The Lightning High School Hockey League (LHSHL) First Shift previews all seven of Week Seventeen’s matchups around the Tampa Bay area, which also entails the LHSHL Game of the Week between the East Manatee Admirals and Mitchell Mustangs.
The Berkeley Buccaneers will officially close out their 2017-2018 LHSHL season, after Berkeley takes to the ice against the Seminole Sharks at the Clearwater Ice Arena (CIA) for a 6:30pm puck drop on Friday night.
While the Bucs will again miss out on the LHSHL playoffs, the future is bright for Head Coach Bernie Skerkowski and company. Also, it was apparent that the team’s play did make strides forward and the Bucs did in fact win a game for the first time in almost five years. Freshman goaltender Heath Chancey, or senior netminder Chris Johan, will look to help Berkeley play the role of spoiler, when his team takes to the ice against their Lecavalier Division rivals, too. Keep in mind that the Sharks have two games remaining, but are currently one point behind Plant for first place in the division.
The Sharks will be playing with a lot of emotion come Friday night and for their teammate Cole Smith. Seminole will also look to get back on track as the playoffs are right around the corner. The Sharks have lost three of their last four games, but Seminole is capable of going on a hot streak. Players such as Kent Davis (4G-12A –16pts), Zach Katz (44G-10A –54pts), Brendan Stoufer (5G-10A –15pts) and Maxx Mitchell (20G-17A –37pts) are usual suspects to get on the score sheet for Seminole, but the Teal also have some role players such as Nathan Norris (3G-6A –9pts) and Sebastian Middleton (2G-11A –13pts), who could be difference makers as the road to the LHSHL Playoffs nears.
Berkeley seniors: Anuj Bhatia & Chris Johan
Berkeley (1-20-0 --2pts) Seminole (9-8-3 –21pts)
The River Ridge Knights will play in its final regular season game before the team enters the LHSHL Playoffs next month, and the Steinbrenner Warriors should be a good test for the Knights. Steinbrenner has had a strong second half to their 2017-2018 campaign, and William Sorsby (5G-7A –12pts) and company will look to make a statement and win their final two games (Mitchell; February 2nd). The Warriors are fresh off of a 7-2 victory against West Manatee two weeks ago, and it was also a game in which Jackson Staudenmaier found the back of the net four times. Another Steinbrenner player to keep an eye out for would be defenseman Kevin Holman who leads the team with 21 points (11G-10A) in 15 games played this season.
However, River Ridge is coming off of a tough loss to first place East Lake last weekend (3-2). The Knights and senior captain Anthony Lioacano (13G-13A –26pts) will be eager to get back into the win column, and perhaps goaltender Justin Cross will get the nod to start between the pipes for River Ridge. The Knights have been consistent on the power play all season, as the team’s leading goal scorer in Dylan Hultberg (15G-20A –35pts) also leads the team with seven power play points (4G-3A), thus far.
This contest also marks the third and final time these two Bradley Division rivals will face-off this season, so bragging rights for the season series are on the table for the taking. The season series is tied at 1-1 – Steinbrenner won the last meeting by a score of 3-1 back on November 8th.
River Ridge seniors: Cody Atkinson, Christian Gable, Anthony Lioacano, Noah Parisian & Jacob Schnapp
River Ridge (11-9-1—23pts) Steinbrenner (8-11-1 –17pts)
Another Modin Division showdown…
While the Newsome Wolves defeated the Durant Cougars last weekend to keep their playoff hopes alive, the Wolves may just be Durant’s biggest supporters come Friday night. Durant and the Bloomingdale Ice Bulls will take to the ice at the Brandon Ice Sports Forum (ISF) for an 8:15pm puck drop, and a win for Bloomingdale would clinch a playoff berth in the 2018 LHSHL Playoffs; plus eliminate the Wolves from playoff contention.
