It was an impressive showing on Tuesday morning for the PWHPA ‘All-Stars’ in Tampa Bay. They shutdown one of the top offenses in the USPHL’s NCDC, and knocked off the Boston Junior Bruins by a final score of 2-1. Kelly Pannek scored twice, while Dani Cameranesi added two assists and Katie Burt made 39 saves in the win. To top it all off, the PWHPA ‘All-Stars’ also moved a broken down Zamboni off the ice during the second intermission.
It’ll take that kind of effort again on Thursday morning as the PWHPA looks to climb above .500 during the homestretch of their training trip. They’ll take on the Utica Junior Comets (4-8-2) of the USPHL’s NCDC conference. The Comets, formerly the Syracuse Stars, are one of the toughest teams in the NCDC. They are known for their hard work and gritty style of play, and will present a different kind of challenge for the PWHPA.
The PWHPA had a light day on Wednesday. Originally slated to practice as a team, the group instead had an optional skate in the morning that most players took part in. The skate was high-paced and touched on a few system tinkers ahead of the final two games of the trip.
“I thought we responded really well on Tuesday,” Coach Bill Flanagan said. “Made a couple of real nice plays that led to goals, could have had a few more too. They had outstanding goaltending. Our defense did a really good job of shutting down their power forwards, did a good job standing the Bruins up, and then of course Burt made the saves she needed too.”
Flanagan will need his group to again put in a good effort defensively. The Comets aren’t as fast or as skilled as the Bruins, but they know how to manufacture offense and are notorious for outworking their opponents.
“We’ll need to bring our A-game, because we know they will,” Flanagan said. “Hard working team, always a challenge to go against them no matter the year.”
Getting Above .500:
There will again be changes to the lineup for the PWHPA. The dynamic top line remains the same, but Hannah Brandt and Abby Roque will again switch positions. This time, Brandt returns to the second line with Sophia Shaver and Haley Skarupa, while Roque goes to the third line with Hayley Scamurra and Sydney Brodt.
Chelsey Goldberg returns to the lineup in place of Delaney Belinskas, while both Olivia Zafuto and Jincy Dunne draw back in on the blueline. Lillian Braga will be scratched.
For the first time on the trip, the PWHPA will dress only two goalies. Nicole Hensley will get the start, while Brittany Ott backs her up. Burt will not dress after making 39 saves in Tuesday’s win.
Dani Cameranesi – Kelly Pannek – Amanda Kessel
Sophia Shaver – Hannah Brandt – Haley Skarupa
Hayley Scamurra – Abby Roque – Sydney Brodt
Nicole Schammel – Gigi Marvin – Chelsey Goldberg
Megan Keller – Kali Flanagan
Lee Stecklein – Savannah Harmon
Codie Cross – Jincy Dunne
Scouting The Comets:
The Comets have started out slowly this season, going 4-8-2 for just ten points in 14 games. Head coach Paul Kelly is one of the longest tenured coaches in the USPHL, and has instilled a hard-working, gritty style. The Comets routinely play low-event hockey and have always given the league’s top teams issues.
Walter Baumann leads the Comets with 13 points (7 g, 6 a), while NCDC veteran Ben Kuzma is second with 12 points (5 g, 7 a). They are the only two Comets who have eclipsed the double-digit point mark this season. Riley Brennan and John Gutt are tied for third on the team in scoring with nine points each. Brennan has scored four goals and added five assists, while Gutt has lit the lamp three times and tacked on six helpers.
Rookie Cameron Whitehead has appeared in eleven games for the Comets this season, posting a 3-4-2 record with a 3.46 GAA and a .907 save percentage. He’s backed up by Andy Vlaha, who is 0-2-0 with a 3.50 GAA and a .936 save percentage in two appearances.
So far in ‘Hub City Tampa’, the Comets are 3-1-0. Their lone loss came on Monday when they dropped a 6-5 decision against the Northern Cyclones. They opened the hub with two straight victories, knocking off the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs 5-2 on January 7th, and the Boston Advantage 3-2 on January 8th.
The Comets won 6-2 last time out, blowing away the Philadelphia Hockey Club on Wednesday.
Where To Watch:
Fans can watch today’s game live on Hockey TV. Veteran play-by-play voice Alex Thomas, who has called numerous PWHPA and NCAA games over his career, will again have the call of the contest from AdventHealth Center Ice in Florida. Coverage begins at 10:40 am.
You can follow ‘The Women’s Hockey Tribune’ on Twitter for highlights and postgame interviews as well! Live scoring is available on the USPHL’s official website.