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Lightning Cup Finals Recap

By Kyle McKenna, 02/19/18, 4:15PM EST


East Manatee crowned as 2018 LHSHL Champions

Amalie Arena played the role of host for the 2018 Lightning Cup on Friday, February 16, when the East Manatee Admirals and East Lake Eagles faced-off to determine the Lightning High School Hockey League’s (LHSHL) third champion. The contest marked the third time this season that the teams would meet (split regular season series), but after the final buzzer sounded it was East Manatee that celebrated and hoisted the Lightning Cup.

(Photo Credit/Cindy Eccles)

The Admirals defeated East Lake by a final score of 5-3, and even without one of East Manatee's top goal scorers from the regular season and playoffs in Peter Morgan. Still, team captain Patrick Kenefick rallied his Admirals and helped lead the team to its second championship in four years. East Manatee peppered East Lake goaltender, James Belczyk, with 35 shots and had three different skaters staple their names on the game’s score sheet.

The Lightning Cup Finals got off to an entertaining start considering that there were three goals scored in the game’s first period of play. It was Kenefick who set the tone early for East Manatee, as the senior captain found the back of the net five minutes into the game on an assist from Tyler Stowe.

The Eagles eventually answered back late in the first period, after Justin Garr put home a rebound goal past Admirals goaltender Tyler Moschella. East Lake’s Kenny Malonski and Nickolas Belanger chipped in the assists on Garr’s second goal of the 2018 LHSHL Playoffs.

Still, it took less than two minutes for East Manatee to respond; Admirals forward Connor Nicholson found the back of the net after an exceptional pass from Tyler Stowe to give East Manatee a 2-1 lead with a 1:27 remaining in the first period.  

Those in attendance at Amalie witnessed a tight and well-played game during the second period, but there were no goals recorded from either team. After the second period ended, the Admirals led 2-1 and were out shooting the Eagles 23-16. The two teams then headed to their respective locker rooms for a 15 minute intermission and ice cut. Though, the intermission may have benefitted East Manatee more so.


(Photo Credit/Cindy Eccles)

(Photo Credit/Cindy Eccles)

East Manatee swarmed the Eagles from the get-go during the third period and scored two goals in less than two minutes to open up the game’s final frame. Nicholson and Kenefick each recorded their second goals on the night to give East Manatee a 4-1 lead. Stowe added assists on both goals, which gave the sophomore forward three helpers on the night.

Patrick Kenefick LHSHL Senior Spotlight

Though, the Eagles eventually made things close and interesting again. Midway through the third period the team’s playoff hero in Demitri Samarkos scored (assists to Belanger & Garr), which also gave a momentum swing in favor of East Lake. Head Coach Jim Anna eventually pulled Belczyk with under two minutes left in regulation to give the Eagles an extra attacker, and the coaching call paid dividends.

(Photo Credit/Cindy Eccles)

East Lake senior defenseman Kenny Malonski scored the clutch goal with under two minutes remaining in regulation to put the Eagles within one goal (4-3). For Malonski, the goal marked the blue liner’s third of the postseason; which also stood as second on the team for the 2018 LHSHL Playoffs.

(Photo Credit/Cindy Eccles)

However the Eagles pulled Belczyk in favor of an extra attacker again once the puck dropped after the team’s third goal, but Nicholson eventually put home an empty net goal to seal the deal and record the junior’s first ever LHSHL hat trick.

The countdown then began, as East Manatee jumped over the boards to celebrate its 2018 LHSHL Championship. The Admirals outshot East Lake 35-29 -- giving Moschella 26 saves on the night between the pipes.

The medal and Lightning Cup ceremony would take place at center ice during the postgame, and the league also allocated Nicholson with the 2018 Tyler Dobies Memorial Award as the game’s most valuable player (MVP). Tampa Bay Lightning Vice President of Community Hockey Jay Feaster, and Vice President of Corporate and Community Affairs Dave Andreychuk, presented the awards to both teams alongside Lightning forward Ondrej Palat.

(Photo Credit/Cindy Eccles)

En-route to East Manatee’s championship season, the Admirals took down the league’s top team from the regular season in the Eagles and the league’s third best team in Jesuit during the team’s playoff run. The Admirals outscored its opponents 21-3 in doing so, and had 11 different skaters record at least one point during the playoffs.

Both East Manatee and East Lake’s seasons will continue when the teams compete at the 2018 Statewide Amateur Hockey Of Florida (SAHOF) State Championships on February 23-25 at the Germain Arena. The SAHOF State Championship schedule can be found here.

(Photo Credit/Cindy Eccles)

East Manatee Playoff Leaders:

Jackson Bennett (3G-4A –7pts)

Peter Morgan (4G-2A—6pts)

Patrick Kenefick (4G-1A –5pts)

Tyler Stowe (1G-4A –5pts)


Tyler Moschella (2-0; 1.42 GAA; .935 SV%; 1 shutout)

Alex Workman (1-0; 0.00 GAA; 1.000 SV%; 1 shutout)

(The Lightning High School Hockey League can be followed on Twitter @TBLHSHL)