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#StimsonSix - The Best Time Of The Year

What a week it has been! The last seven days have seen plenty of personal records broken, historical team marks passed, and playoff hockey finally begin in the United States Premier Hockey League.

What's happening across the USP3? Find out below, and take a larger look at the USPHL by checking "Kleiner's 7 Things" by Mike Klein every Wednesday evening at USPHL.com.

 

1. Records Fall As Regular Season Wraps Up

The Generals concluded the regular season last weekend with a two-game sweep of the West Sound Warriors, but the headlines revolved less around the final results and more around whether or not Cody Arbelovsky would break the Generals single-season goal scoring record. Arbelovsky entered the weekend needing just two goals to break Michael Frei's record of 46 set during the 2008-09 season, however the Warriors held the Alaskan goalless on Friday for only the second time in nine meetings. With a packed house arriving at The Rink Exchange on Saturday hoping to witness history, Arbelovsky came through by tying Frei's record late in the first period and later surpassing it with less than five minute left in regulation.

On the blue line, Brett Sparks broke two single-season franchise records for defensemen: goals (23) and overall points (56). In his second full season and third overall with the team, Sparks has emerged as perhaps the league's most formidable offensive threat among defenseman as he led all USP3 blue liners in goals and points while finishing tied for third among all skaters in power play goals (9).

Forward Cole Bloemer also added his name to the record books as his nine game-winning goals this season beat the previous franchise record of eight set by forward Michael Schlagel during the 2008-09 season. That clutch play proved to be part of the reason why Bloemer was awarded the Robert Freeland Golden "Hart Hat" Award on Wednesday at the team's annual banquet.

Between the pipes, goaltender Christopher Alexakis broke the single-season franchise record for goals against average by posting a mark of 2.28 to beat Mario Retana's record of 2.41 set during the 2009-10 season. After a season that saw Alexakis net 20 wins (third-most in the USP3) with a save percentage of .927, Alexakis was named as the team's MVP.

As a team, the Generals finished the regular season with 71 points, the third time in franchise history that the team has crossed the 70-point threshold (76: 2008-09 and 2009-10). Currently playing in the team's first season as members of the United States Premier Hockey League, those 71 points finished tied with the Charlotte Rush for the second-most in the USP3 behind only the Florida Jr. Blades (86).  

 

2. One Down, One To Go

The Generals are one win away from punching their ticket to Boston after Tuesday's 7-4 win over the Seattle Ravens in Game One of the USP3 Pacific Division Championship Series. Six different goal scorers got in on the action for the Generals while thirteen total skaters tallied at least one point to help earn an impressive victory on home ice. The Generals and Ravens face off again on Friday, February 24th at 7:30pm PST at The Rink Exchange in Eugene, Oregon where the Generals will have a chance to win the series and clinch a spot among the final six teams that will vie for the USP3 Championship at the USPHL Beantown Spring Classic. If the Generals are unable to earn the victory, the two teams will face off 24 hours later for a winner-take-all Game Three, also at 7:30pm PST and also at The Rink Exchange.

 

3. Traverse City, Decatur, And Then...

The Midwest has seemingly separated itself into three tiers: Traverse City at the top, Decatur in a class below them, and everybody else lumped together behind the Blaze. Three teams in particular - the Alpena Flyers, Ironwood Yoopers, and Motor City Hawks - constantly traded places in the standings throughout the regular season and little evidence indicates that there is a true top dog among the trio. Now with the playoffs finally here, only two questions remain: Can any of those third-tier teams challenge Decatur in the semis? And can anyone truly challenge Traverse City?

Video coverage of all USP3 Midwest Division Playoff games is available via HockeyTV with live stats provided via USPHL.com. 

 

4. Postseason Play Kicks Off In North

The North Division Playoffs will also get underway this weekend after a thrilling finale to the regular season that saw the Jersey Hitmen clinch the top seed on the final weekend thanks to a 4-0 win over the second-place Islanders Hockey Club. As such, the Hitmen will have a much more hospitable first-round matchup as they'll face off against the fourth-seeded Boston Junior Bruins while I.H.C. will be tasked with a difficult opening round matchup against a Jersey Shore team that spent much of the season contending for first place before trailing off a tad towards the final few months.

The North Division Playoffs begin this Friday as I.H.C. will play host to the Whalers at 11:00am EST while the Hitmen will begin their playoff run against the Junior B's on Saturday at 6:15pm EST. Video coverage of all USP3 North Division Playoff games is available via HockeyTV with live stats provided via USPHL.com. 

 

5. South Steams Into Second Round

While the rest of us are just getting underway with postseason play, the South Division has been busy at work with eight team having already been chopped down to four following a fantastic first round of play. 

Only one of the four series in the south truly followed expectations as the top-seeded Florida Jr. Blades easily dispatched of the crosstown rival Eels, but the second-seeded Charlotte Rush, whom had largely cruised through the regular season en route to posting the second-best point total in the USP3 (71), ran into trouble in their opener. Charlotte got far more than they expected from a feisty Palm Beach side but the Rush ultimately squeaked out a pair of one-goal wins to advance to the second round.

Things really got turned upside down when the Atlanta Junior Knights sent shockwaves through the USP3 as they rolled into the Eagles' nest and stunned third-seeded Carolina behind a pair of shootout wins, and the most anticipated matchup of the opening round lived up to the hype as Richmond and Hampton Roads played three thrilling games with the Whalers ultimately upsetting the fourth-seeded Generals thanks to an OT win in Game One and a 4-3, come-from-behind win in Game Three. 

The South Division re-shuffles teams following the opening round, and as such, the top-seeded Blades will play host to the sixth-seeded Atlanta Junior Knights while the Rush will welcome the Whalers to Charlotte. Hampton Roads and Charlotte have already kicked off their best-of-three series with the Rush claiming a 5-1 win on Wednesday afternoon.

Video coverage of all USP3 South Division Playoff games is available via HockeyTV with live stats provided via USPHL.com. 

 

6. Monday Headlines

How will the USP3 headlines look on Monday. Find out below: 

Blades, Rush Roll Into South Division Finals - It's time to get back to business after the wild first round in the South Division, and few teams have been as business-like as the Jr. Blades and Rush have through their march through the regular season. Florida will keep the momentum rolling as they'll have no problem with the Jr. Knights while the Rush will bounce back from their tight series against he Hawks with a two-game sweep of the Whalers. 

Top Seeds Take Care Of Business In Midwest - The South Division may have provided plenty of surprises in its opening round of playoff play, but the Midwest will do no such thing as Decatur (vs. Tri City), Motor City (vs. Kalkaska) and Alpena (vs. Ironwood) will each win their respective series and advance to the semis. Decatur in two, Motor City in three, Alpena in two. 

 

Remember to follow the Generals on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram throughout the 2017 USPHL Playoffs for scoring updates, photos, videos and behind-the-scenes content from Generals players and staff.