NAPHL 18U Gold Championship Preview | North American Prospects Hockey League | NAPHL
North American Prospects Hockey League logo North American Prospects Hockey League
A Step Above the Rest NA3HL NAHL USA Hockey T1ER NAHL Combines

NAPHL 18U Gold Championship Preview

February 12, 2014
The NAPHL Championship Series is just a few days away and eight teams in each of the 18U and 16U Divisions have earned the right for the opportunity to call themselves NAPHL Champions.
The top 8 teams 18U Division may be the most competitive and balanced the league has seen in its five seasons. There is no clear-cut favorite heading into the Championships. The top four clubs were separated by just four points during the regular season, but teams 5-8 also pack plenty of punch.  Here is a look at why each of the eight teams have a shot at the title.
Gold Division Pool A
#1 Anaheim Jr. Ducks
#4 Lansing Capitals
#5 West Michigan Hounds
#8 California Titans
Gold Division Pool B
#2 Omaha AAA
#3 Esmark Stars
#6 Pikes Peak Miners
#7 Pursuit of Excellence
Anaheim Jr. Ducks (1st place, 21-3-0, 42 pts)
Season Summary: The Jr. Ducks had the most wins (21) and the 18U’s leading scorer in Amarillo tender Elijiah Barriga. They won 12 of their last 13 NAPHL games.
Keys to victory: Depth. The Ducks had 12 players in double-digit scoring in the NAPHL this season and they also have two capable goalies with experience. They also had the 18U’s leading goal-scorer in Corpus Christi tender Paul Boutoussov (21 goals), so if he and Barriga can consistently produce, Anaheim will have success.
Roadblocks: Two of Anaheim’s three losses during the regular season were to teams they will have to face in the round-robin in Lansing and California. Lansing beat the Ducks 3-1 at the last NAPHL event and the two clubs will face one another during the final round-robin game on Sunday.
Omaha AAA Hockey Club (2nd place, 20-2-2, 42 pts.)
Season Summary: Omaha is the hottest 18U team heading into the Championships having won their last 12 NAPHL games. Armed with eight players who have signed NAHL tenders this season, Omaha had the #1 offense, power play and penalty kill in the league this season.
Keys to victory: With all the focus on the amount of offensive firepower, Omaha had the league’s #2 goalie in Justin Ketola, who put up a 13-1-1 record this season the NAPHL. If Ketola is on his game along with the 18U’s second leading scorer in Nathan Medeiros, Omaha could be unstoppable.
Roadblocks: It has been since early November since Omaha has faced any of the opponents they will face in the round-robin (Esmark, Pikes Peak, Pursuit of Excellence) and a lot of things have changed since then, so there will be the element of unfamiliarity. One of Omaha’s, two regulation losses this season was to Pursuit of Excellence, who they face in their first game
Esmark Stars (3rd place, 19-3-2, 40 pts.)
Season Summary: The Stars finished off another solid season by ranking as the #1 defensive team in the 18U Division. In 24 NAPHL games, the Stars allowed just 37 goals. After starting just 1-2-1, the Stars won 18 of their final 20 league games.
Keys to victory: If defense wins Championships, then the Stars have a great chance to become NAPHL Champions. Along with the #1 defense in the 18U Division, the Stars had the league’s top goalie in Brian Baker, who is a tender of the Lone Star Brahmas. Baker led the 18U Division in goals against average, save percentage and shutouts. Esmark also had the #3 offense in the 18U Division, which makes for a successful combination.
Roadblocks: Scoring depth and playoff history. After the top five forwards, the Stars offensive output drops significantly. They also have been close to winning the title the last two years, having lost to Lansing last season in the Semi-Finals in a shootout and losing to California in the title game back in 2012.
Lansing Capitals (4th place, 19-5-0, 38 pts.)
Season Summary: The Capitals jumped out to a 14-2 record, but lost three of their last eight games down the stretch. Teammates Ronald Hein and Zach Roberts both tied for the 18U lead with four game-winning goals apiece. Goaltender Jacob Gwillim was 2nd in the 18U Division in wins with 12.
Keys to victory: All season long the Capitals have been inspired by their former head coach Dean Dixon, whose story has been well documented this season. With karma on their side, the Capitals could be the team to beat if Gwillim, Hein and Roberts are all playing at the top of their games. The recent addition of Jack Brandstetter could also help the offense. Lansing is also very disciplined so they need to take advantage of being on the power play.
Roadblocks: The Capitals lost to two of the three teams they will face during the round-robin, including West Michigan back on January 19th and California back on November 9th. They did beat Anaheim on January 18th, but they may have to find a way to get more scoring to reach the Semi-Finals.
West Michigan Hounds (5th place, 16-7-1, 33 pts.)
