Federals catching fire at the right time

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By Chris Dubiel/Great Lakes Division Director of Media Relations

Bulldogs and Rampage also sweep

Eric Raspotnik scored a goal and an assist to help Fort Wayne sweep Wooster. Photo courtesy of Russ Eastburn/ESP1000.com

With the Great Lakes Division playoff race heating up, the Fort Wayne Federals have been picking up steam in the chase for the post season. After a slow start to the season in which the Feds lost six of seven, Fort Wayne steadily found their footing and begin to put some wins together. The Federals have caught fire since the Holiday break, going 7-1-1.

“We have matured as [a team] by learning the systems and implementing them as effectively as possible,” said Federals General Manager and Head Coach Kevin Shupenia. “The kids are getting better at the right time as we push for a playoff spot.”

Since the beginning of the season, the Federals have had players find their roles and grow has the season has gone along. Shupenia established leaders early in the year with Derek Moss, Brendan Lewis and Ryan Matteson setting an example in the locker room and on the ice. Those players have given Fort Wayne consistent production, as Lewis’ 61 points are third most in the GL Division and Moss and Matteson have averaged better than a point-per-game.

Lately, others have shined and chipped in at opportune times, leading to more victories for the Feds.

“Offensively, Nick Denice has contributed on a regular basis,” said Shupenia. “He is always consistent in his game in both ends of the ice. Cam Wirick is contributing a bunch as well.”

In his last four games, Denice has piled up four goals and seven points. Wirick has eight points in his last six games, including a goal and two helpers Sunday against Wooster. Shupenia has also been happy with the team’s play in the defensive zone, citing major strides from defenseman Nick Bentz.

The unity and hard-working nature of the team seems to finally be paying dividends for Fort Wayne, as the team has improved as the season has gone along.

“The kids are getting better at the right time as we push for a playoff spot,” the coach remarked. “Players like Eric Raspotnik and Bentz, our goaltenders (Quinn Wold, Tyler Martz and Holden Melgoza) and our defensemen have all stepped it up a notch since the Holiday break.”

The all-around improvement showed against the Oilers last weekend, as the Federals outscored Wooster 13-6 in a three-game sweep. The winning streak has helped the Federals leap over three teams in the standings and into fourth place in the division.

“The bounces are starting to go our way,” Shupenia explained. “We didn’t get many early in the season and we were out-playing teams. We just couldn’t win games we could have won.”

These days, the Federals are winning those games. The next task is finding a way to maintain the team’s winning ways.

“The challenge we face is to not get complacent and continue focusing on our all-around play,” Shupenia said. “This is the time of the year that teams set themselves up for the playoffs and to be successful there. We need to be firing on all cylinders.”

 

Elsewhere in the Great Lakes Division of the MnJHL:

Central Wisconsin Saints: Michael Tiberi, Kevin McMorrow and Brett Lucas all picked up three assists in the Saints’ January 25 win over Illiana. Lucas and Devin Chmura had two goals in the series but the Saints dropped two of three.

Chicago Bulldogs: Luke Morin was explosive with eight points and a fight for the Bulldogs in their sweep of the Tri City Icehawks. Joseph Close scored four times and extended his Great Lakes Division lead with 36 goals on the season.

Illiana Blackbirds: Chad Miller scored four goals and assisted on two as the Blackbirds took two of three from the Saints.

St. Louis Frontenacs: Jordan Stradtman scored four goals in the series against the Rampage, including a hat trick Saturday.

Tri City Icehawks: Josh Colleaux found the back of the net three times and Joshua Ybarra scored twice in the series loss to Chicago.

Wisconsin Rampage: The Rampage scored a whopping 26 goals in three games in St. Louis. Ryan Davlantes potted six of them. Chris Wachal notched a hat trick in Saturday’s contest.

Wooster Oilers: Zach Turner led the Oilers with two goals over the weekend, but Wooster was stymied in a sweep at the hands of the Federals.

Games this week:

Friday, February 1

Central Wisconsin Saints at Tri City Icehawks, 7:30 p.m.

Chicago Bulldogs at Wooster Oilers, 7:45 p.m.

Saturday, February 2

Central Wisconsin Saints at Tri City Icehawks, 7:30 p.m.

Chicago Bulldogs at Wooster Oilers, 7:45 p.m.

Sunday, February 3

Central Wisconsin Saints at Tri City Icehawks, 12:00 p.m.

Chicago Bulldogs at Wooster Oilers, 1:00 p.m.