Round-One of the 2018 Lightning High School Hockey League (LHSHL) Playoffs is in the books and the scheduled matchups are set for Round-Two, which begins on Friday night at Florida Hospital Center Ice (FHCI). Four games will take place at FHCI to determine which four teams will advance to the league’s Eastern and Western Conference Finals.
The LHSHL Playoff Podcast recaps all four of the first-round contests that took place on Wednesday night, and also previews the four matchups for the second-round. Additionally, Seminole’s Aiden Boyce, and River Ridge skaters Anthony Loiacano and Jacob Schnapp, are the postgame interviews from round-one.
(2) WIREGRASS VS (1) JESUIT
After defeating the George-Jenkins Eagles by a final score of 5-0, the Wiregrass Ice Hawks have advanced to the second-round (Division Finals) of the 2018 LHSHL Playoffs. The Hawks will take to the ice against the Jesuit Tigers at FHCI for a 7:00 p.m. puck drop.
Wiregrass was one of two teams to defeat Jesuit during the regular season, and the only team to take down the Tigers twice (8-4 & 5-4). Wiregrass’ Josey Davis recorded 13 points (8G-5A) in three games played versus Jesuit this season, which is the most he scored against any LHSHL team. Wiregrass forwards, Matthew McGovern and Bernard Imhoff, were also foes of Jesuit this season. Imhoff posted one goal and two assists totaling three points in three games, while McGovern found the back of the net once and chipped in three apples (four points).
(Photo Credit/Cindy Eccles)
(Photo Credit/Cindy Eccles)
Jesuit had the luxury of having a first-round bye, as the Tigers finished in first place for the Andreychuk Division. Though, as noted above, Wiregrass had Jesuit’s number in 2018. Kyle Repar and company will look for a statement win to open up Jesuit’s 2018 Playoff schedule, and officially seal the deal on the Andreychuk Division. Repar’s linemate, Joshua Burke, could play the role of Achilles’ Heel for the Hawks; the senior forward scored four goals and chipped in four helpers totaling eight points against Wiregrass this season. The other triplet from that same offensive line, Nolan Forrest, recorded six points against the Hawks this season.
However, an x-factor for this matchup could end being Jesuit sophomore Matthew Smith; as the sophomore found the back of net three times versus Wiregrass, while chipping in three helpers totaling six points.
Keep in mind that this Andreychuk Division showdown could end up being a goaltending dual. Carson Saunders and Paul Coats have proven that they’re both capable of putting their respective teams on their backs in order to make a playoff run.
Wiregrass Playoff Leaders:
Carson Saunders (1 win; 16 saves)
(2) RIVER RIDGE VS (1) EAST LAKE
The LHSHL witnessed three competitive matchups this season between the River Ridge Knights and the East Lake Eagles, and one of which was decided during the final minutes of regulation (3-2 River Ridge). The top two seeds will now face-off again in a much anticipated second-round playoff game at FHCI for a 7:30 p.m. puck drop.
River Ridge is fresh off of an emotional and intense win against the defending two-time LHSHL champions in Mitchell, however they’ll need to keep the Cinderella Story of a season rolling if the Knights want to take down East Lake. River Ridge captain, Anthony Loiacano, led River Ridge with four points against East Lake this season (2G-2A); and the senior did a commendable job on both sides of the puck, while logging a lot of ice time against some of the Eagles’ top skaters. Forward Dylan Hultberg has been a key factor for the Knights all season, and while number 26 didn’t get on the score sheet during the team’s first-round game, Hultberg will look to regain his scoring touch against the Knights’ rival.
Yet, Zachary Killingbeck found the back of the net twice this season vs East Lake, and one of those goals scored was the game winner in the team’s lone win vs the Eagles. Additionally, River Ridge masked man Daniel McCarthy, will look to build on his impressive season between the pipes and shock East Lake with another stellar performance.
On the other side of the ice the Eagles arguably have the deepest lineup in the LHSHL. One of the league’s top point-getters all season in Justin Garr was a threat to River Ridge all year, too. Garr recorded three goals and chipped two helpers totaling five points in three games played versus the Knights. Eagles skaters, Nickolas Belanger and Demitri Samarkos, also gave the Knights trouble during the season series. Both Belanger (1G-2A) and Samarkos (2G-1A) recorded three points, but Samarkos was essential in shutting down River Ridge’s offensive threat in Jacob Schanpp in the last outing (3-2 Eat Lake).
