The USPHL Premier Nationals Presented by LTD Hospitality will kick off in Chesapeake, Va. on Thursday morning. Here is a division by division look at how teams made their way to the Virginia tournament.
Charlotte Rush – One of four teams to qualify on the first weekend of the postseason, the Rush finished on top of the division, but still faced a tough task, slaying the two-time defending champion Hampton Roads Whalers. The Rush won the first game 6-2 but the Whalers halted the celebration with a 6-3 win in Game 2 before the Rush used a 5-2 win to move on to the big tournament.
Carolina Junior Hurricanes – The Canes finished seven points up on the Richmond Generals in the regular season, but these were two closely matched squads and that showed with a playoff series that opened and closed with overtime battles. The first, won by the Generals put the Canes in a do-or-die situation and they responded by winning the next two including the finale, in overtime.
Florida Eels - The Eels battled through an entire season before clinching the top spot on the final day of the season with a win against the Tampa Bay Juniors. That proved to be a big win as the Eels moved on to sweep the Atlanta Mad Hatters to earn the division’s top seed.
Charleston Colonials - The Colonials grabbed the other spot, coming out on top in a thrilling three-game set with the Juniors rallying back from a first game defeat and capturing the spot at Nationals with a 2-1 edge in the final game.
Elmira Enforcers - Grabbed the division’s top seed with a nice late season rally that saw the team slip into a second-place tie with the Philadelphia Hockey Club, both teams with matching 28-14-0-2 records. The Enforcers won a pair of games against Buffalo Thunder in the opening round and stayed on home ice to face Philadelphia, boosting its playoff record to 4-0 with two more wins to grab the spot at Nationals.
New York Aviators - The reason the Enforcers got the spot was a great playoff push by the New York Aviators, who finished fifth in the division’s regular season standings and shrugged off being the visitors in two playoff series having already played an entire season on the road. After sweeping the Jersey Hitmen, the Aviators stunned the 33-9-2 Rockets Hockey Club with another sweep in the second round.