BOSTON, MA -- Midget champions have been crowned, the USPHL Premier and Elite playoffs are well underway, and the National Collegiate Development Conference playoffs are sure to be a thriller from end to end.
Between the end of February and end of March, the USPHL will have five new champions across its junior and midget divisions, every crown well-earned through fast, physical hockey throughout the Eastern and Midwestern U.S.
The top Midget program in the USPHL has been solidified. League members the Selects Academy at the South Kent School won both the 18U and 16U Tournament of Champions.
While the CP Dynamo was granted the top seed and the only bye past the first round, the Selects started out as the No. 2 seed in the South bracket of the 18U Tournament. Selects started out with a 4-0 win over the No. 7 New York Aviators, took down the No. 3 seed Skipjacks Hockey, 5-0, and took their rightful place in the last weekend of February in the Tournament of Champions semifinals at the Olympia in Springfield, Mass.
There, they crossed over and took on the North No. 3 seed Northwood School, beating them 4-0. Matt Stephan earned his second shutout. He and Matt Sankner combined for three shutouts and just one goal against in the Tournament of Champions.
In the final, against the Jersey Hitmen, Selects won with a 4-1 score, and University of North Dakota commit Shane Pinto finished the tournament with seven points in four games.
“Winning the USPHL U16 and U18 Division Championships is obviously a great thrill and accomplishment,” said 18U head coach Matt Plante. “Every season, it is one of our goals for our teams in our program. We are extremely proud of all the players in our program who made these championships possible this season. It is definitely because of all their hard work, dedication and commitment prior to this season, as well as during this season, that we were able to claim another USPHL title for both our U16 and U18 teams.”
On the 16U side, top-seeded Selects Academy started out with wins over the Connecticut Jr. Rangers and the Jersey Shore Whalers. They advanced to the semifinals against the North’s No. 4 seed Islanders Hockey Club. On the other side of the bracket, the Springfield Pics met the Jersey Hitmen, a battle of second seeds.
The offensive fireworks continued for Selects Academy, beating the Islanders Hockey Club in the semifinals and going on to break a two-game shutout streak by the Hitmen in the final, winning by a 4-0 score, with Trevor Giwerowski in net.
Quinnipiac recruit P.J. Fletcher and teammate Ryan Coughlin each had eight points in four playoff games for the Selects.
“I know Coach [Chris] Uber and I are proud of this U16 group and all their accomplishments this season,” said Selects U16 head coach Devin Rask.
“There is a lot of hard work that the boys put in over the course of a season and to win the USPHL [Tournament of Champions] I know is very rewarding. We will look to carry this momentum into USA Hockey Nationals.”
The Selects Academy at South Kent School 18U (top) and 16U (bottom) teams earned twin titles at the USPHL Tournament of Champions in late February. Courtesy Photos
Returning blueliner Jack Moran, at left, and the Islanders Hockey Club NCDC team are gearing up for another run at the Dineen Cup. Seen here is last year’s Dineen Cup nal between the Islanders and the Junior Bruins. Photo by Joshua Boyd
Updated March 5
The USPHL Premier playoffs have begun, and the first round was completed over the final weekend of February. There is still plenty of action to follow the next couple weeks, culminating with a round robin tournament, semifinals and finals held between March 7-10 at the New England Sports Center in Marlboro, Mass.
We can tell you that in the Premier Florida Division, the top two teams Tampa Bay and Florida Eels are past the first round and advance right into the round robin championships later in March. The same holds true for the Hampton Roads Whalers and Charlotte Rush from the Southeast.
In the North, the Northern Cyclones pulled off an upset, while the Islanders Hockey Club is also through to the round robin.
The Mid-Atlantic Division saw a big upset by the Connecticut Jr. Rangers, but it'll be the New Jersey Hitmen and New Jersey Rockets representing the division in the round robin.
The underdog Decatur Blaze made the second round of the Midwest Division playoffs, but the round robin spots were earned by the first-year Minnesota Moose and the Wisconsin Rapids RiverKings, Chicago Cougars and Motor City Hawks from the two Midwest Divisions.
Over to the Elite Division, the top-seeded Florida team Tampa Bay is through, and the Florida Jr. Blades also advanced after a three-game series against regional rival the Florida Eels.
The top two Southeast teams, Charlotte Rush and Hampton Roads Jr. Whalers, are into the round robin tournament, which begins March 7, also in Marlboro, Mass. The same goes for the top North teams, the Islanders Hockey Club and Boston Bandits.
The Mid- Atlantic division saw the Beijing Shougang Eagles pull off a big upset of the higher-seeded New Jersey Rockets to earn their way to the round robin.
The tuition-free NCDC still had regular season games remaining as March began. The first round series are set to begin March 16.
The top eight teams will advance to the playoffs, with the first seed hosting No. 8, No. 2 hosting 7 and so forth. The battle was on between the Syracuse Jr. Stars, Boston Bandits and P.A.L. Jr. Islanders to decide which two teams will earn a playoff berth and which team will miss the postseason.
Whichever of these teams claim No. 8 will take on the regular season champion Islanders Hockey Club, which has only three losses to its name this year.
The Boston Junior Bruins seemed to have the hold on No. 2, but the second and third seeds were to be decided between the Jersey Hitmen and South Shore Kings. Both had 61 points as of Feb. 26.
The Connecticut Jr. Rangers were in fifth position at that time, trying to hold off any threats to their position by the Northern Cyclones. The Syracuse Stars were only three points back of the Cyclones, but could not catch up with just one game remaining on March 3.
With two games remaining, the Bandits could potentially move as high as No. 7. March is going to be anything but a march, rather more like a sprint to the Dineen Cup finish line.