Keep in mind that East Lake used all three of its netminders versus River Ridge this season (James Belczyk, Marcus Alfaro & Anthony Samarkos). While Belczyk earned the lone shutout vs the Knights, will he start in East Lake's first playoff game for 2018?
River Ridge Playoff Leaders:
Daniel McCarthy (1 win; 44 saves)
(2) BLOOMINGDALE vs (1) EAST MANATEE
Head Coach Eric Wessel’s East Manatee squad has been a power house all season long, especially when facing Modin Division opponents (8-0-0). The Modin Division champions in the Admirals will take to the ice in Round-Two against the Bloomingdale Ice Bulls for an 8:30 p.m. puck drop.
Though, the Bulls will look to play the role of spoiler. Bloomingdale is fresh off of a convincing 5-2 victory over Durant in the First-Round of the LHSHL Playoffs on Wednesday night, and with the likes of Andrew Miranda and Evan Hoffberg – Bloomingdale could give East Manatee a scare early on. Miranda and Hoffberg combined for seven points on Wednesday night, and helped the Bulls execute on the power play (2-2). Still, the Bulls will need help from all areas on the ice against the league’s top scoring team. Alexander Higginbotham is well tested and will look to inspire his Bulls to a potential upset victory, and perhaps freshman Brennan Cyhaniuk can spark the Bulls. Cyhaniuk was one of three Bloomingdale skaters to find the back of the net against East Manatee this season, too.
The Admirals are on a mission, especially after not making the postseason in 2017. Keep in mind that while the team went undefeated in division play this season, East Manatee also outscored Bloomingdale 17-4 in those two games played. The Admirals had eight different skaters finish the 2018 campaign with 20 or more points, and had over seven different skaters record at least one point against Bloomingdale this season. Team captain Patrick Kenefick led the way for the Admirals (32G-21A –53pts), but Jackson Bennett recorded two goals and chipped in four assists totaling six points in the team’s last outing against Bloomingdale (8-4 East Manatee).
Bloomingdale will also have a tough test when facing (potential starter) East Manatee goaltender, Tyler Moschella. Number 31 between the pipes for the Admirals posted an 11-2- record and a 1.92 goals-against-average (GAA) this season.
Bloomingdale Playoff Leaders:
Alexander Higginbotham (1 win; 13 saves)
(2) SEMINOLE VS (1) PLANT
This matchup has been brewing all season.
The top two seeds from the Lecavalier Division flipped-flopped in the standings towards the end of the season, but the Seminole Sharks and Plant Panthers knew they would have to go through one another either way in order to advance to the LHSHL’s Western Conference Finals. The rivals took to the ice against each other on three different occasions this season, but it was the Sharks who won the season series taking two of those three contests -- and shutout the Panthers twice.
(Photo Credit/Cindy Eccles)
(Photo Credit/Cindy Eccles)
Seminole’s 50-goal-scorer this season, Zach Katz, recorded 11 of his 77 points on the year against the Plant Panthers (6G-5A –11pts). Katz is already off to a hot start this postseason, as the senior netted three goals and chipped in one helper in Wednesday night’s first-round win over Palm Harbor. Still, Maxx Mitchell found the back of the net six times and added three assists in three games played vs Plant this season. Additionally, the young Sebastian Middleton, plus veteran Brendan Stoufer, each posted a goal and two assists versus the Panthers this season.
However, Plant has proven that it’s a much different team since the last time these two rivals faced-off. Since the Panthers last got shutout by the Sharks back on October 25, Plant went on a hot streak and finished the season 11-2-1. Let’s not forget that Plant began the season with a record of 2-6, either. Hamilton Reese led the Panthers with 21 goals and nine assists on the season, and also played a key role on the team’s blue line while shutting down the opposition’s top skaters. Senior forward Andrew Behrenfeld was almost a point-per-game skater (8G-8A-16pts), and his two-way play also positively impacted the Panthers Cinderella Story run. Plant skaters Jacob Grossman and Alex Vela were key throughout the process of winning the Lecavalier Division, but the team’s most valuable player was the man between the pipes.
Plant goaltender Troy Burkhart was the lone man between the pipes all season for the Panthers, and he was also the backbone for the team. Burkhart finished the season with 12 wins, but his big and timely saves are what factored the most towards Plant’s overall success this year. Additionally, Burkhart was the General Mills Goaltender of the Month for November.
Seminole Playoff Leaders:
Hunter Neal (1 win; 22 saves)
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