By Joshua Boyd / USPHL.com
A trip around the South is always pleasant, especially as the weather up north begins getting a little colder every day. The big story over the last week was, of course, the return of the two Florida teams most impacted by Hurricane Ian on Sept. 28 – the Florida Eels and the Florida Jr. Blades, who are based in Fort Myers and Estero, respectively. Ian made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane that final Wednesday of September and destroyed several structures around the Fort Myers area and was the direct or indirect cause of more than 100 deaths. The USPHL extends its deepest condolences to anyone who lost a loved one to the damage caused by Hurricane Ian.
The Eels and Blades players, staff, families and billet families thankfully all survived the hurricane, though many were impacted by property damage. The Eels and Blades players who remained in the Fort Myers spent most of the last month helping out with cleanup projects around the community. Fort Myers Skatium, which had lost power and thus lost its ice, built the surface back up and the Skatium and the Eels hosted the Florida Cup this past weekend, with the Florida Eels winning two games at each of the Premier and Elite levels to win the championships of what will become an annual in-season tournament.
We’ll take a look at each of the teams that came out of the last week at least with a .500 record and see what they have coming next!
Florida Eels (2-0-0-0)
The Eels started their Florida Cup with the Palm Beach Typhoon in their first game action of any kind since Sept. 26 at the USPHL Southeast Showcase, due to dealing with preparation and then the recovery from Hurricane Ian for nearly a month. But they looked in mid-season form when they defeated the Typhoon by a 6-1 score in Saturday’s play-in round. In the Sunday night final, a prime time event with The Dan K Show on the call and USPHL Commissioner Bob Turow ready to present the Cup, the Eels came back from being down 2-1 after one period to score four more goals to just two for Tampa Bay the rest of the way. Justin Deshaies scored the GWG with 4:40 remaining, just short of 10 minutes after Tampa’s Carter Trussler had tied it at 4-4.
- Along with the Florida Cup in their hands, the two wins helped the Eels leapfrog the Juniors into first place in the Florida Division with an 8-1-0-0 record.
- The Eels remain undefeated through nine all-time meetings with the Typhoon.
- Julian Gagnon (‘04), who played only in the final against Tampa, has posted points in his last four straight games played, going back to Sept. 25 in Hampton Roads, posting an active 2-3-5 scoring streak. He has nine points through eight total games this year.
- Fourth-year USPHL veteran Evan Spinella (‘03) got the nod in net against his former team and extended his winning streak since the start of the season to 3-0.
The Road Ahead: Tampa again – and then again. It’s Friday at 5:30 p.m. at the Juniors’ home in Wesley Chapel, and Sunday at 11 a.m. at the Skatium. While the Eels are one-up in the series this year, the two teams split evenly 4-4-0-0 last season. Tampa holds the all-time series lead at 26-14-1-0, with no less than eight of their wins coming in overtime.
- With nine of their 31 all-time meetings going to overtime, that accounts for very nearly a third of the entire six-year series extending beyond regulation.
Carolina Jr. Hurricanes (2-0-0-0)
The Jr. Canes remain at first place in points in the USPHL Elite for the time being, leading with 24 points off a 12-1-0-0 record. The Potomac Patriots are hot on their heels just two points back at 11-4-0-0 for 22 points. In winning percentage, Carolina is second at .923, about .20 back from the leading Northern Cyclones, who are 8-0-1-0 after just nine games for a .944 mark.
The latest two wins in a string of now 10 in a row came at the expense of the first-year Columbia Infantry. The Jr. Canes defeated Columbia in a home-and-home North-and-South Carolina weekend by identical 5-1 scores.
- The Jr. Canes are off to their best start since going 13-0-0-0 in 2019-20, one game off of their best-ever start. That 13-game run is also their best-ever winning streak. They also had in-season streaks of 12 straight wins in both 2018-19 and 2017-18.
- Their 25 goals in four games, all with five or more goals scored, match a similar streak between Oct. 25 and Nov. 13, 2020.
- Nathan Rhodes (‘04) has a 3-5-8 line over his last six games, improving to 15 points in 13 games. Additionally, ‘04 Swiss import Matteo Viglino has a 3-5-8 line in his last five games, giving him all of his points for the season. Tristan Seney (04) has an active 4-3-7 line in six games to pull himself even at 13 points in 13 games.
- Tristan Falsetto (‘02) has won his last three starts, giving up no more than one goal per game in any of those – and he also had one goal against in a partial game.
