The Lightning High School Hockey League (LHSHL) First Shift previews all seven of Week Fourteen’s matchups, which also includes the LHSHL Game of the Week between the Durant Cougars and Newsome Wolves. It’s crunch time for a number of teams, as the LHSHL Playoffs are closer than you’d think. Additionally, Durant goaltender Dillon Garasz, and Newsome’s Xander Pivovarnik, call in as today’s guest callers for the LHSHL Podcast.
The Mitchell Mustangs have defeated the River Ridge Knights twice this season, but the two Bradley Division foes will face-off for the third and final time come tomorrow night at Florida Hospital Center Ice (FHCI). Mitchell is currently one point ahead of the Knights in the division standings, and this could pan out to be a first-round preview for the 2018 LHSHL Playoffs. The Mustangs have outscored the Knights this season 14-6, and the Honda Player of the Month for November, Nicholas DeMiceli, has recorded seven goals and one assist vs. River Ridge this year, too.
Still, this week’s LHSHL Senior Spotlight, Anthony Lioacano, will look to lead his team and come through in the clutch. River Ridge is 3-6 in its last nine games, but a win against Mitchell could help jump start this team in the right direction. River Ridge has four games remaining and three of them are against divisional opponents, so it’s make or break over the next month for the Knights.
Mitchell (10-6-0 --20pts) River Ridge (9-8-1 --19pts)
For the second time this season the George-Jenkins Eagles and Palm Harbor Hurricanes will face-off. In the last meeting back on October 13th the Eagles defeated the Hurricanes 10-2, but since that time George-Jenkins has only won three games. The Green and Gold are fresh off of a tie against Wiregrass, but with five games remaining Jenkins will need to collect every point it can get; especially with Freedom just one point behind the Eagles in the Andreychuk Division for the final playoffs spot. Perhaps a win against Palm Harbor could help spark Jenkins back to its early-season winning-ways.
Still, Palm Harbor will be eager to collect two points, as this will be one of the night’s more intriguing matchups. Keep in mind that the Hurricanes have one of the league’s top point-getters in Garret Toenjes (33G-8A – 41 points), and the senior has five goals in his last two games for the ‘Canes.
(Jenkins 6-8-3 –15pts) Palm Harbor (2-15-1 –5pts)
WEST MANATEE-EAST MANATEE
The LHSHL expansion team in West Manatee and the East Manatee Admirals haven’t faced-off since the league’s opening weekend back in mid-September. It was then that a majority of the league soon learned that the Admirals would be an offensive powerhouse this season, as East Manatee defeated the “Fly Guys” 13-0. East Manatee’s Patrick Kenefick (28G-19A –47pts) is among the league’s top point-getters this season, and the Admirals’ captain will look to lead his Admirals back to a winning-streak comes tomorrow night down in Ellenton (8:15pm).
West Manatee is currently riding a three-game losing streak, as the team suffered a 6-1 loss last night to Newsome. Though, West Manatee did have a short-bench in that contest and are hopeful to have a deep lineup when the take to the ice down in Ellenton tomorrow night. With the Newsome, Bloomingdale and Durant all winning games recently – West Manatee will need to find a way to collect as many points in the standings it possibly can; as the team has five games left in its inaugural season.
West Manatee (5-11-1 –11pts) East Manatee (16-2-0 –32pts)
Bloomingdale happens to be one of the LHSHL’s most interesting teams at the moment. Why?
The Ice Bulls have played the least amount of games to date and are currently in a playoff position, so Andrew Miranda (29G-5A –34pts) and company will control their own destiny as the LHSHL Playoffs near. Of Bloomingdale’s seven remaining regular-season games – three of them are divisional contests, too. Also, when Miranda records a hat trick in one game the Bulls are 4-0-1.
Berkeley almost pulled off another win last night, but the Buccaneers did end up falling to Freedom by a score of 4-3. However, if Bucs’ goaltender Heath Chancey is between the pipes – Berkeley has chance to pick up the two points available on the table tomorrow night.
Bloomingdale (6-7-2 --14pts) Berkeley (1-17-0 --2pts)
Another in-division matchup is taking place this weekend and at the Brandon Ice Sports Forum (ISF) for an 8:15pm puck-drop. The Wiregrass Ice Hawks are one of two teams to defeat the Jesuit Tigers this season, and Josey Davis and company will look take down the Andreychuk Division leading Tigers tomorrow night.
