By Joshua Boyd / USPHLPremier.com
Seed: Southeast #2
Seeding Round Schedule
All games to be played at Utica University Nexus Center
Day 1: Thursday, March 23, vs. Mountain #1 Seed (TBD), 1:30 p.m.
Day 2: Friday, March 24, vs. Fort Wayne Spacemen, 7 p.m.
Remainder of schedule determined by outcome of seeding round
A particularly sought after hardware item was secured one year ago by the Richmond Generals USPHL Elite team – their second, after also winning it in 2019. Now, the USPHL Premier Generals are heading to the Nationals with designs on adding yet another banner at SkateNation Plus, and six members of this year’s Premier squad might have the complete pair of rings should the Gens stand tallest in the end.
“Our expectations are always the same every year in our program, it never changes. We expect to be a league leader every year in college placement and next level junior advancement, win our division, go to the National tournament and compete for the National championship,” said Coach R.C. Lyke, the GM and Head Coach of the Richmond Generals dating to well before the USPHL.
“We have been one of the top developmental programs in the country for the last 12 years because everything we do revolves around our family structure and culture. We have developed many successful hockey players over the years, but more importantly, successful young men in life which is always the priority here in the Richmond Generals program.”
Already with three NCAA Division III and many more to come, the Generals have the college advancement portion of their goals down pat. A winning product on the ice certainly draws the college scouts, and Lyke has a .585 winning percentage in the Premier and .709 in the Elite (both since 2017-18), so he’s one of the most successful coaches in both divisions – and that’s saying a lot when you look at where the Generals play.
“I think we play in the toughest division in the league in the SouthEast Division. There are no easy games, they are all wars every night, and you do not get to take weekends off in this division. That is a testament to the extremely strong programs, coaches, and owners in our division and their commitment to their players and programs,” Lyke said. “So when you play in our division you are definitely prepared for anything you will see or face at the National Tournament. At Nationals every team is strong and has earned the right to be there and play. The Premier National Champion will be the team that can stay healthy, disciplined, and have the most success running their system and being consistent.”
The Generals have proven that you don’t need superstars to make the Nationals, you just need total buy-in. The Gens had 32 player register points for the Premier this year, and 18 of those players were in double digits. They play a tight defensive game – as illustrated by the Generals finishing 11th in the Premier in team defense at 2.35 goals per game allowed. The Gens and Nationals-bound Charlotte Rush were the only Southeast teams to allow less than 2.5, as the Rush were 10th at 2.35. It certainly helps to have two goalies like Jadon Lee and Lenny Perno, with a combined save percentage of .928 to put in net on any given day. Lee was 10th at .933, and Perno was also Top 20 with a .922.
The Gens went up against a powerful Potomac Patriots team and were drawn to three games. In the end, they held a top 20 league-wide offense to one goal in Game 3 while having some fun with a 6-1 title-clinching victory.
“The final series against the Potomac Patriots was a great test for our team before heading to Nationals. We know them very well as we have played them a lot this season. The Patriots have a very big, fast, and extremely strong and talented offensive team. We had a specific game plan we put in place to play our style of game and beat Potomac and thought overall we executed it very well,” said Lyke. “We got away from it a bit in Game 2, especially in the second period, and it cost us a game. However, the mindset and response from our team was excellent in Game 3 and we closed out the series with a decisive win over a very strong and talented Potomac team.”
He got outstanding leadership and results from his whole roster – as usual this season – but he did have some kind words for some individuals.
“Matt Hamacher, Jacob Hall, Sean Schifferl, and Jack McCandless led the way from an offensive perspective, and Jonathan Beiber and Zachary Correia led the way from the back end for our team in the series,” said Lyke. “I thought overall our team as a whole was extremely strong and we had a very balanced group that helped us win.
“I think our depth and our overall balanced scoring all the way through our lineup is extremely strong and a major strength of our team.”
Looking at the strengths across the board, just about any Nationals team could say “we got this,” but that’s not ever in the cards for a team with a good work ethic and a hunger for a title. So no one would say that. Eighteen Premier teams are laser-focused and getting the reps in this week, and the Generals are no different.
“We will make sure our staff is watching film on the teams we are playing and preparing our team for our opponents’ power play and penalty kill, systems, and tendencies,” said Lyke. “We will be getting guys healthy after a hard and physical series with Potomac and focusing on lots of puck touches and repetitions on the ice. Our team’s sole focus over the next week is staying sharp both physically and mentally, and keeping ourselves healed and healthy.”