3 Peat! By Cougars Staff - January 30, 2020
With a decisive 7-0 win on Saturday over the Detroit Fighting Irish the Chicago Cougars have clinched the Midwest East Division championship for their 3rd straight season!
How have they done it?
The Cougars have clinched with a month left in the season by dominating their division, scoring at will with their high powered offense, adding some players at the trade deadline, and key rookies contributing.
The Cougars are undefeated against division opponents this season with 6 division games remaining. In one week, February 8th, they will have a chance to avenge last season's loss to the Decatur Blaze which will mark exactly one calendar year since their last loss within the Midwest East Division.
Offensive For Days
The Cougars lead the nation in Goals Scored and have been near the top all season long. The offensive outpouring is undoubtedly because of explosions against lower division teams, but the Cougars modern style of play and some dynamic players also have been a factor contributing to nearly 6 Goals Scored/Game!
An uptempo, aggressive, and offensive mindset allows players the freedom to transition with speed and get more offensive opportunities with the puck allowing them to showcase their skill and make plays. Defensemen are encouraged to join the play on the rush and in the offensive zone and the Cougars attack with all 5 players on the ice.
The benefactors of this system are the players and this year's team is full of players who can put up offense. As it stands now, the Cougars have 3 guys in the top 6 for Points/Game nationally! Newcoming Defenseman Sam Mudd leads the country in a small sample size with 2.8 Points/Game and Slovenian National Team Forward Jasa Jenko is right behind at 2.65/Game.
Jenko's linemate and former NAHL player, Jozef Martancik, with 2.14 Points/Game is 6th in the country. Close behind them are 3 year Captain Breydon Hemminger (1.78) and Alex Arnold (1.51). Overall, 8 Players on the current roster are scoring above a Point/Game pace!
For the first time since 2016-17 the Cougars were active at the USPHL Trade Deadline, bringing in some fresh faces to try and help the team down the stretch. Unlike the 16-17 season, instead of securing home ice for the playoffs, this season's moves were made with a bigger goal in mind: a National Championship in Boston.
Overall, the Cougars had 4 player transactions in the month of January bolstering their blueline signing Free Agent Sam Mudd while making trades within the league for Brian Sykora and 6'4, 210 lb Gleb Radionvik. The Cougars also added John Serbekian who plays both Forward and Defense.
This team has been dominated by the play of their elders. It is always beneficial to have an older team which usually isn't something that defines Cougars teams, but this year is the exception. However, there are a few rookies that have been big contributors to this season's success. Alex Shaults, Alex Insulander, and Danny Mannarino have all played major roles during the season to help the team succeed.
Shaults has battled with returner Ethan St. Pierre for the number 1 job all season long and collected 3 shutouts along with a .926 save percentage, good enough for 10th nationally and 2nd in the league among rookies! The '02 Tendy has a bright future ahead.
Insulander is a 19 year old rookie import from Sweden who was a relative unknown heading into the season that took a little while to get adjusted, but has seriously found his footing. A smart and skilled player with great vision, Insulander has found his way to a Point/Game pace and top 6 Forward mainstay.
Mannarino has sneakily found his way to a Point/Game through streaky scoring (hat trick last Friday), and steady development throughout the course of the season. The soft spoken Mannarino will need to continue to contribute for improved scoring depth in the playoffs for the Cougars.
As it stands today the Cougars are 28-8-1 and could match the success of their inaugural season team with only 8 losses on the season if they win out the remaining 7 games. Their 57 Points put them 13 Points ahead of 2nd place Decatur and 8th in the 51 team USPHL Premier League. They have scored the most goals (225) in the country and are 14th in Goals allowed (95) this season.
In what has been another banner year for the Cougars, they want more. From day 1 this team has been built to do more than compete in their division. Like every year there have been ups and downs and a lot of changes along the way. Lacing up the skates now has become more and more important with 4 weeks left in the regular season this team is gearing up for a playoff run and want to make their mark going further than any other Cougar team has in the past.
The Cougars travel to Motor City for a pair this weekend then return home February 7th and 8th to take on 2nd place Decatur for a showdown between the division's top two teams.
February 7th 8:10 PM $4 BEERS at BLUELINE!
February 8th 7:40 PM YOUTH HOCKEY NIGHT!
See you at the rink, Go Cougars!
About The USPHL
The United States Premier Hockey League of 2022-23 is the nation’s largest junior amateur ice hockey league and the only league to span the continental United States, from Maine to California, and from Florida to Washington State.
The USPHL includes over 100 organizations comprised of 11,000 players spanning the ages of 6 through 20, including Youth and Midget Division teams in the Tier 1 Hockey Federation.
Overall, across all its divisions, the USPHL see more than 3,100 alumni playing college hockey each year and more than 250 playing pro hockey, including in the NHL.
The league’s top level, the Tuition Free Tier II National Collegiate Development Conference, led all North American Tier II leagues with three players selected in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft and has seen more than 200 NCAA Division I commitments since its 2017 inception. The NCDC will also expand to include the NCDC West, with teams in Colorado, Utah and Idaho for 2023-24.
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