Play late Wednesday (March 7) and then on Friday cut the field of eight in half for United States Premier Hockey League (USPHL) Championship tournament semi-finals.
The Final Four all started out the event against each other and only one, the Hampton Whalers came through the pool play portion unscathed. In the opening round the Whalers edged the Jersey Hitmen while the Charlotte Rush started with an 8-0 shutout win against the Beijing Shougang Eagles. Those four were the survivors at the end of pool play.
Whalers remain perfect.
The Whalers followed up its opening round win on Wednesday night with a 5-1 margin against the Florida Junior Blades and then wrapped up pool play Thursday with another 5-1 win against the Islanders Hockey Club.
The Whalers and Jr. Blades played through a scoreless opening period and Bryce Leger, 18, from Leonardtown, MD notched the lone goal of the middle period to put the Whalers up 1-0 heading to the final 20 minutes.
Caelan Bolanowski, 21, from Virginia Beach, VA added another 94 seconds into the final frame and two goals in eight seconds, from Bolanowski and Gary Eastwick, 19, from Mantua, NJ made gave the Whalers a 4-0 cushion with 8:50 to go.
Nick Darrow, 16, from Rio Rancho, NM fired another about three minutes later and it was Richard Ovaitte, 18, from Morristown, NJ gaining a small consolation, firing the lone Blades goal with 66 seconds to play, shattering the shutout bid of Nathan Yasinski, 20, from Seattle, WA who stopped 19 previous attempts.
At the opposite end, Luke Eslinger, 19, from Hershey, PA stopped 53 shots for the Blades.
On Thursday, the Whalers wrapped up the sweep against the Islanders, again playing through a scoreless opening period before notching four unanswered middle period markers.
Yasinski again carried a shutout into the late stages, this time Mario Colosi, 18, from Greensburg, PA notching the lone goal with 4:17 to go. Tianyou Zuo, 20, from Harbin, China made it official for the Whalers with his empty netter 41 seconds from the final buzzer.
Eastlack scored two of the middle period goals, others added by Bolanowski and Jacob Kaplan, 18, from Bowie, MD.
Yasinski finished the game with 19 saves again while Islanders split the work between Matt Goulian (14-17), from Melorse, MA and Billy St. Amand, 17, from Haverhill, MA (14/15).
Hitmen bounce back
After its tough opening loss to the Whalers in its first round the Hitmen responded later the same day with a 3-2 edge against the Islanders and then wrapped up a semi-final spot with a 7-1 win against the Jr. Blades Thursday.
The Hitmen never trailed against the Isles, but never had more than a single goal gap either as the Islanders battled back from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits. The Hitmen led 1-0 after a period and 2-1 heading to the third.
Brody Selman, 17, from Mahwah, NJ had the lone opening period goal for the Hitmen with Eddie Dahdah, 18, from Washington Twp. NJ restoring the lead late in the second period. Gregory Trapp, 17, from Paramus, NJ fired the game winner 9:03 into the middle period.
John-Henry Kaso, 18, from Stuart, FL fired the first Islanders goal and Jared Lamothe, 19, from Fort Wayne, IN pulled them within a goal again with 3:09 to play.
Trevor Stenberg, 18, from Randolph, NJ turned aside 37 shots to get the win for the Hitmen and Goulian had 30 saves for the Islanders.
In the third round, it was the Blades with the 1-0 cushion, but all Hitmen after that. The Jersey Boys owned a 3-1 lead after a period and piled on another four in the final frame.
Seven different shooters picked up goals for the Hitmen including: Eddie Corvelli, 19, from Glen Rock, NJ; Chris Conway, 19, from Rockaway, NJ; Rob Sheahan, 17, from Rivervale, NJ; Matt Freitas, 17, from Washingtonville, NY; Marc Perez, 18, from Wayne, NJ; Liam Carroll, 18, from Roxbury, NJ and Alex Kelly, 17, from Basking Ridge, NJ.
Once again it was Ovaitte with the lone Blades’ tally.
Stenberg stopped 30 shots to pick up the win in goal for the Hitmen and Wesley Ellingson, 20, from Surrey, BC also stopped 30 for the Jr. Blades.
Late stumble can’t stop Rush
After its lopsided win against the Shougang Eagles, the Rush had a spot in the finals clinched with a 7-2 second round win against the Boston Bandits, but dropped its final game against a tough Tampa Bay Juniors team who wrapped up a 2-1 win.
Against the Bandits, the Rush opened a 3-0 first period lead, adding another before the Bandits finally hit the board 6:06 into the second. The Rush held a 5-1 edge after a period and outscored the Boston crew 2-1 again in the third.
