Premier Pool C: Tampa Bay Juniors, Rockets Hockey Club, Chicago Cougars, Boston Bandits
Premier Pool C should provide an interesting challenge to any person trying to figure out who the winner might be. Most, if not all the games in this pool are up in the air due to a unique mix of playoff paths and strength of schedule.
Rockets Hockey Club:
Starting with the projected favorite in this division, the Rockets Hockey Club have amassed some impressive regular season numbers. A 38-6-0 record, the Rockets scored 249 goals while allowing an insanely low 79 goals. Entering the playoffs after two 1-goal wins over the Skipjacks Hockey Club, the Rockets will look to leverage their skill and speed to shut down opposing offenses before they can even start up an attack. Rookie pair #67 Riley Johnson (37G/36A/73PTS) and #49 Harris Blackwood (37G/29A/66PTS) combined for 7 points in the opening round of the playoffs, and will look to continue their success in pool play. The question mark for the Rockets will be whether their defense will be able to hold up against these teams, including the league leading offense of the Chicago Cougars.
With the league leading offense, and a league high goal differential, the Cougars certainly present an imposing task for any defense to contain. The Cougars lost a close game 1 against the Fort Wayne Spacemen before turning things around in games 2 and 3, outscoring the Spacemen 7-2. The most consistent part of this Cougars team, especially in the playoffs, has been goaltender #33 Alex Shaults. 14-3-0-1 with a 2.04 GAA and .929 SV% in the regular season, Alex posted a .938 SV% against the offensively potent Spacemen, and needs to continue to post big percentages in group play. He’ll need help from #17 Josef Martancik (33G/53A/86PTS) and #4 Breydon Hemminger (41G/34A/75PTS) to keep pucks away from the defensive zone.
Tampa Bay Juniors:
The Juniors were able to hold off the late-surging Charleston Colonials to hold onto 2nd place in the regular season, and then cemented their spot in the National Tournament by beating Charleston in 2 games. The Juniors strength right now is in a pair of goaltenders: #34 Cade Kujawski and #37 Milton Rosen. Both goaltenders have proven their ability to play well in big games throughout the season, and they’ll need to keep the games close and let the offense go to work. Defense wins Championships, and having reliable alternating goalies is one surefire way to get there.
What can late season momentum do for you? Well, it can take you all the way to the National Tournament. The Bandits put together an impressive late season run, which paved the way for playoff sweeps against both the Twin City Thunder and the Northern Cyclones. In those four games, the Bandits gave up just 4 goals. These late season performances paint a picture of a team that is defense first behind the skill, and stamina, of #1 Aaron Mercer. In four playoff games, Mercer allowed less than one goal per game and posted a .966 SV%. We know that defense can win championships, but a goalie can’t win a game by himself. One of the strengths of the Bandits is their systems play and decentralized offense, which means that there is no one way to shut down this team from scoring. The Bandits provide an interesting foil to the rest of this pool.
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