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USPHL Premier Nationals First Round Wrap

By Jim DenHollander, 03/08/18, 7:15AM EST


MARLBOROUGH, MA - There’s still a long way to go, but the defending United States Premier Hockey League (USPHL) champion Charlotte Rush looked impressive in its opening match at the 2018 National Championship tournament.

The Rush opened the scoring 83 seconds in and never looked back in an impressive 8-1 win against the Florida Eels Tuesday (March 7) at the New England Sports Center in one of six opening round games for the Premier Division.

In other games: The Jersey Hitmen used four middle period goals to pull away from the Motor City Hawks in a 6-0 win and the Islanders Hockey Club also earned a shutout despite some spectacular goaltending at the other end of the rink with a 2-0 win against the Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings.

The Minnesota Blue Ox used a late empty netter to finally close out a crazy slugfest with the Northern Cyclones 7-5, the New Jersey Rockets scored three times in the third to put away a 6-2 win against the Chicago Cougars and Hampton Roads Whalers scored the first six in a 6-1 win against the Tampa Bay Juniors.

Rush 8 Eels 1

The Rush carried a 2-0 lead into the second period and piled on three more heading to the third. The Rush was up 8-0 before Nikita Lopatin, 18, from Moscow, Russia gained some consolation with his goal just past the halfway mark to shatter the shutout bid of Rush goaltender Sam Best, 19, from Woburn, MA.

Matthew Headland, 19, from Nottingham, England paced the Rush attack, scoring three goals and assisting on another and Bailey Conklin, 19, from Malone, NY fired a pair as well. Blake Bennett, 19, from Grand Island, NY added a goal and three assists while Tyler Barrrow, 20, from Massapequa, NY scored once and set up a pair. Nick Yzaguire, 20, from Chicago, IL scored the other Rush goal, Scott Aaron, 21, from Madison, AL and Brendan McCormack, 19, from Nutley, NJ both setting up a pair.

Best stopped 30 shots to pick up the win and Danick Franceour, 19, from Laval, QC also stopped 30 for the Eels.

Hitmen 6 Hawks 0

The Hitmen dominated this contest, peppering Hawks’ goaltender Nathan Norkevicus, 19, from Pittsburgh, PA with 51 shots.

That margin included an 18-3 edge through the opening period but the lone goal in the frame came from Thomas Lamacchia, 19, from Glen Rock, NJ, his first of a pair, scored late in the period.

The Hitmen busted through in the second though beginning 80 seconds in and the Jersey boys were up 5-0 heading to the third.

Abel Christians, 19, from Grand Rapids, MI also scored twice for the Hitmen, adding an assist and Zach Wilson, 18, from Ballwin, MO added a goal and two helpers. Josh Nead, 19, from Sparta, NJ scored the other Hitmen goal and Matthew Paiotti, 19, from Oakland, NJ had three assists, Charles Stewart, 19, from Littleton, CO setting up a pair.

Trevor Osborne, 19, from O’Fallon, IL stopped all 11 shots he faced in goal for the Hitmen and Norekvicus ended up with 45 saves in goal for the Hawks.

Islanders 2 Riverkings 0

The Isles also had a wide margin in shots in its game against the Riverkings but it took a while before the advantage paid off.

Even after 20 despite a 15-5 edge in shots, the Isles finally found an opening past Erik Schuette, 20, from Olathe, KS 3:55 from the end of the second, Jason Bilski, 20, from Pittsburgh, PA scoring with help from Alex Laplante, 19, from Londonderry, NH and Devan Sheth, 20, from Ashland, MA.

The other Islanders goal came 97 seconds into the final period, John Garrity, 20, from Dublin, CA giving his team some insurance with a shorthanded tally.

Schuette went on to stop 50 shots for the Riverkings while Michal Soustal, 21, from Czech Republic handled all 24 shots he faced for the Isles to nail down the shutout win.

Rockets 6 Cougars 2

It was the Cougars dominating the offense in this one, but the Rockets took advantage of its few chances to put the game away.

Despite a 15-5 margin in shots for the Cougars in the opening frame, it was the Rockets up 2-0 with a pair of goals in the second half of the period.