The Road Ahead: The Jr. Canes take on the Richmond Generals this weekend, on Saturday and Sunday. The Generals lead the all-time series 20-9-2-1 since 2017-18.
Hampton Roads Whalers (2-0-0-0)
Similar to the Jr. Canes, the Whalers also got a pair of wins by identical scores, defeating Richmond by matching 3-2 scores over the last weekend. The pair of wins helped pull the Whalers even at 9-9-0-0 on the season, but even with the four points against Richmond, they still trail the third-place Generals by one point. While currently in fifth, the Whalers are only six points out of first place.
- In an almost eerie coincidence, the last time the Whalers defeated a common opponent over a weekend by the same score was Oct. 23-24, 2021, when they beat the Potomac Patriots by back-to-back 4-3 shootout scores – one weekend after Carolina defeated Hampton Roads twice by matching 4-3 scores.
- This past weekend marked the first time the Whalers have been able to sweep a common opponent over two games. They have not swept the Generals since Jan. 25-26, 2020.
- The Whalers defeated the Generals without their leading scorer, third-year Whaler Brayden Taylor. He skated that weekend with the Premier squad for his first two games with that squad after exactly 100 regular season contests in the Elite. He had already scored 16 points, equaling his 2021-22 points output in just 16 games.
The Road Ahead: It’ll be a pair of games against yet another rival, the Charlotte Rush. Game 1 is Saturday at 4:30 p.m. and then they’ll play Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m. The Rush did not lose any of their meetings in regulation last year, going 7-0-1-0 in the 2021-22 season series. Charlotte is also up 26-7-1-1 all-time against the Whalers in the regular season.
Potomac Patriots (2-1-0-0)
The Patriots bounced back from a split weekend with Charlotte (3-0 win and 3-1 loss) by defeating the defending National Champion Richmond Generals by a 3-1 score this past Wednesday. With four points in the three games, they were able to move one point past Charlotte into second place in both the league and in the Southeast Division. Carolina (24 points), Potomac (22) and Charlotte (21) are the top three in both the league and division.
- Potomac’s victory against Charlotte was just their second all-time, the last coming on Jan. 2, 2022, when the Patriots got their first-ever Elite victory over the Rush in a 2-1 game.
- By earning their Wednesday win against Richmond, the Patriots avenged an opening-weekend sweep by the Generals, who raised their 2021-22 championship banner on Sept. 10.
- The Patriots are one shutout victory away from matching their all-time high of four in 2019-20, but for the first time they have three different goaltenders who have registered at least one shutout – Elik Radovanovic (Oct. 8 vs. Springfield), Joseph DaRosa (Oct. 10 vs. Boston Junior Bruins) and most recently Edward Kaiven (Oct. 22 vs. Charlotte). In 2019-20, former Patriot Griffin Knarr – now at West Virginia University – set the team record for most shutouts with three of the team’s four.
- Kaiven, who was in net for the season opener against Richmond, got his revenge with a 39-save win against the Generals on Wednesday, just four days after stopping all 38 against the Rush. He is on a 4-0 winning streak, giving up no more than two goals since yielding five in the Sept. 10 loss to the Generals. He has a 1.80 goals against average and a .939 save percentage.
- Leading scorer Zarand Varga (‘04) is on a current 2-4-6 scoring streak since Oct. 10. He’s only been held scoreless once, on Oct. 9, and his 30 points gives him a two-point lead in the league scoring race.
The Road Ahead: The Patriots will try to string some wins together against the first-year Elmira Jr. Enforcers Elite squad when the Potomac Premier and Elite squads make the trip to upstate New York this weekend.
Tampa Bay Juniors (2-1-0-0)
The Juniors took care of the business of getting to the Florida Cup final by defeating the Florida Jr. Blades, 5-2, on Oct. 22, but then ran up against the Eels juggernaut in the final. Tampa’s Tyler MacIndoe and Daniel Cullen had given their team a 2-1 lead after a period, and even tied it as aforementioned off a Carter Trussler third period goal, but the Eels won it in the end by a 5-4 score.
- The Juniors continue to prosper at 7-4-0-1 thanks in part to a clean game, as they are second in fewest penalty minutes per game at 7.33. They are the only Elite team without any majors or misconducts or disqualifications.
- If Tampa can get on the board first, they’ve proven to be unbeatable, going 7-0 when scoring the opening goal of a game.
