The United States Premier Hockey League expansion is continuing on the West Coast.
Three new teams have been announced as the newest junior hockey franchise to join the USPHL Premier Division for the upcoming 2021-22 season. The Fresno Monsters, Long Beach Shredders, San Diego Sabers, Lake Tahoe Lakers, Ontario Jr. Reign, and Las Vegas Thunderbirds make up the league’s Pacific Division.
The Lake Tahoe Lakers were the first team announced to become a new member of the Pacific Division in late April. The ownership group of Ryan Cruthers, Jocelyn Langlois, and Saul Salama are no stranger to the USPHL as they currently own the reigning Premier and Elite National Champion Charlotte Rush, as well as the Charleston Colonials.
"We believe our track record with player advancement, college placement, and competitive success - and now coupled with the location of Lake Tahoe - makes it an ideal location for a junior-hockey player looking to advance.” – LTL Ownership.
The Long Beach Shredders were the next team announced in early May where it was also announced that the owners of the Long Beach Shredders are Emerson and Danette Etem. Emerson, a native of Long Beach, was a first-round selection in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft by the Anaheim Ducks. Along with representing Team USA on the U.S. National Team Development Program, he also led the major junior Western Hockey League in goals (61) in 2011-12, one year before making his NHL debut with the Ducks. Etem went on to play in 173 regular season and 23 playoff games in the NHL, with the Ducks as well as the New York Rangers, posting 54 combined points in his NHL career. He also played in the American Hockey League for portions of seven seasons.
"Being from Long Beach, this team will open up a ton of doors for local hockey players and others across the world who are looking for the highest quality Tier-3 junior experience." - Etem Emerson.
Lastly, the Ontario Jr. Reign was announced last Wednesday as the newest junior hockey franchise to join the USPHL Premier Division for the upcoming 2021-22 season. The Jr. Reign will play home games at the Ontario Center Ice facility in Ontario with a fully equipped locker room, gym, and small shooting rink.
Longtime California youth and junior hockey coach Tomas Kapusta has been named the Jr. Reign’s general manager, with Dave Hyrsky serving as head coach.
“Our biggest priority is to serve top local players who want to play at the junior level and have an opportunity to enter NCAA Division I, Division III, and ACHA college hockey while not having to leave the state, their community, and their families,” Kapusta said.
Founded in 2012, the goal of the United States Premier Hockey League is to prepare and develop players for college hockey (and beyond) through a tiered development program. To date, the USPHL has sent more than 2,000 players to college hockey in its eight years of existence.