Joshua Hemmer, 19, from Chicago, IL and Mark Kishko, 20, from Inman, SC led the Rush with two goals apiece, other goals added by Logan Falkingham, 19, from Canfield, OH; Joey Ferro, 18 who celebrated his 18th Birthday on the same day, from Weddington, NC and Anthony Keating, 17, from Farmingville, NY.
Akhmed Malsagov, 17, from Moscow, Russia and Tyler Schaeffer, 18, from Edwardsville, IL both scored for the Bandits.
Jack Reidell, 18, from Greensboro, NC stopped 29 shots to pick up the win in goal for the Rush, Jack Walsh, 17, from Oceanside, CA turning aside 40 for the Bandits.
In the finale against Tampa Bay Juniors, all the scoring took place in the first 40 minutes as the Juniors led 1-0 after a period on a goal by Zach Parker, 18, from Wesley Chapel, FL and then got the game winner from Trent Gephart, 17, from Tampa Bay, FL. In between was a second period goal for the Rush, scored by Joshua Hemmer, 19, from Chicago, IL.
Perry Giannino, 20, from Wellington, FL stopped 24 shots to grab the win for the Juniors, Jack Riedell, handling 24 of 26 for the Rush.
Big bounce back by Eagles
It didn’t take the Shougang Eagles long to shake off its first-round defeat as the Chinese team battled back with a 6-4 win against Tampa Bay Juniors in the second round and punched its ticket to the Final Four with a 4-2 doubling of the Boston Bandits the following day.
Against the Juniors, the Shougang Eagles trailed 1-0 after a period but scored two in the first 72 seconds of the third, on its way to a 3-2 lead after 40. The Eagles opened a 5-2 lead before the Juniors struck back with a two in 52 seconds to get within one with 2:44 to play.
Ethan Hou, 17, slid his second of the contest into an empty goal with 25 ticks on the clock to wrap up the game for the Eagles. Other Beijing goals came from Leon Guo, 19; Harry Zhang, 18; Carl Wang, 17 and Michael Zheng, 16.
Mark Louria, 18, from Sarasota, FL scored twice for the Juniors with others from Evan Hoffberg, 17, from Brandon, FL and Parker.
Daniel Perepezko, 19, from West Islip, NY stopped 22 shots to earn the win for the Shougang Eagles and Giannino stopped 27 for the Juniors before dashing to the bench with 70 seconds to play.
Against the Bandits it was Beijing up 1-0 after a period and 2-1 heading to the third, both teams doubling its total down the stretch.
Jerry Zhu, 19, fired a pair for the winners with others for Zheng and Hou and Perepezko picked up the win in goal with a 30-save effort.
Jason Lee, 18, from Thousand Oak, CA and Noah Clark, 19, from New Lenox, IL both scored for the Bandits. Hans Martin Meling, 20, from Stavanger, Norway also turned aside 30 in goal for the Bandits.
Semis on Friday
Semi-final contests were scheduled to go Friday morning with the Hitmen set to play the Rush while the Shougang Eagles look to unseat the Whalers.
The two winners will return to play one more time for the championship Saturday at 11:30 a.m. at the Worcester Ice Center.
MARLBOROUGH MA – The closest game of the opening round of the United States Premier Hockey League (USPHL) Elite Division National Championship tournament here saw a nice second half surge by the Jersey Hitmen fall just short as the Hampton Roads Whalers held them off for a 4-3 edge in Bracket ‘B’ play.
The other game in the bracket saw the Islanders Hockey Club open with a 9-2 cushion against the Florida Junior Blades while Bracket ‘A’ matches saw the Charlotte Rush grabbing an 8-0 shutout against the Beijing Shougang Eagles and the Boston Bandits doubled the Tampa Bay Jrs. 6-3.
Hitmen 3 at Whalers 4
The Whalers got on the board quick in this one, Gary Eastlack, 19, from Mantua, NJ fired the opening marker 59 seconds into the contest. After an early start, the Whalers added a late finish as Ryan Lorenz, 19, from Royal Palm Beach, FL added a second Whalers’ goal just two seconds from the end of the opening session.
Tianyou Zuo, 20, from Harbin, China added a little more comfort to the lead with his goal 4:15 into the second. Chris Conway, 19, from Rockaway, NJ finally got the Hitmen on the board just past the halfway mark of the middle period but Nolan Cavanagh, 18, from Chesapeake, VA restored the three-goal margin just 16 seconds later.
Eddie Dadah, 18, from Washington Twp. NJ fired a second for the Hitmen later in the period and Matt Freitas, 17, from Washingtonville, NY had them with in a shot with 71 seconds to play in the game. That was as close as the Jersey crew could get in this one though.
