United Hockey Union National Championships- Day Two Summary
Traverse City Hounds: 2
Soo Firehawks: 6
There wasn't much love lost when the top two teams from the MWJHL met in the morning game on Thursday, as the Soo Firehawks avenged their Veteran's Memorial Cup loss to the Traverse City Hounds, officially knocking their rival out of the tournament with a 6-2 win.
The intensity was palpable from the drop of the puck, as the two teams clashed for the fourth time in less than two weeks and neither missed an opportunity to lay the body, with very little open ice to be had.
Thanks to a first period goal by Andrew Holder and a second period marker from MWJHL leading scorer Nicholas Murphy, the Firehawks carried a 2-0 lead into the third period, before things were ratcheted up another notch.
The Hounds got just what they needed early in the third, as Jacob Gillis put one home just 22 seconds in to get Traverse City within one but Soo captainKevin Killips gave the Firehawks a two-goal lead back with a power play marker at 7:01.
Mounting a comeback late in the period, Traverse City finally found a groove and began to move the puck with precision and get some really good chances on Brandon Hansen, who had to scramble to make a number of saves.
At 14:34 of the period, it looked like the Hounds had fully taken he momentum back, after Alexander Grizzel's long point shot snuck through Hansen but Soo came right back, as Nate Fitzpatrick buried a breakaway chance 1:20 later to make it 4-2.
After Grant McCormack got called for butt-ending, Soo tacked on two more power play goals late to seal it, as Connor McNary and Anthony Laaksonen made it a 6-2 final.
Killips, McNary and Murphy each notched two points to lead the FIrehawks, while Hansen stopped 32 of the 34 shots he faced to earn the win in net.
Scott Luca assisted on both Traverse City goals and David Krejcik took he loss in net, despite another strong effort, as the Czech Republic native stopped 30 of 36.
With a semi-final spot already locked up, Soo (2-0-0) will finish up the partial round robin portion tomorrow, as they take on the El Paso Rhinos at 4:15 pm.
The regular season and playoff champion from the MWJHL, the Hounds (0-2-0) have no shot at making the semi-finals on Saturday and will finish their season with a 1:15 pm clash with the Jersey Shore Wildcats tomorrow.
Idaho Jr. Steelheads: 3 (SO)
El Paso Rhinos: 2
The Idaho Jr. Steelheads may have missed out on their fourth straight Thorne Cup Title but they are making a real run at their second straight United Hockey Union National Championship, as they stayed perfect in pool play with a 3-2 shootout win over the El Paso Rhinos.
Just 11 days after they were dethroned in El Paso, Idaho got their revenge and snapped the Rhinos' 34-game winning streak in the process, in the exact same building that the Rhinos' last lost, which came all the way back on December 20.
Just as they did in their first game of the week, Idaho came out flying in the opening period and dictated play with their puck movement and speed, putting the Rhinos in a rare spot; on their heels.
Their tenacity paid off just 2:05 in, as Macky Power drove the net with his stick down and re-directed a Hunter Lester shot between the legs of 6'6" goaltenderAdam Vay to make it 1-0.
With 2:35 left in the period, Idaho found a spot between the pads of Vay again, as Ben Hull's long wrist shot snuck through the big Hungarian to make it 2-0, a lead the Jr. Steelheads would take into the intermission.
The Rhinos picked up their play in the second period and started to turn the tide, although they didn't have anything to show for it until the third, when they really began their roll.
Jeremy Rezaeepour, one of El Paso's most effective players on the night, put one past Sean Healy just 2:52 into the third to pull the Rhinos within one and 1:11 later, they tied it up, as veteran defenseman Chris Wilhite ripped one home from the point.
Healy, who hadn't been tested much prior to the rush, had to be strong the rest of the period, as the Rhinos came in waves and the Jr. Steelheads, visibly fatigued, just tried to weather the storm.
With nothing solved after 60 minutes of play, the two rivals headed to a five-on-five overtime period for 20 minutes, which also concluded in a deadlock.
A five-man shootout then commenced and Ben Hull got Idaho out to a lead with a goal in the first round, only to be answered by Tom Bartel in the second.
With the shootout into sudden death mode, Macky Power ended it in the seventh round, as he ripped one by Vay to give Idaho the win.
Hull finished the game with a goal and an assist to lead Idaho, while Healy, seeing his first action of the week after missing Wednesday's opener due to schooling, stopped 40 of 42 in net.
Wilhite matched Hull's effort form the backend for El Paso and Vay stopped 39 of 41 in net, suffering only his second blemish of the entire regular season and playoffs, both of which came at the hands of Idaho.
Both teams are guaranteed spots in Saturday's semi-finals but still have some seeding to decide, as Idaho (2-0-0) faces the AHI Fighting Spirit at 10:15 am and the Rhinos (1-0-1) meet the Soo Firehawks at 4:15 pm.