Durant and this week’s LHSHL Senior Spotlight, Tanner Ksepka (4G-6A –10pts), have already clinched a spot in the playoffs, but the team will look to enter the postseason on the right foot. The Cougars were shutout last weekend by Newsome 4-0, so it’s key for Durant to get back in the win column this week; especially with East Lake on the horizon for the team’s regular season finale (February 2nd). Durant will also look to improve its divisional record of 2-5-1, too. Eric Bowles (9G-6A –15pts) and Kylie Gorham (0G-3A –3pts) could play the role of x-factor for this matchup, as Durant will look to find a way to shut down two of the LHSHL’s top offensive threats in Bloomingdale’s Andrew Miranda (35G-8A –43pts) and Brennan Cyhaniuk (24G-13A –37pts).
At one point in time it appeared that Bloomingdale had plenty of breathing room to clinch a playoff position, but with the resurgence of Newsome, the Bulls are now only one point ahead of the Wolves --and with just two games left to play. Though, Bloomingdale does have the second most Goals For in the Modin Division (105), and are currently one of the five teams to break the 100 Goals For marker. Special teams has been key for the Bulls all season, as Bloomingdale has 12 goals combined that have either come on the power play or been shorthanded.
The contest marks the third and final meeting between these two teams. Durant won the first matchup (8-4) and then the two skated to a 2-2 tie back on December 6th.
Durant (10-8-2 –22pts) Bloomingdale (9-9-2 –20pts)
It’s not necessarily a must win for Jenkins, but the team will more than likely portray that attitude heading into its final regular season game and against a strong Jesuit Tigers team come Friday night (8:30pm). Jenkins enters the contest three points ahead of Freedom for the third and final playoff spot in the Andreychuk Division, however Freedom has two game remaining. Still, a Jenkins win or a Freedom loss will get Jenkins into the 2018 LHSHL Playoffs. The Green and Gold are 2-2 over the past four games, and the Eagles will need contributions from everyone in their lineup to take down a first place Jesuit squad. Luke Rouleau (26G-6A –32pts) has been the team’s go-to skater all season, and if Andrew McDonnell (5G-2A –7pts) is in the lineup -- then the Eagles will have an additional offensive threat to give Jesuit trouble in the Tigers’ defensive zone. Keep in mind that Rouleau leads the LHSHL with seven power play goals on the year.
Jesuit has been making a case all season long that it’s the team to beat in the LHSHL. The Tigers enter the contest on a two-game winning-streak and with two games left to play (both in-division) there’s no slowing down now, either. Jesuit’s roster has the top two LHSHL point getters in Joshua Burke (34G-28A –62pts) and Nolan Forrest (32G-27A –59pts), too. Both Burke and N. Forrest have been finding the back of the net often and early as of late, so Jenkins will need to find a way to slow down the dynamic duo.
George-Jenkins seniors: Devon Brown, Caylib Deapo, Isaac Graves & Luke Rouleau
Jesuit (15-3-2 –32pts) Jenkins (8-10-3 –19pts)
The Freedom Patriots and Wiregrass Ice Hawks will face-off for the second time in as many games. The Pats must win out to at least have a chance at clinching a spot in the 2018 LHSHL Playoffs, too. The two Andreychuk Division teams will again take to the ice at Florida Hospital Center Ice (FHCI) and for a 9:30pm puck drop.
Freedom defeated Wiregrass last Friday by a final score of 6-2, which was impressive considering the team’s leading goal scorer in Owen Barno (27G-13A –40pts) didn’t even find the back of the net on that night. Jacob Karch (8G-11A –19pts) had a four goal night, and Matthew Speciale (8G-21A –29pts) had a three point night, while recording one goal and chipping in two helpers. Freedom masked man, Jacob Sanders was in net, and only time will tell if the coaching staff will turn back to him, or Matthew Garneau, in a must win situation.
Wiregrass was without its leading goal scorer in Josey Davis (35G-17A –52pts) for this matchup last weekend, so things could pan out differently for the Hawks if Davis is back in the lineup. Additionally, it will be interesting to see who starts between the pipes for Wiregrass – Justin white, or Carson Saunders? This game marks the regular season finale for the Hawks, and if the Hawks want to secure a playoff position – they’ll either have to win Friday night, hope that Jenkins loses or that Freedom does not win out its remaining scheduled games.
