Jr. Blades 2-1 in overtime. The Eagles finally met their match in the DME Swamp Rabbits, who defeated the Eagles by a 5-2 on Sunday. After going 3-1, the Eagles finish the 2018 portion of the season just one point behind the Atlanta Jr. Kings for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Southeast Division.
Atlanta Jr. Kings
The Kings went 2-1-1, starting down 0-1 after a close 4-3 loss to the Islanders Hockey Club. In fact, every single game for the Kings was a one-goal affair.
They came back Saturday morning to beat the Potomac Patriots, 3-2, and that evening won 4-3 in overtime against the DME Swamp Rabbits in the USPHL Premier Game Of The Week on HockeyTV, featuring the live game call by The Dan K Show.
On Sunday afternoon, the host Juniors tied it up late and then Saxon Greene scored the overtime game-winner against the Kings. The Kings’ five points allowed them to remain fourth in the Southeast Division with the aforementioned one-point lead over Carolina.
From Saturday to Monday, it was a roller-coaster ride of emotions for the Eels. They started Saturday with a 3-0 defeat at the hands of the Whalers.
Sunday went a little better, picking up at 11 a.m. against the Richmond Generals. They can say they beat the team that beat the Whalers, as Jacob Handfast assisted on Lukas Aaw’s game-tying goal and then scored the OT winner himself.
That night was the aforementioned 6-4 heartbreaker (from an Eels perspective) against the Rush, although it was easily one of the most memorable games of the entire showcase, an instant classic of lead changes and fast play up and down the ice.
The Eels got some satisfaction the next morning when they were able to take down Potomac after being down 2-0, scoring in the first and second halves to force overtime and a shootout. Demeed Podrezov scored the shootout winner to send the Eels home with a 2-2 record for the showcase. The 2-2 weekend put them within two points of the first place DME Swamp Rabbits.
Tampa Bay Juniors Hockey Club
The host Tampa Bay Juniors would drop its first two games in tightly contested games, 4-2 and 3-1 to Carolina and Richmond respectively. It's lone win was against the Atlanta Kings in overtime as Saxon Greene would get a spin o rama assist late to tie the game and then get the game winner in o.t.
Islanders Hockey Club
The Islanders split Friday, starting out with a 4-3 win over Atlanta, and concluding the day with a 1-0 defeat against the Eagles.
Saturday saw a 3-3 deadlock after the first half against Potomac, but a pair of early second half goals were enough to outmatch one by the Patriots for a clutch 5-4 win. Unfortunately for the Islanders, the Hampton Roads Whalers flipped a 1-0 deficit against the Islanders to win 4-1 on Sunday morning.
Caden Buttke’s goal at 18:59 of the second half was all Richmond needed, along with 14 saves by Jared Cable, for a 1-0 win in the USPHL Elite HockeyTV Game Of The Week, again with live play-by-play from The Dan K Show. Cable was named the show’s Player Of The Game and spurred on by that, he went on to shut out the Florida Eels 4-0, with Cable making 18 saves in that matchup.
That night, the Richmond Generals Elite did what the Generals Premier team would do right away afterwards - they beat Hampton Roads, 2-1, in a shootout. Matt Dougherty and Brendan Meyer had the shootout goals for the win.
With the very first game of the USPHL Florida Showcase, the Carolina Eagles immediately made themselves known with a 5-2 victory over the host Tampa Bay Juniors. That night, the Eagles downed the Islanders Hockey Club, 3-2.
Saturday saw a big 7-2 win, and they finished on Sunday with a 5-1 win over DME. The 4-0 weekend lifted the Eagles above .500 at 14-13-2-1, as they try to engineer a second half turnaround to claim the fourth place spot from Atlanta.
The Rush started out 3-0, winning decisively over DME on Saturday morning and then 3-1 that evening against the Florida Jr. Blades. On Sunday, they outlasted the Florida Eels 4-2, but the winning streak came to an end Monday as the Tampa Bay Juniors beat Charlotte in the final overall game of the showcase. After going 3-1, they are six points behind the Southeast Division-leading Whalers, and only one point behind the surging Richmond Generals.
Hampton Roads Whalers
The Whalers arrived ready to go on Saturday and started with a 3-0 shutout of the Eels, Ricardo Alvarez stopping all 40 shots for the shutout win. The next day, Hampton Roads was down 2-0 to the Islanders Hockey Club, but a three-goal comeback, mostly amid a penalty-filled second half led to the 3-2 victory.
After the shootout loss to Richmond, Hampton Roads’ Chris Pascal turned aside 10 Florida Jr. Blades shots for a 3-0 shutout win and a 3-0-0-1 weekend.
Atlanta Jr. Kings
The Kings went 3-1 overall, their first two being very close three-goal wins. After being up 3-1 and then down 4-3 to the Islanders, Nicholas Garzon scored two straight goals for the big win to open the showcase.
The Potomac Patriots pushed the Kings to overtime on Saturday morning, where again Garzon settled the matter with a goal scored with just 48 seconds left in the OT.
That night, the Kings filled the nets against DME, and came back on Sunday hoping for a 4-0 weekend. The Kings tried hard, but could not hold off a hungry Tampa Bay Juniors squad in a 2-1 loss.
Tampa Bay Juniors
The host Juniors drew the red-hot Eagles to start and fell by a 5-2 score early on, and on Saturday, they were shut out by the Generals. Sunday began a rebound, beating the Kings 2-1 and the Juniors followed that Monday with an uplifting 4-1 victory against the Charlotte Rush to end the tournament at .500 (2-2).
The Patriots earned points every which way there was to do so, and also lost in regulation, giving them a 1-1-1-1 line for the showcase.
First on Saturday was the 3-2 overtime loss to Atlanta (0-0-1-0), and that evening, the Patriots lost in regulation to the Islanders Hockey Club by a 3-1 score (0-1-1-0).
Sunday, they pushed the Florida Jr. Blades right out to the shootout, but the Blades got the goal and saves they needed in a five-man shootout. The 3-2 shootout loss gave the Patriots an 0-1-1-1 line to that point.
Monday’s second half comeback of three straight goals gave the Patriots their first regulation win of the showcase, beating the Florida Eels 3-1. Ta-dah, 1-1-1-1. Points in three of four games.