By Jim den Hollander/USPHL.com, 03/07/19, 2:45PM EST
The biggest challenge for the Florida Eels heading into the Premier National Championship event could be making sure they are game-ready.
By placing on top in the Florida Division at the end of the season, the Eels drew a bye straight to the championship event, but that also means the team has not faced off against opposition since Feb. 17.
With only the top team in each of the four round robin pools advancing to the tournament semifinals, there is no time to shake off the rust.
Luckily, the Eels have several players with previous National Championship experience so they expect to be ready out of the gate.
The 208 goals scored by the Eels this season was second best in the league behind only the New York Aviators. This is a team that is an offensive threat no matter who is on the ice.
Over the season, the Eels and their biggest rivals, the Florida Jr. Blades, met often so The Eels also had four games against other teams that will be at the championships, including two games against the Whalers. They lost Sept. 29 (4-3) and Dec. 15 (3-0) in showcase play. The Eels also took a Dec. 16 6-4 loss to the Charlotte Rush at the USPHL Florida Showcase.
The Eels have a win from Nov. 17 (5-2) against the Syracuse Stars at the Islanders Hockey Club Showcase to their credit. They will run into both the Whalers and Stars at the round robin portion of the tournament.
Players To Watch
A pair of Russian left wingers: Nikita Pinimyasov (‘00/Moscow) and Demeed Podrezov (‘00/Moskva) lead the way offensively for the Eels with 56 (24 goals, 32 assists) and 50 (25-25) points respectively.
Four others: Colton Crabtree (‘98/Brighton, Colo.); Gabriel Hemstrom (’98/Stockholm); defenseman Yan Kalinovsky (‘98/Astana, Kazakhstan) and Jared Figueroa (’99/Scotch Plains, N.J.) have 40 points or more.
Eels Premier Nationals Round Robin Schedule
Sat., March 9: vs. Pittsburgh Vengeance, 11 a.m.
Sat., March 9: vs. Syracuse Stars, 9 p.m.
Sun., March 10: vs. Hampton Roads Whalers, 3:45 p.m.