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#USPHLPlayoffs: Fort Wayne Spacemen vs. Chicago Cougars

Midwest Division 

Chicago Cougars (5) at Fort Wayne Spacemen (4)

All Games at SportONE/Parkview Icehouse, Fort Wayne, IN

Friday, March 1, 8:30 p.m. EST

Saturday, March 2, 7:30 p.m. EST 

Sunday, March 3, 11 a.m. EST (If Necessary) 

 

By Joshua Boyd / USPHLElite.com 

 

When the Spacemen and Cougars take the ice on Friday night, they will be among all of the Midwest Division teams who are seeking to become the division’s first-ever pair of USPHL Nationals representatives from the new division. It’s nice to make history – but it’s more important and fun to just win a hockey game, so that’s really always the focus when the puck hits the ice on opening faceoff. 

The Spacemen closed Year 1 in the Elite with a 22-16-3-3 record, while the Cougars came across at 23-18-2-1 record, exactly one point back (50-49 points). To boot, the Cougars actually won the series decisively 6-2-1-0, and Fort Wayne’s record was 3-3-1-2. Five of their match-ups were one-goal games, two were two-goal decisions and only one was decided by the high of three goals. This one will be razor-tight. 

“We are focusing on the details of our game. We understand this is going to be a tightly played series and we want our game to be buttoned up heading into this weekend,” said Spacemen Head Coach Cam Wirick earlier this week. “I think both teams match up very well in this series. Four games went to overtime or a shootout between us this year. We matched up well with the Cougars this season and we are excited for the series.”

“The team is excited for the opportunity to be playing in the playoffs and looking forward to the challenges ahead,” added Cougars Head Coach David Heflin. “The Midwest has proven to be a very leveled division with highly competitive matchups, including the nine between us and Fort Wayne. The difference in previous results with them have merely been decided by a good or bad bounce because the games were so tight. And then to add that into a playoff atmosphere, it should provide for some exciting hockey games this weekend.” 

The Cougars have some serious scoring depth that has helped them so far. Rocco Bifano led the way this year with 52 points in 41 games, followed by a strong group of ‘05 and ‘06 players who could be the future of the Premier Cougars: ‘05’s Lukas Kurowski (46 points in 36 games) and Joshua Roman (35 points in 34 games), and ‘06’s Andrew Engstrom (39 points) and Mark Shibalov (35 points). Jack Gardner led the D corps with 31 points in 39 games. In the crease, Jared Ablack was the leader in save percentage at .915 among a trio of goaltenders with 14 games minimum apiece with John Dillard and Filip Kaczmarczyk. 

The Spacemen feature a red-hot forward in Danylo Shpak, who finished with 24 points in 27 games, including 11 in his last five. Oleksandr Zinoviev has also been a strong presence with 30 points in 41 games. Landyn Ringenberg (27 points) and Rhys Vincill (23 points) have also contributed offense from the blue line. The Spacemen have been deep in goaltending, playing all four of their goaltenders – Justin Mackley, Brendan Kusbel, Ryan Tolbert and Andrew Baumert – over the last couple weekends of their regular season. Kusbel and Tolbert tied for the team led in wins (seven apiece). 

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