When Hawks’ defenseman Josey Davis records a hat trick in a contest, Wiregrass is 3-0-3; if Davis is not in the team’s lineup – the Hawks are 1-2-1. While Jesuit has already clinched the division title, the Hawks are only one point ahead of third place (currently) Jenkins and two points ahead of fourth place Freedom. Yes, there’s no winning the division, but a win would take a ton of pressure off of Wiregrass moving forward, for now. Also, Carson Saunders has recently returned to the lineup for Wiregrass between the pipes – if he starts -- Saunders could end up stealing the show and leading Wiregrass to its second victory against Jesuit this season.
Across the ice, there seems to be no slowing down Jesuit this season. Even when the team didn’t have goaltender, Paul Coats, the Tigers were still able to pull off a victory and find the back of the fourteen times (14-7 win over Freedom). Entering the contest Jesuit also has the league’s top two point-getting in Joshua Burke (58 points) and Nolan Forrest (51 points).
Wiregrass (6-7-4 --16pts) Jesuit (13-2-2 --28pts)
It wasn’t pretty the last time the Seminole Sharks and East Lake Eagles took to the ice in a contest. However, that 13-0 loss Seminole suffered back in September, and both of these East Conference teams are in first place for their respective divisions (Lecavalier & Bradley). Seminole is fresh off of its buy week and also hasn’t won a game since November 20th, so the Teal will be hungry to collect two points in the standings and make a statement against another top contender in East Lake.
Yes, whichever Seminole goaltender starts in net will have their hands full all night, either Hunter Neal or Alexsys Fischetti, but Sharks’ skaters such as Kent Davis and Zach Katz will have to come up big in the clutch, too. Sharks’ defensemen Maxx Mitchell and Brendan Stoufer will more than likely see a lot of ice time and look to shutdown East Lake’s Justin Garr and Evan Jones.
The magic number for East Lake is two. The Eagles need two wins to officially clinch first place and a first-round bye in the LHSHL Playoffs. Entering the contest East Lake is riding a four-game winning-streak and has outscored its opponents 19-8 during that span. Additionally, East Lake’s record vs. other first-place teams this season is 2-1-1. The Eagles have five games remaining and four of which are on home ice at TBSA.
Seminole (8-5-3 --19pts) East Lake (14-2-1 --29pts)
Game of the Week
For the second week in a row the Durant Cougars will take to the ice at ISF for the LHSHL Game of the Week. But this time around the Cougars will face-off with a Modin Division rival in the Newsome Wolves, and for the first time this season. It’s a late start of 9:45pm, which adds to the dramatics and anticipation for the second and third place divisional matchup.
Newsome enters the contest fresh off back-to-back in-division wins vs West Manatee, and one of which took place last night (6-1). The Wolves currently find themselves in a playoff position (third place), but are just one point ahead of Bloomingdale entering Week 14. If senior forward, Dayton Collins, is in the Wolves’ lineup, than he could cause trouble for Durant in all areas of the ice. Collins has only played in eight games this season, but when he’s in the lineup – he’s noticeably the difference maker for Newsome.
Speaking of difference makers…Newsome’s goaltender Jacob Weaver has made commendable strides this season between the pipes for the Wolves. He’s the lone masked man for Newsome and has proven he can in fact get hot and carry Newsome to the playoffs. Additionally, blue liner, Xander Pivovarnik, will look to shine on the big stage and lead his team by example. Newsome’s captain in Pivovarnik is fresh off of a two-goal performance and his ability to rush the puck up the ice and create time and space for his teammates may be apparent on this game’s scoresheet.
Let’s head over to Durant’s side of the ice, though. The Cougars are 3-0-1 in their last four contests and have outscored opponents 16 to seven during that span, too. Durant currently sits in second place for the Modin Division and three of the team’s five remaining games are divisional matchups; talk about crunch time?
While Durant goaltender Dillon Garasz will look to inspire his fellow teammates with his consistent timely saves, one could be sure that defenseman Kylie Gorham will play the role of x-factor for the Cougars against a hungry divisional opponent. Still, let’s not forget about the team’s top three point-getters – Jordan Putnam, Dylan Southern and Aidan Kennedy; the three have combined for 30 goals, thus far.
Also, Durant is 2-3-1 and Newsome is 3-3 in division play, so expect a discipline and tight performance from both teams. What’s also interesting is that both teams have recorded a majority of their Goals For during the second period of play…perhaps this will be a game decided during the final five minutes of the third period.
Durant (9-6-2 --20pts) Newsome (7-10-1 --15pts)
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