Premier Pool B: Pittsburgh Vengeance, Springfield Pics, Hudson Havoc, Charlotte Rush
Premier Pool B offers up potentially the most evenly matched group of teams, with three balanced squads looking to do some damage against the favorite, the Charlotte Rush
Your 2020 Southeast Champions, the Charlotte Rush are one of the scariest teams in the playoffs this year. While their goal production has dropped off of last year’s mark, this team still remains a fearsome threat due to their speed and skill, especially on their defensive side. The Rush like to play the puck 200 feet from their own net at all times, and their neutral zone play tends to look like a game of keep away as they cycle passes to look for a zone entry or weakness in the opposition. This season saw a lot of player movement between the Elite and Premier divisions, but no that rosters have settled look for the offense to center around their two top centermen; #10 Jimmy O’Kane (20G/28A/48PTS) and #11 Matt Minerva (22G/23A/45PTS). Not to be left out of their winning equation is goaltender #39 Jack Riedell, who posted an otherworldly 25-5-0 record with a 1.61GAA and .940 SV%. There is no getting around this team; you’ll have to beat them in open ice if you want to make a dent.
The Hudson Havoc came out of the highly competitive Midwest West in first place, but it wasn;t for other teams’ lack of trying. The always dangerous Riverkings and the late surging Moose made things difficult. But now on the other side of the playoff wall, that competitiveness will serve the Havoc well. With the best offense in the Midwest West, the Havoc have proven that they can beat teams in a variety of different ways, and that flexibility will be the key in this group. #13 Tyler Kulas (21G/44A/65PTS) and #17 Chris Dusek (10G/48A/58PTS) led the team in regular season scoring. Expect them to step up to their leadership roles on the ice, as they lead this disciplined and talented team through the rest of the playoffs/
The road to Nationals was paved by close wins throughout the regular season, but the finishing touch was a pair of dominant wins over the Connecticut Jr. Rangers. Outscoring them 14-2, the Pics proved that they have an offense that can match up to anyone else in their Pool, or the rest of the playoff hunt. Leading regular season scorer #19 Lukas Radina (32G/28A/60PTS) will be the fountain from which the offense flows with his impressive ability to break down a defense and find openings. With this offense heavy division, the defense of the Pics will need to stand up to the pressure. Look for #15 Josh Bliss (10G/25A/35PTS) and #6 Cam Gaylor (6G/16A/22PTS) to take charge of the neutral zone and turn it into a quagmire from which teams can’t escape. The Pics will also need big performances from #31 Matthew Jonas, who put together and impressive regular season line of 9-6-0 2.06 GAA .927 SV%
Holding on to the #1 spot in the Great Lakes for most of the season, the Vengeance finished off the regular season with an 8-2 run in their last ten games. This was, unfortunately for them, not enough to hold off the Metro Jets who went 10-0 in their last ten. Losing the #1 spot by 4 points will be sure to light a fire under the skates of the Vengeance. The Vengeance hosted the best defense in the Great Lakes, due to great systems play and a group of goaltenders sure to strike fear in the hearts of many. As a team, the Vengeance goalies averaged 1.91 GAA and .922 SV% during the regular season, which shows the impressive positional depth that the team has. On the offensive side, look for a pair of 20 goal wingers in #14 Joe Shanley (20G/34A/54PTS) and rookie #16 Ryan Miller (20G/18A/38PTS) to set the tempo early and keep opposing teams on their toes. If the Vengeance can win board battles and tilt the ice in their favor, they’ll be able to exit this pool as winners.
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