The PWHPA All-Stars will look to improve to 2-1-0 and get over .500 on their Hub City Tampa trip when they meet the Jersey Hitmen of the USPHL Premier on Saturday morning in Lakeland, Florida. It’s the third of five exhibitions between the USPHL and the PWHPA, and the final against Premier opponents. Puck drop is set for 11:30 am at Lakeland Ice Arena.
The PWHPA enters the game with a 1-1-0 record. After dropping a 5-1 decision to the Northern Cyclones on Wednesday afternoon, the PWHPA met the Islanders Hockey Club on Thursday at TGH Ice Plex in Brandon, Florida. Trailing 5-3 after forty minutes, it appeared like the PWHPA would be heading into the weekend at 0-2-0.
Five unanswered goals later, and the PWHPA prevailed victorious by a score of 8-5. Today will provide the PWHPA with another stiff test.
Scouting The Hitmen
The Jersey Hitmen are 14-22-1-2 on the season and currently sit 5th in the Mid-Atlantic Division of the USPHL’s Premier League. The Hitmen come into this game on a bit of a roll, however. Jersey has won three straight games, and four of five in the month of February. After demolishing the San Diego Sabres 7-2 on February 2nd, the Hitmen dropped a 6-3 decision to the Utica Junior Comets on the 3rd. They’ve been perfect since then.
Jersey knocked off the Detroit Fighting Irish and Connecticut Junior Rangers with ease, beating the Fighting Irish 7-3 on the 5th and the Rangers 8-3 on the 9th. On Thursday, in the game following the PWHPA’s victory at TGH Ice Plex, the Hitmen beat the Skipjacks Hockey Club 6-5 in a thriller.
Jay Finan leads the team in scoring with 42 points (14 g, 28 a) in 38 games, while Keith Goldberg has 33 points (15 g, 18 a) and Thomas Swartwout has 30 points (18 g, 12 a). Among Hitmen players, they are the only three to hit the 30 point mark this season. On defense, Johnny LaMacchia is the top scorer with 23 points (3 g, 20 a) in 31 games played.
John Werber got the win on Thursday, and is now 5-2-0 in nine appearances this season with a .918 save percentage and 3.46 GAA. He’s joined in the crease by Gennaro DeMaio (4-4-0-1, 4.52 GAA, .876 SV%) and Lukas Krabkovsky (3-7-1-1, 5.05 GAA, .889 SV%).
The Hitmen coaching staff has some names that will be familiar to fans of women’s hockey. Sonjia Shelly of the Metropolitan Riveters (NWHL) and Kayla Meneghin of the Buffalo Beauts (NWHL) are currently serving as assistant coaches for the Hitmen under the guidance of HC Darius Radziszewski.
Shelly, a St. Lawrence product, played three games for the Riveters in Lake Placid this season, and finished with a 1-1-0 record, .987 SV% and a 0.50 GAA. She also had one shutout. The second-year netminder played the 2019-20 season with the Connecticut Whale.
Meneghin, meanwhile, is a SUNY-Plattsburgh product who played her third NWHL season in Lake Placid. She had an assist in three games with the Beauts. She spent both the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons with the Whale.
Lineup Shuffle Pays Off
On Thursday, PWHPA All-Star HC Bill Flanagan elected to make a change. He cut his lineup down to nine forwards and five defenders, and shifted veteran Gigi Marvin to defense. In another move, he moved center Abby Roque to right wing, and inserted her on the first line. Both players scored goals in the win.
“Gigi’s a world class hockey player,” Flanagan began. “She can play anything we ask her to play, I think she could probably play goalie too! She was terrific. Not sure what we are going to do on Saturday, but again, I think all of the women played great on Thursday and we’re looking forward to carrying the momentum into tomorrow.”
The decision to move Roque up was something Flanagan thought up during January’s trip. He executed it on Thursday and it worked to perfection.
“I think Roque on the wing,” Flanagan admitted. “She’s very strong, good on puck possession. She made a couple pretty good plays. I like the combination. Kelly (Pannek) is awesome at both ends of the ice and it was a really good combination that we’re gonna stick with on Saturday.”
Both Pannek and Roque are centers, which means the two of them aren’t used to playing together. That didn’t matter, as Roque scored a goal and Pannek finish the win with four points (1 g, 3 a).
“Abby’s a center too, so we usually don’t play together,” Pannek began when asked about the new-look line. “Actually, we never have. That was pretty fun, we have Sophia (Shaver) from Wisconsin who we know pretty well too. We are just trying to have fun with it and keep the puck, make some plays and see what happens.”
Sophia Shaver – Kelly Pannek – Abby Roque
Haley Skarupa – Brianna Decker – Amanda Kessel
Hayley Scamurra – XXX – Sydney Brodt
Megan Keller – Kali Flanagan
Savannah Harmon – XXX
XXX – XXX
Where To Watch
You can tune in to the game live at 11:30 am eastern on HockeyTV. Today’s game is FREE to watch! All you need to do is register with HockeyTV for a free account, so be sure to tune in. The USPHL will have live stats which can be found on their website. Live scoring will be available for all five games during the Hub City Tampa trip. Veteran play-by-play voice Alex Thomas will have the call of all five PWHPA games in Florida.
Stay tuned to ‘The Women’s Hockey Tribune’ and the PWHPA on Twitter for updates throughout the game and postgame!