- The Juniors are on a recent offensive tear, scoring four goals or more through four straight games, including matching their season high of eight goals in an 8-2 win over Palm Beach on Oct. 14. They’ve scored 23 goals over these last four games, an average of 5.75, exactly matching their goals total and average from their final four games of 2021-22.
- Second-year Tampa forward Richard Biszant (‘03) put up six points in his last four games played to match his 2021-22 points total through 38 games. ;
- Tyler MacIndoe and Brenden Sickles pulled into a tie for the Tampa points lead with matching five-point performances over the last week. Both have 12 points – MacIndoe in 12 games, with Sickles putting his points up 11 games.
The Road Ahead: As read above, it’s another weekend of Eels vs. Juniors, which is always a must-see. Tune in beginning at 5:30 p.m. Friday night!
Nashville Spartans (1-1-0-1)
A week after a sweep of the Elmira Jr. Enforcers, the Spartans had a little less success against the Jersey Hitmen. After a 4-2 win, they fell by a 4-3 score in the shootout in Game 2 and theb in the third game, it was a 4-2 Hitmen victory to send them back to Tennessee.
- Along with the three wins against Elmira, the first-year Spartans strung wins together for the first time in their Elite existence by winning their opener against the Hitmen. They now sport a record 4-0-0-1 regulation unbeaten streak in their record books.
- The Spartans had their second journey beyond regulation and first shootout. After an earlier 5-4 OT loss to the USPHL Southeast Showcase host Hampton Roads Whalers in their opener at that event, the shootout against the Hitmen went nine rounds. Gino Indelicato (‘05) scored the first Spartan shootout goal in history as the second shooter, but two goals by the Hitmen in the 1-on-1 competition gave them the victory.
- Indelicato had also assisted on Drew DePuydt’s tying goal that sent them beyond regulation. He leads the team in scoring with 12 points in 13 games.
- Ayden Kopec played very well in the shootout, stopping 35 of 38 in 65 minutes and seven of nine in the shootout for 42 of 47 total.
- Newcomer Thomas Durrett, who has USPHL experience going back to 2020-21, scored a goal in his debut for the Spartans on Oct. 23.
The Road Ahead: The Spartans face the Columbia Infantry, another first-year franchise, for the first time at home this Saturday and Sunday.
Charlotte Rush (1-1-0-0)
The Rush got a little bit of shock to their system. A team that registered three shutout wins in their first nine games were themselves kept off the board on Oct. 22, the first time in a regular season game since Feb. 8, 2020, three seasons ago. They obviously put that behind them pretty quickly, turning around to defeat Potomac by a 3-1 score the very next day. Overall, however, since an Oct. 1-2 sweep of the Nashville Spartans, the Rush haven’t seemed like their usual dominating selves by going 2-3-0-1 against the Jr. Canes, Richmond Generals and Patriots over three weekends. Who better to try to get back on the plus side against than their historic rivals the Hampton Roads Whalers, whom they face on Saturday and Sunday?
- Tyler Tonucci (‘05) continues to lead his Rush team in scoring with 16 points in 13 games, one point ahead of Yanni Tsatsoulis.
The Road Ahead: The Rush will try to build on that 26-7-1-1 all-time series lead against Hampton Roads.
Palm Beach Typhoon (1-1-0-0)
When the Typhoon get the offense going, they typically post the wins. The Typhoon have scored five or more goals in each of their three wins, including six in their last two victories that have occurred within their last four overall games. Things may be looking up for the Typhoon, as long as their defense can steady the ship and allow what has proven to be potent offense to lead the way. The Typhoon fell by a tough 6-1 score against the Eels in the opening round of the Florida Cup, but rebounded with a 6-3 showing against the Florida Jr. Blades in the third place game.
- Getting an early lead is absolutely essential to Palm Beach this year. All three wins have come in games they’ve led after the first (3-0-0-0), as well as after the second (3-1-0-0). Not bad overall for a team that has only outshot their opponent once this season.
- On the flipside, when they get down after one period, it’s trouble. Five of their six losses have come when they trailed after the first.
- Sean Boltin (‘05) continues to lead the team in scoring with 14 points in nine games. He has had either three or four points in each of the three wins, most recently posting a 1-2-3 line against the Jr. Blades. He had a season-high 2-2-4 showing on Sept. 26 at the USPHL Southeast Showcase against Nashville.
The Road Ahead: Atlanta comes to Palm Beach for three games Friday through Sunday. Atlanta leads the all-time series, which is just last year, at 5-2-0-1.
Drop The Pucks!