Season Summary: At one point, the Hounds were just 5-4 on the season, but picked it up towards the end and finished with 9 wins in their last 11 games. Cameron Clarke was one of the league’s best defensemen as he led the Hounds in scoring and was tied for 2nd among defensemen in 18U scoring. They also have one of the league’s best goalies in Hunter Vorva.
Keys to victory: Michigan Warriors tender PJ Heger has to be at his best as does Vorva. Nathan Viberg scored nine goals during the season and four of them were game-winners. The Hounds also led the 18U Division in shorthanded goals, which may give them an edge even if they find themselves a man down.
Roadblocks: The Hounds rank 6th in both goals scored and goals against per game. They didn’t have a forward put up more than 21 points during the NAPHL season and their leading scorer was a defenseman. They also have losses against Anaheim and Lansing in NAPHL play this season, who are two of the three teams they will face in the round-robin.
Pikes Peak Miners (6th place, 13-6-5, 31 pts.)
Season Summary: After a slow start of a 4-3-2 record in the first nine games, the Miners finished the season on a 4-0-1 run during the final regular season event back in January. Break out stars this season included brothers Ethan and Jeremy Solat, defenseman David Dziezawiec and goaltender Evan Smith.
Keys to victory: The Miners were close in most of their losses and five of their 11 losses were in a shootout, where they were just 2-5 this season. If they can avoid the shootout, get production from the Solat brothers and other like Evan Butcher, Connor Hutchins and others, they have a good shot to advance out of their pool.  Smith will likely be the starter in goal and the 6’6 netminder could really make an impression on the scouts by carrying the Miners on his back.
Roadblocks: Avoiding the shootout. Fortunately, the Miners lost five of their 11 games in a shootout and earned valuable points. Unfortunately, they lost 11 of their 24 NAPHL games overall. They are also just 1-4 this season against the teams they will face in the round-robin in Omaha, Esmark and Pursuit of Excellence.
Pursuit of Excellence (7th place, 13-9-2, 28 pts.)
Season Summary: Pursuit of Excellence (POE) jumped out to a 10-4-1 record through the first 15 games, but won just three times in their last nine. At just 15-years-old forward Tyler Benson was one of the brightest young stars the league has seen in its five-year history. Benson finished 3rd in 18U scoring with 40 points and ranked 2nd in assists with 26.
Keys to victory: Benson has the type of talent that allows him to take over a game. Linemate Zack Andrusiak has also come on as of late with 11 points in his final four games. Brandon Duhaime and Hunter Zandee have also shown flashes of brilliance. If POE’s best players can be on top of their games right from the get go, they may just be young enough to let their youth and momentum carry them through. They have done well against their three opponents in the round-robin during the regular season
Roadblocks: Stay out of the penalty box. POE ranked 2nd in the NAPHL in penalty minutes and had the most minor penalties of any team in the league. 5 on 5, POE has a chance because of their young, high-end talent, but if they take penalties the highly ranked power plays of the likes of Omaha and Esmark could spell doom. 
California Titans (8th place, 13-9-2, 28 pts.)
Season Summary: The Titans limped into the playoffs, winning just one of their last five games. However, during the middle of the season, the Titans went on a 9-2-1 run and were towards the top of the league. They are the only team who has claimed the 18U title multiple times so any time they are given a shot to win a Championship, they usually play their best hockey. 
Keys to victory: The Titans have wins against both Anaheim and Lansing this season and those will be their first two games of the round-robin. California has two of the better defensemen in the league in Austin Wilk and Samu Suominen.  Teemu Runsala has also played well as of late. Corey Pelone has also played well this season and scored some big goals. In goal, no matter if Joe Licata or Grant Payne gets the start, both have to play their best hockey of the season for Cal to have a shot.
Roadblocks: California has had penalty trouble this season, ranking 1st in penalty minutes. The Titans will also have to find a way to generate some offense. The Titans lost leading scorer Hunter Stanley to the NAHL, and the next highest scorer had just eight goals in NAPHL play this season.
Silver Division (Consolation) Pool A
#9 Texas Tornado
#12 St. Louis Selects
#13 Phoenix Firebirds
#16 Detroit Falcons
Silver Division (Consolation) Pool B
#10 New Jersey Jr. Titans
#11 San Jose Jr. Sharks
#14 Atlanta Fire
#15 Cleveland Jr. Lumberjacks
Bauer True Temper Hockey USA Hockey
USPA Hockeyak Warroad Howies Hockey Tape Lettermen Sports DASH Digital Auction Showdown K1 Sportswear Official Game Puck
HockeyWolf Bethel University Avis Car Rental Budget Car Rental Ace Rent A Car
Neutral Zone CaptainU NSC Super Rink Source One Digital
Let's Play Hockey Let's Play Hockey USA Hockey Magazine MYHockey Rankings

Terms of Use