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#USPHLPlayoffs Preview: Motor City Gamblers vs. Decatur Blaze

Decatur Blaze (6) at Motor City Gamblers (3)

All Games At Big Boy Arena

Friday, March 1, 2:30 p.m. EST

Saturday, March 2, 7:30 p.m. EST

Sunday, March 3, 12 p.m. EST (If Necessary) 

 

By Joshua Boyd / USPHLElite.com

 

Welcome to the first-ever USPHL Elite Midwest Division playoffs, and the Motor City Gamblers and Decatur Blaze will be the first two Midwest Elite teams to hit the ice to eventually decide which two out of six division teams will qualify for the 2024 USPHL Nationals in Utica, N.Y.

The two teams set to hit the ice at 2:30 p.m. had very different seasons. The Gamblers finished only six points short of second place, which earned the No. 2 team the Chicago Crush a first round bye. The Blaze struggled in Year 1 of their Elite program, winning a single game. However, they also pushed the No. 1 team in the division, the Metro Jets, to an overtime as recently as Feb. 3, falling 3-2. Blaze Head Coach Justin Cohn is excited to start essentially from a blank slate for the playoffs.

“I expect a great, hard and physical series. It’s going to come down to who wants to work harder. Motor City is a great program and has gotten the better of us all year long,” said Cohn. “They are a team that will compete and outwork their opponent. We are coming in with the mindset that’s it a fresh start and we are 0-0. We have a great chance if we compete and win the effort battle.”

The Gamblers won all seven of their games against the Blaze this year, the closest being by a margin of six goals. Nevertheless, he knows that the Blaze will come out with that “new season” mentality and do everything they can to make life tough for the Gamblers. 

“We are excited to have our Elite team participate in the division’s first playoffs,” said Gamblers Head Coach Logan Wilt. “We have had two successful series against Decatur this season so far and are looking to have a third. They have made some big roster moves since we have seen them last, so we must be prepared to face those changes.”

Some of the Gamblers players have been among the Elite Division’s top performers. Trevor Touchton’s 59 points in 41 games ranked him in the top 15 of all Elite players this year. Among Elite blueliners, ‘06 standout Jack Squire was third in scoring with 45 points in 40 games, and Carter Schluckbier’s 35 points in 44 games ranked ninth. Mark Bonnay (45 points) and Nick Allen (41 points) were also among a crowd of seven racking up over a point per game. 

Gavin Meisner’s 14 points led the way for the Decatur Blaze, who faced struggles generating offense during the season. Morgan Heck was most frequently in net for Decatur this year, and had a personal highlight in stopping 59 of 62 shots in their 3-2 OT loss to Metro on Feb. 3. 

Braedyn Sullivan and Trevor Houle had nearly identical time in net during this season, with the ‘07 Sullivan putting up an 8-3-0-0 record with a .921 save percentage to lead the team, statistically. 

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