#USPHLNationals Elite Team Preview: Atlanta MadHatters

By Joshua Boyd / USPHLElite.com 


The Atlanta MadHatters are ready to come into the 2024 Nationals with nothing but positive energy. This will be the MadHatters first time playing in the Nationals (they had previously qualified for the ultimately canceled 2020 Nationals), so they’re ready to take full advantage of the experience after defeating the Florida Eels in a three-game set, closing it out on Monday. 

“I could not be more proud of this group and how far they have come this year,” said MadHatters Head Coach Tyler Casillo. “The MadHatters have had tough battles with the Eels in years past, so being able to climb the mountain and punch our ticket was a great feeling. This will be most of our players’ first experience at Nationals.”

The MadHatters, taking the No. 3 seed on the season, started the series with a 5-1 win. The Florida Eels defeated them in Game 2, 5-4, but the MadHatters then put up a 7-4 victory in Game 3 to finish the series with their Nationals berth in hand.

“This may be a different response than what most think, but I did not think we played our best hockey in the divisional playoffs. Our brand of hockey is shutdown defense and hats off to the Florida Eels for taking it to us in that regard,” said Casillo. “I was very happy with how we responded in every game. In Game 3 there were 3 goals scored in the first two minutes of the game, including two before the first minute was up. It takes leadership and maturity to be able to deal with adversity like that when your season is on the line. 

“I couldn’t be happier with how we kept our next shift mentality throughout the series,” Casillo added. “We want our guys to settle into Nationals and play loose and free. If we do this, I think you will see an even better Atlanta team at Nationals.”

The team that folks see at Nationals will be playing against the Metro Jets on Day 1 of the Seeding Round followed by the Northern Cyclones on Day 2. Atlanta had close games with both during the season. At the USPHL Florida College Showcase in Estero, Fla., the MadHatters went to a shootout against the Cyclones, eventually falling 5-4. A few weeks later, they played against the Metro Jets at the USPHL Tampa Showcase and earned a 2-0 shutout victory. 

They also faced the Southeast Division’s Potomac Patriots (2-1 loss), and the defending National Champion Carolina Jr. Hurricanes (losses of 4-2 and 3-2 in overtime). 

So, which team does Casillo think will give the 10-team field the most fits? 

“I think the easy answer is the defending National Champions the Jr. Canes. We have played them twice this year, losing 4-2 and in OT. They are extremely well coached and have talent throughout the lineup. I am expecting them to have a great showing,” Casillo said. “I also think that Potomac is a team to watch out for, they looked great in their series with the Rush. It is very hard to sweep Charlotte and they pulled that off in Charlotte’s barn, which is very impressive.”

Also impressive were the performances of several MadHatters in their series against the Eels. Chase Kerr (5-4-9) was one of the top scorers in all the playoffs so far, standing second overall so far. Defenseman Tyler Clouthier and Elite veteran Will McLaughlin each scored five points. Jackson Bernier went 2-0 making 59 saves on 64 shots. Christian Amato stopped 26 shots in the loss to the Eels. 

Like many teams, the MadHatters are in the midst of a very highly planned and meticulous approach to the biggest event of the year. 

“With the long travel we had to make to get to Fort Myers, we will only have three practices to prepare for the upcoming challenge. This means our last three practices will need to be our best of the year to prepare for the battle we are going to face in Utica,” Casillo said. “The plan stays the same as it has all year – practice, lift, and film. Being able to play Metro and the Cyclones earlier in the year will be a nice advantage. The focus will be on our guys playing our game. If we play to our potential and stick to our style, I think we are a tough matchup for anyone at the tournament.”