AHI Fighting Spirit: 5
Jersey Shore Wildcats: 1
The NSHL regular season champion AHI Fighting Spirit were stunned in the playoffs by the Jersey Shore Wildcats, who picked up steam and eventually won the title. They weren't surprised by their rival Thursday night in Las Vegas however, as they scored five goals in the second period and held on for a 5-1 victory.
After a scoreless first period, in which the Fighting Spirit were actually outshot, AHI turned it up in a big way in the second, outshooting Jersey Shore 24-8 and scoring five times to take complete control of the game.
Mitch Purdie got the scoring started on the power play at 3:03, before Mike Kelleher notched two goals just 3:06 apart and Ryan Chauvin added two of his own later in the period.
The Wildcats would show a little life in third third and got on the board on thanks to an Alexandre Racicot power play tally but couldn't muster much more, in the disheartening loss.
Chauvin, Kelleher, Purdie and Alex Shimoloens each notched two points to lead the Spirit and Nate DelGiudice turned aside 25 of the 26 shots he faced in the win.
Shane Lippincott was once again strong in net for the Wildcats but took the loss again, allowing five goals on 38 shots.
The Fighting Spirit (1-0-1) will make it into the semi-finals for the second straight year but won't know their seeding until tomorrow, as they finish up the round robin against the Idaho Jr. Steelheads at 10:15 am.
Jersey Shore (0-2-0) will finish their season with a 1:15 pm clash with the Traverse City Hounds, the other team that will not make it to Saturday.
"Best of the Rest" Bracket
With a bench shortened every further, after losing a couple of players to injury in their first outing, the MWJHL team was able to keep it close early on but the much more energized NSHL squad pulled away as the game went along and scored the final five goals in a 9-2 thrashing.
Kris Frank and Jon Lauer each tallied first period goals to get the NSHL out to a 2-0 lead but the MWJHL stayed strong early in the second and kept it close thanks to a couple of big stops by goaltender Kent Nusbaum.
At 13:12 of the middle frame, Nathan Nelson put one home on the power play to pull the MWJHL within one but just 39 seconds later, Kim Miettinen gave the NSHL a two-goal lead back.
Miettinen then assisted on Colton Hart's power play marker at 16:09, which pushed the lead to 4-1 but at 19:14 Tanner Vallon came right back with a power play goal of his own to get the MWJHL back within two.
Countering quickly however, the NSHL took over for good, as Matt Henderson scored a big one just 20 seconds before the end of the period and they tacked on four more in the third, for good measure, as Erik Kurz, Wes Monson and Gavin Abbott each scored their first of the day, while Miettinen added his second.
Miettinen, one of the top offensive defenseman at the event, finished the game with four points to lead the NSHL, Lauer had three and four others each notched two.
Patrick Spaulding stopped 12 of the 14 shots he faced to pick up the win in net, before giving way to Zac Totten, who stopped all 11 shots he faced, in a no decision. Kent Nusbaum was strong at the other end for the MWJHL but took the loss anyway, allowing nine goals on 36 shots.
The NSHL team (1-1-0) will face the WSHL under-20 team tomorrow at 9:15 am and will need a win to make it into the championship game on Saturday.
The MWJHL (0-2-0) will finish up their event with a 12:15 pm match-up against the WSHL overage squad.
WSHL (1): 2
WSHL (2): 8
Last year, the WSHL overage team took down their younger counterparts twice, en route to winning the "Best of the Rest" title. This time around, the under-20 team took it to them early and often and cruised to an 8-2 win.
Scoreless for most of the first period, the underage team came on in a hurry over the last eight minutes, as Jacob Haynes (Fresno Monsters), Kyle Rimbach(San Diego Gulls), Justin Becton (Dallas Snipers) and Thayne Trumbull (Cheyenne Stampede) all tallied about two minutes apart, to give the under-20 team a commanding 4-0 lead.
3:59 into the second, Trumbull notched his second of the game, before the overage team finally made some noise, with Joey Sundgren (Missoula Maulers) getting them on the board with a shorty at 11:06.
Late in the period however, Niklas Giers (Valencia Flyers) gave the underage team a five-goal lead back with his marker at 18:12, before Levi Weber (Colorado Jr. Eagles) and Haynes tacked on with goals in the third to make it 8-1.
Russell Armbruster (Cheyenne Stampede) would convert on the power play near the middle part of the third but the overage team would get no closer, losing by six goals.
Heath Lantz (Cheyenne Stampede) finished with a game-high three points for the underage team, while eight others had two. Troy Turpin (Lake Tahoe Blue) stopped 18 of the 20 shots he faced in net.
Eric Messer (Colorado Jr. Eagles) took the loss in net for the overage team, allowing eight goals on 30 shots.
The WSHL under-20 (2-0-0) team faces the NSHL at 9:15 am, while the WSHL overage team faces the MWJHL at 12:15 pm. Wins for both and they'll meet in the title game for the second straight year.
Brent Maranto is the WSHL Director of Communications