Flint Jr. Generals (1st place) – There is perhaps no team hotter in the entire 3HL than the Flint Jr. Generals. Head Coach Jeff Worlton has his team riding a nine-game winning streak coming into the 3HL East Showcase. Flint has only lost once in the last 20 regular season games, a stretch that dates back to mid-November. Looking at the numbers, it is easy to tell why Flint has had such good success so far this season. They have a very balanced offensive attack and a very solid team defense. The Jr. Generals rank 3rd in the 3HL in both goals scored per game (4.31) and goals allowed per game (2.67). They are the only team in the league with three, 50 point producers in Richard Jansson, Edward Osowski and Andy Lay. Jansson was the 3HL’s player of the month in January and recently signed an NAHL tender to play for the Aberdeen Wings next season. On the back end, the Jr. Generals have one of the league’s most solid defenseman in Ken Milsoer. Ben Myers has been outstanding in goal this season for Flint posting a 20-5-0 record so far this season. He was named the 3HL’s goaltender of the month in both December and January and hasn’t lost a game since January 7th.
Cleveland Jr. Lumberjacks (2nd place) – As good as Flint has been lately, that is exactly how good Cleveland was to begin the season. In their first 21 games of the season, the Jacks lost just once (a close 6-5 loss in Flint). Other than that it was all wins for head coach Bob Jacobsen’s bunch as they opened the season with an astounding 21-1-0 record. However, since that point Cleveland has found it tough sledding winning less than half of their next 19 games. Yet, the remain solidly in 2nd place and no doubt will be a force to be reckoned with come playoff time thanks in large part to their offense. Cleveland has the #1 ranked offense in the league, leading the 3HL in goals, assists and points. They are the only 3HL team that averages more than five goals a game and have the league’s best power play. They also have the league’s top-scorer in 19-year-old Cameron Dimmitt, who leads the 3HL in points. They also have two players who have signed NAHL tenders with forward David Fassbender (Wichita Falls) and goaltender Lawrence Dvorak Jr. (Port Huron). Alexander Larson has also been good in goal for the Jacks, leading the 3HL in save percentage at over 93%. It is going to make for an interesting playoff run for Cleveland, who clearly has the components to win a title.
Metro Jets (3rd place) – Although the Jets sit in 3rd place in the East, they still have a record well above .500 and have been playing some solid hockey the last two months. Head coach Jason Cirone has one of the league’s best offenses with the likes of Steve Klisz, who is one of the league’s top goal scorers and forward Mike MacKinnon. However, where Metro may need improving come playoff time is two areas. First, they would like more production from the blueline, as the top 10 scorers on the roster are all forwards. The Jets also need to become more consistent with winning on the road. Metro has one of the league’s best home records at 14-4-0, but have a sub .500 record away from home. The Jets have proven they can beat both Flint and Cleveland this year, which gives them plenty of optimism come playoff time. They also have three players who have signed NAHL tenders so far. Defensemen Will Shier (Kalamazoo) and Adam Reid (New Mexico) are solid blueliners that are ready for the next level, and forward Josh Beleski (Jamestown) is an 18-year-old forward with good size and an ability to put the puck in the net.
Pittsburgh Jr. Penguins (4th place) – The Pittsburgh Jr. Penguins are yet another 3HL team on the rise. They can hardly be considered a 4th place team considering they are well above the .500 mark and playing in one of the toughest divisions in the league. Head coach Brian Cersosimo’s bunch got off to a rough start, winning just two of their first eight games. However, the Jr. Pens haven’t lost a game in regulation since January 7th. Pittsburgh is leading the 3HL’s youth movement with their line-up. The Jr. Penguins have 18 players born in 1993 or later. Alex Berardinelli (tendered with NAHL’s Fairbanks Ice Dogs) and Bryan Hovanec lead the youth movement up front. Russian-born David Mnatsyan is one of the better and most creative defenseman in the league and goaltender Sean Keating (tendered with the NAHL’ Corpus Christi IceRays) is just 17-years-old. With wins against all the teams above them in the standings in the East, Pittsburgh will be anything but a pushover come playoff time.
Toledo Cherokee (1st place) – Head coach Scott Syring has his squad right where they usually are, at the top of the standings in their division. Veteran forward Joe Skrzynski, 19, has almost 100 points in his 3HL career and has put up some of the best numbers in the league so far this season. Although it looks like the Cherokee have the North Division locked-up, one thing they do not have going for them the rest of the season is an easy schedule. Of their remaining nine games, six of them are with teams in the East Division, who are all above .500. The Cherokee are likely looking at a 1st round playoff match-up with Battle Creek, a team that played them very close in their series back on February 4-5. The one big advantage the Toledo has going into the playoffs this season is that they have had great success against all three divisional opponents (Queen City, Michigan and Battle Creek). They also have one of the league’s best home records, which sets them up perfectly to be in the 3HL’s final four at the end of the playoffs.
Queen City Steam (2nd place) – The Steam, led by head coach Don Biggs, appear to be headed for either a 2nd or 3rd place finish in the North Division. The final two games of the season with 3rd place Michigan will be a playoff preview and likely dictate who will have home ice. Leading scorer Damien Lona was promoted to Wichita Falls in the NAHL, which leaves Trevor Voelker as the active leading scorer. The Steam took a big hit when they lost goaltender Matt Leon to the NAHL, but goaltender Alex Lazarski has stepped in and played well. 18-year-old Lucas McCammant has been a nice mid-season edition, coming close to averaging a point per game. However, the cause for concern with the playoffs on the horizon is Queen City’s sub .500 record against both Michigan and Toledo during the regular season, two teams they are likely to see in the playoffs if they make it to the North finals.
Michigan Mountain Cats (3rd place) – It appears that the Mountain Cats have rediscovered their game after suffering through a rough stretch of games in December and into January. At one point, Michigan lost 12 straight games. That was following a stretch of games in which they posted their longest winning streak of the season (4 games from Nov. 12-19). The biggest issue for Michigan and head coach Chad Grills heading into the final part of the regular season is that their wins have come against just three teams (Battle Creek, Queen City and Pittsburgh). The good news is that their success against Queen City could mean a spot in the North Finals. Michigan also has the benefit of having the 3HL’s top goal scorer in James Koonce, who just turned 18-years-old. Koonce will finish the season with over 30 goals. Zach Collins also provides some scoring and grit up front. However, having success in the post-season may hinge on improving the team defense. The Mountain Cats are one of just four teams in the 3HL who allow more than four goals a game.
Battle Creek Jr. Revolution (4th place) – It has been a difficult season for head coach Richard Keyes and the Battle Creek Jr. Revolution. The Revs have a very young team, but give them credit for gutting it out and showing major improvement as the season has progressed. Goalie Matt Hughes leads the league in shots faced and saves. To date, he has faced almost 400 shots more than his next closest competitor. Battle Creek’s best hockey of the season has been played most recently as they almost broke through for wins against division-leading Flint and division-leading Toledo. On February 3rd, Battle Creek led Flint 3-0 heading into the 3rd period, but were edged 4-3. 17-year-old Joey Lioy leads the Revs in scoring and defenseman James Aldrich also can produce points and play with an edge. James Romberger also contributes up front with some offensive production. After the 3HL East Showcase, Battle Creek will finish up at home with a series against Queen City providing them an opportunity to see how far they have come before their 1st round playoff match-up with Toledo.