USPHL Premier 2021 National Championships Preview: Florida Eels
By Joshua Boyd / USPHL.com
The Florida Eels are a regular at the USPHL Premier National Championships tournament and they enter the event this season with a formidable squad that got a bit of a jump on the playoff mentality.
The Eels battled Tampa for supremacy in the Florida Division and that quest didn’t end until the buzzer sounded for the final time on the season and playing a lot of important games down the stretch might have been beneficial when they headed into playoffs last weekend.
The Eels finished the season 25-points in front of the Atlanta Mad Hatters, but Head Coach Frank Scarpaci III knew that meant little going into a best-of-three set against a team that had already proven it could stick with the Eels in a 60-minute contest.
“The Hatters came a long way since the beginning of the season and brought in some key pieces that made them very competitive,” said Scarpaci, in an email interview. “We felt our depth would eventually overwhelm them as long as we were playing the way we knew we were capable of.
“The weekend before, we had a three-game stretch in which we could overtake first place and get the Mad Hatters (as a playoff opponent) and we felt that match-up could lean in our favor.”
Scarpaci feels good about the way his team is playing now, having regrouped from a season that saw them at times look inconsistent.
“For a bit, we were struggling to play consistent hockey,” said Scarpaci. “You’d see us go through stretches of playing really well for two games and then just not even close to our capability.
“We had a three-game series against Charleston that we really didn’t like and the following week we had a Showcase that was just not to our standards. We had a meeting to right the ship and played a really strong game, beating Hampton and we have been really building since then. To me, it’s a night and day difference from where our team was a month ago, and where we’re at right now.
“Our team identity is a group that is focused on defending together as a whole and attacking in waves, line-by-line.” said Scarpaci. “We have a deep, offensively gifted group that can be relentless on the attack.”
Wrapping up the berth on the first weekend gave the Eels a chance to prepare specifically for Nationals now, but Scarpaci looked forward to knowing his opponents as this weekend’s playoff series finish up.
“The uncertainty of who we play is going to be a challenge for our team and coaching staff, but a challenge everyone will be going through,” said Scarpaci. “Our focus from here out will be sharpening our game on what we do well and what we will be able to use against all opponents.
“Every team at Nationals will be a contender, so we want to make sure our strengths are our strengths.”
Florida Eels 2021 Nationals Schedule
(All games to be played at Chilled Ponds Ice Sports Complex, Chesapeake, Va.)
Thurs., March 18, 10:40 a.m., vs. Midwest East 1st Seed
Fri., March 19, 9:10 p.m. vs. Mid-Atlantic 2nd Seed
Sat., March 20, 3:50 p.m. vs. Midwest West 2nd Seed