Both teams pulled one back in the middle period, but the Rockets scored two goals in 56 seconds to open it up to 5-1 early in the third, then added another late to clinch the 6-2 win.

John Massara, 19, from Fenton, MO turned aside 44 shots nail down the win in goal and the Rockets had six different shooters: Lucas Bachofner, 18, from Los Angeles, CA; Travis Quigley, 20, from North Babylon, NY; Joseph Vogt, 19, from Franklinville, NY; Josh Kim, 20, from Leonia, NJ; Tyler Glennon, 19, from Kennett Square, Pa and Glenn Puppa, 20, from Bronx, NY. Glennon also added an assist and Spencer DeRidder, 19, from Fairport, NY had two helpers.

Michael Helf, 20, from Chicago and Gleb Bandurkin, 17, from Moscow, Russia had the Cougars goals.

Whalers 6 Juniors 1

The Whalers held a 47-16 edge in shots in this one including a 14-7 doubling in the opening period, but Kirill Romanov, 20, from Moscow, Russia, scored the lone goal just past the halfway mark of the period.

Conner Hunt, 19, from Frisco, TX and Brandon Osmundson, 19, from Chesapeake, VA added middle period markers to give the Whalers a 3-0 edge.

The Whalers smothered the Juniors down the stretch, owning an 18-3 edge in shots and putting the game away with three goals in 1:56 Two of them came from John Moncovich, 19, from Wilmington, NC  and Adam Toor, 19, from Kamloops, BC supplied the other.

Parker Elvy, 20, from Madison, WI gained a small consolation for the Juniors as he destroyed the shutout bid of Sean Dickson, 19, from Millbrae, CA just 65 seconds from the final buzzer.

Tyler Roy, 19, from Brighton, MI turned aside 34 shots through 47:16 with Nic Redmond, 19, from Rawdon, QC handling seven of eight through the final 12:44.

Moose 7 Cyclones 5

The Moose never trailed in this one but saw a persistent Cyclones team rally back to tie the game from deficits for 3-0 and 5-3.

Matej Krasny, 19, from Pilzen, Czech Republic fired his second of the game with 4:26 to go to put the Moose in front for a final time but the game wasn’t clinched until Jake Peterson, 20, from Oak Creek Wisconsin sank an empty netter with 44 seconds to go.

The Moose carried a 2-0 lead out of the opening period and added another 82 seconds into the middle frame before the Cyclones responded with three goals in 6:01 to even it up. The Moose scored twice in the final minute – five seconds apart, to carry a 5-3 lead into the final 20 minutes, but once again the Cyclones rallied back, scoring twice in the opening 11 minutes of the period and setting the stage for Krasny and Peterson.

Riley Keays, 20, from Brookfield, WI had a goal and assist for the Moose with other goals added by Nate Ackerman, 20, from Willmar, MN; Nicholas Gonrowski, 19, from Robbinsdale, MN and Matteo Menotti, 18, from Chicago, IL.

Captain Dylan Gast, 20, from White Bear Lake, MN helped with three assists and Bronson Moore picked up his 15th straight win in goal for the Moose with a 30-save effort.

For the Cyclones, Brendan Schulte, 19, from Fullerton, CA picked up a goal and assist and other goals came from: Billy Falter, 19, from Wilmington, MA; Killian Hammersmith, 19, from Glen Ellyn, IL; Erik Friberg, 19, from Stockholm, Sweden and Jake Cimarusti, 20, from Buffalo Grove, IL.

Niklas Bretschneider, 18, from Sulz Im Wienerwald, Austria picked up a couple of assists and Kyle Martin, 19, from Westford, MA also stopped 30 shots in goal for the Cyclones.

Teams will play second round matches tomorrow (Thursday) morning beginning at 9 am (EST) with the Hitmen taking on the Riverkings and Hawks battling the Rush. At 9:30 am the Eels are scheduled to meet the Islanders while the Whalers play the Cougars and the Rockets go up against the Moose. The final second round game will see the Cyclones taking on the Juniors beginning at 11:10 am.

Final round robin games will be played later Thursday with only the top teams from each of the four three-team pools advancing to play in Semi-Finals on Friday.