Premier Pool D: Jr. Comets. Hampton Roads Whalers, Metro Jets, Minnesota Moose
Premier Pool D has earned the dubious honor of being this year’s “Death Pool”. Loaded with talent from end to end, anyone of these teams has an ability to win the Premier Championship. Oh, and don’t forget, this pool contains the two teams that went to last year’s Premier Championship.
Utica Jr. Comets:
Utica has proven themselves to be an extremely capable team this season, and they have managed to play well both inside and outside their division. While they have had consistent success, they struggled in the last ten games of the regular season. Utica has found great success this year with its goaltending corps of #1 Tripp Clarke (14-6-0-1 3.03 GAA .908 SV%) and #29 Colin Frost (7-5-2-0 3.20 GAA .905 SV%). These two have helped to provide a platform for the offense of Utica to work freely in opposing team’s zones. Utica’s rookie LW #4 Anthony Morin (20G/29A/49) will be a player to watch, as well as leading scorers #93 John Gutt and #81 Tyler Knicley. The Jr. Comets should look to control the puck and prevent neutral zone turnovers if they want to find success in this difficult pool.
Hampton Roads Whalers:
The Whalers come into this season as the defending Premier National Champions, and they’ll have their work cut out for them. The Whalers struggled early this season with injuries on top of a tough schedule. But now, with the team back to full strength, they are looking to return to their winning ways. The Whalers sport two 70+ point scorers in #8 Jacob Kaplan (29G/42A/71PTS) and rookie #27 Kyle Watson (36G/34A/70PTS), and they’ll lead a truly overwhelming offense into battle against some of the best goaltending that the USPHL has to offer. The Whalers are at their best when they play physically, and with physical play they’ll be able to generate offense and chaos in front of the net.
Metro come into this pool needing at least two big wins to move on. We would say that they are looking for revenge for last year, but as their coaches told us back in September, “We are playing for this season, we aren’t interested in what happened last year.” So, let’s talk about this year: 10-0 in their last ten regular season games, a +184 goal differential, and a track record of beating teams from every division in the USPHL. Last season’s success came from the net out, and this year is no different. #1 William Augustine (18-4-0 1.77 GAA .922 SV%) and #30 Machus Turner (18-3-1 2.10 GAA .904 SV%) carry the tradition of solid Metro Jets goaltending into the 2020 playoffs. Leading scorer #34 Anthony Cinato (28G/55A/83PTS) is sure to feature prominently over the next three games as he directs the offense and puts opposing defenses through their paces.
With a rallying cry of #AntlersUp and a never say die attitude, the Minnesota Moose have come charging into this round of the playoffs like a…well, like a Moose. The Moose went 4-1 in the regional round, including beating the Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings in a hard fought 3 game set. In each of those three games, the Moose held the Riverkings to 3 goals or less, showcasing the huge defensive improvements that the Moose have made over the last few months. After spending a few months struggling early on, the Moose have really made a case for themselves as a potential championship team. Sporting the familiar two goaltender setup, both #30 Mason Palmer and #31 Maximilian Haselbacher are capable of stopping anything sent their way, and are comfortable with traffic in front of the net. #33 Matteo Menotti (2020 Playoffs 5G/4A/9PTS) and rookie #4 Cody Carlson (2020 Playoffs 4G/4A/8PTS) have found their strides in this postseason and emerged as the leaders of the offensive effort. The Moose might be the underdogs on paper, but for any team thinking of letting up on this team, think again. The Moose have beaten “the favorite” more times than not.
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