With the regular-season finish line (Feb. 23) in sight, the final month is all about maximizing point totals and improving playoff seeding.
All 17 teams will participate in the post-season. The three division winners will be awarded the top three sees with remaining teams ranked 4-17 according to point totals. A 16 vs. 17 play-in game on Feb. 26 will determine the final team to take part in the best-of-three first round set for Feb. 28-March 2.
Best-of-three quarterfinals are scheduled for March 7-9, best-of-three semifinals are set for March 14-16 and the best-of-five Championship Series will be held March 19-24. The expanded championship format is geared to prepare teams for Nationals, where they will play five games in five day.
All is not quite as close as it seems. While the first-place Philadelphia Little Flyers (19-9-2-3) are only two points clear of the New Jersey Rockets at the moment, the Flyers do hold three games in hand. The teams meet just once again on Feb. 22. The league’s No. 2 scorer Zach Felser (17-33-50) gets plenty of help from Jesse MacIntyre (17-33-50) and double-digit goal-scorers Oleg Potemkin, Drew Gannon and Hector Majul. Top blue liners Gabe Churckran and Matt Day form the protection for primary keeper Alec Derks (2.55, .918).
The New Jersey Rockets (19-14-2-1) are a pretty fair bet to secure home ice in the first round. Top guns Michael Gillespie (13-36-49), Troy Conzo (19-21-40) and Jonathan Lazarus (14-16-30) form a fierce forward trio, supported by defensemen Frank Coscia (23 points) and Len Caglianone (14 points). Lead goalie Joshua Creelman (2 SO, .921) and back-up Randy Gorda (.911) have been solid.
The Phladelphia Junior Flyers (15-15-4-0) have been one of the league’s better defensive teams all season thanks to the play of top goalie Tommy Bay (2.48, .910). Taylor Olson, Joe Heffernan and Spencer Keglovic are among the defensemen providing protection. Jonathan Ruis (18-14-32), Jamie Lukas (13-12-25), Thomas Crabtree (21 points) and Jeff Beck (11 goals) have accounted for 49 of the team’s 85 total goals.
At the other end of the spectrum are the Philadelphia Revolution (15-20-1-0), who stand at minus-30 despite an output of 105 goals. Ken Tencza (17-24-41), Riley Egan (13-25-38) and James Wallace (13-17-30) all merit close attention in the playoffs. Goalie Hunter Tetrault has seen the majority of the work of late. Ryan O’Malley and Nick Schaeffer must lead a defensive turnaround down the stretch.
It’s been a titanic struggle for the New Jersey Titans (8-22-3-3), unable to get it headed in the right direction from the start. Mac Howey (11-10-21) is the only double-digit goal-scorer and one of only five players with 10 or more points. Matt Armenti (14 points) and Jimmy Burns have been the steadiest defensemen while goalies Justin Kirk (3.62) and Michael DePhillips (3.71) have held up remarkably well, all things considered.
And there are the Washington Junior Nationals (2-28-1-1), last across the board in every substantive statistical category. Four players – forwards Michael Darosa, Pavel Tereschenko and Cody Albert, and defenseman Michael Amelio – have more than 10 points and no player has more than eight goals. Goalie Anthony Giordano (3.57, .905) has been remarkably effective in his 13 appearances.