Wiregrass seniors: Alex Carr, Josey Davis, Camryn Henry, Bernard Imhoff, Nicholas Koelndorfer & Hunter Sweet
Freedom (7-11-2 –16pts) Wiregrass (8-9-4 –20pts)
For the third and final time during the 2017-2018 regular season, the Palm Harbor Hurricanes and Plant Panthers will face-off. The potential LHSHL Playoff matchup will take place at ISF with a 9:45pm puck drop. Last weekend, the Hurricanes ended their six-game losing-streak after Palm Harbor defeated Berkeley by a score of 6-1. Senior captain Garrett Toenjes (37G-8A –45pts) and company will look to send a message to their Lecavalier Division rival that things could get interesting come playoff time. While Plant will be without its leading goal scorer in Hamilton Reese (21G-9A –30pts) the Panthers are still going to be a tough matchup for the ‘Canes.
Plant is currently sitting atop of the Lecavalier Division and with two games remaining the Panthers will look to close out their season on a high note. Goaltender Troy Burkhart and his Panthers have defeated Palm Harbor twice this season, while outscoring the Hurricanes 14-2 during that span. Keep in mind there is a chance that these two teams could meet in the LHSHL Playoffs, so this game could entail a lot of emotion and grit. Additionally, a player to keep an eye out for in this contest would be Plant’s Matthew Brkljacic (6G-3A –9pts); as five of Brkljacic’s six goals on the year have come against Palm Harbor.
Palm Harbor (3-16-1 –7pts) Plant (12-8-0 –24pts)
Game of the Week
The LHSHL Game of the Week will take place between two championship caliber teams who have intriguing history against one another. East Manatee will travel up to the FHCI for an 8:00pm puck drop against the LHSHL defending champions in the Mitchell Mustangs. The two rivals have faced-off twice in the Lightning Cup, as well.
This contest marks the second time East Manatee and Mitchell will take to the ice against one another this season. In the first meeting, East Manatee defeated Mitchell in convincing fashion and by a score of 9-2. However, that was back on September 29th, and since that time the Mustangs have proven that they’re still a top contender in the LHSHL for 2018.
East Manatee enters this matchup winning three of its last four games, and the Admirals have scored eight or more goals in all three of those victories. East Manatee’s Patrick Kenefick (30G-20A –50pts) and Joshua Heldwein (15G-14A –29pts) have been leading the way on the score sheet all season for the Admirals, but the team still has six other skaters with 20 or more points (Nathan Bennett, Connor Nicholson, Nevada Woodring, Mark Aldrich, Peter Morgan & Jackson Bennett). Additionally, the team’s power play has been lethal this season, too. The Admirals have seven different skaters that have found the back on the net on the power play, thus far. Keep in mind, Mitchell will also need to find a way to get the puck past East Manatee’s masked men in Tyler Moschella or Alex Workman. The two goaltenders have combined for six shutouts on the year.
Yes, Mitchell is currently on a two-game losing streak, but the team has also been shorthanded lately. If the Mustangs are even remotely close to having a full bench – there’s no doubting that Mitchell could walk away with two points after the final buzzer sounds off at FHCI come Friday night. Tucker Tassone (15G-16A –31pts), Nicholas DeMiceli (18G-6A –24pts) and Tyler Gay (12G-11A –23pts) have carried a majority of the offensive fire power this season, but the Mustangs will need help from their depth players in order to take down the Admirals on Gasparilla Weekend.
Mitchell skaters such as Maxwell Budd (5G-6A –11pts), Alex Majerczak (10G-8A –18pts) and Brenna Robbins (2G-2A –4pts) could not only be key factors in this contest, but in the LHSHL Playoffs as well. Either way, Mitchell will always have a strong backbone with goaltenders Jacob Serpe and Jason Capelo between the pipes too.
East Manatee seniors: Reagan Jarolin, Patrick Kenefick, Peter Morgan, Cade Wessel & Nevada Woodring
East Manatee (18-3-0 –36pts) Mitchell (11-9-0 –22pts)
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