The back and forth contest saw teams combine for 84 shots and the goaltenders played their part: Everett Yasinski, 20, from Seattle WA turned aside 37 shots to nail down the win for the Whalers while the Hitmen split the work between Trevor Stenberg, 18, from Randolph, NY who handled 20 of 24 through the first 30:43 and Logan Beattie, 17, from Wall Twp. NJ who handled all 20 of the shots he faced.
Islanders 9 at Jr. Blades 2
The Islanders opened the tournament with a lopsided win over its Florida opponent, grabbing a 4-0 first period lead, but the Blades fired two goals in the first nine minutes of the second to make things interesting – for a while.
The Isles wrapped up the period with three goals in the final 8:37 and never looked back, piling on another two in the third for the overwhelming win.
Pacing the offense was Anthony Ceolin, 19, from Simsbury, CT with three goals and an assist, Jared Lamothe, 19, from Fort Wayne adding two goals and two set ups and Max Cole, 18, from Hudson, OH collecting two goals and a helper.
Brian Keating, 18, from Medford, MA and Mario Colosi, 18, from Greensburg, PA notched the other goals, Colosi also picking up an assist while Billy St. Amand, from Haverhill, MA, celebrated his 17th Birthday, stopping 30 shots to grab the win in goal.
For the Jr. Blades, 17, from Naples, FL and Patrick Tschernitz, 17, from Fort Myers, FL fired the goals and Cameron Lawson, 18, from Naples, FL turned aside 30 shots in goal.
Second round games in Bracket ‘B’ scheduled for later this evening will have the Hitmen looking to break into the win column against the Islanders while the Whalers take on the Jr. Blades.
Rush 8 Shougang Eagles 0
After a rough inaugural season in the Elite Division, the Eagles reached the National tournament this season, only to receive a baptism of fire from the Rush.
The Charlotte squad hit the board 50 seconds in and never stopped, piling up a 5-0 first period lead, then adding two more in the second and one down the stretch.
Julian Miranda, 18, from Salt Lake City, UT carried the hot stick in this one, scoring a pair and setting up three others for the Rush. John Barrett, 18, from Charlotte scored two and assisted on another and Shane Hemmer, 17, from Chicago, IL also scored twice. Mark Kishko, 20, from Inman, SC picked up four assists and a goal in the contest and the other goal came from Marcel Hack, 20, from Eisenstadt, Austria. Joshua Hemmer, 19, from Chicago, IL had three assists while Jimmy O’Kane, 18, from Chicago, IL and Joey Ferro, 18, from Weddington, NC collected two apiece.
Anthony Keating, 17, from Farmingville, NY stopped all 22 shots he faced to nail down the shutout win in goal and Daniel Perepezko, 19, from West Islip, NY stopped 37 shots in goal for the Eagles.
Bandits 6 Juniors 3
The Boston Bandits dominated play early in its tournament opener, turning in a 15-5 edge in shots in the opening 20 minutes which helped it carry a 3-0 cushion into the middle period.
After another goal for the Bandits 67 seconds into the second, the Juniors battled back, scoring two goals in just under four minutes to cut the margin in half.
The Bandits added one more before the end of the period and owned another lopsided margin in shots with a 16-8 edge. Both teams added one more in the final frame.
Tyler Schaeffer, 18, from Edwardsville, IL fired a pair for the Bandits in the win while Steve Gerbis, 18, from Scituate, MA, Cam Canterbury, 19, from West Chester, OH and Akhmed Maisagov, 17, from Moscow, Russia each added a goal and assist.
Tom Clancy, 19, from Weymouth, MA fired the other Bandits’ goal, Noah Clark, 19, from New Lenox, IL setting up three and Hunter Dabahneh, 17, from Phoenix, AZ helping on a pair. Jack Walsh, 17, from Oceanside, CA turned aside 17 shots to pick up the win in goal.
Zach Parker, 19, from Wesley Chapel, FL was in on all three Junior goals, scoring one and earning assists on the other two, scored by Mateusz Wawrzkiwicz, 16, from Bytom, Poland and Kyle Vargas, 18, from Lithia, FL.
Goaltending work was split for the Juniors, Daniel Kortenhaus, 18, from East Falmouth, MA stopping 12 of 16 through the first 21:07 and Perry Giannino, 20, from Wellington, FL handling 22 of 24 the rest of the way.
The four Bracket ‘A’ teams will be back tonight with the two winners – Bandits and Rush, squaring off in one while the other two – Shougang Eagles and Juniors try to break into the win column.