#USPHLNationals Elite Team Preview: Chicago Crush 

By Joshua Boyd / USPHLElite.com 


The Chicago Crush as an organization were founded in 2022 as a USPHLPremier program, and their USPHL Elite team was founded just in 2023. One year into the Elite team’s existence, they are on their way to the USPHL Nationals as one of two first-year Midwest Division Elite teams. 

“It feels great to be a part of the national tournament in our first year at the Elite level,” said Crush Head Coach Phil Bushbacher. “As a second year club, we are thrilled at the opportunity to showcase our program at the biggest event of the USPHL season.”

The Crush went 27-14-0-3 during their inaugural season, enough to clinch second place in the Midwest Division and earn a bye into the first round. They watched as the Fort Wayne Spacemen and the Chicago Cougars went through a three-game series, with Fort Wayne emerging as The Crush’s second round opponent. For both teams, just two wins represented the necessary achievement for a Nationals berth. 

The Crush came out and won Game 1 2-0 on the back of a 31-save shutout by Johnny Augusta. However, Fort Wayne rebounded in a major way, winning 4-1 in Game 2. The Crush broke out for a 5-1 win in Game 3 to earn their berth to the Nationals in Utica, N.Y. 

“I thought we did a really nice job of managing our emotions during the last series against Fort Wayne. They had our number all season, but we stayed in the moment, and played some of our best hockey,” Bushbacher said. “It was a great series, and kudos to the Spacemen, but we are certainly happy to have advanced on to Utica.”

Cole Darlas, who had 22 points during the regular season, put up three points in three games to lead the Crush against Fort Wayne. Six more Crush players each had two points. 

Augusta stopped 54 of 55 shots during his two games in action, while Kyle Tyszkiewicz stopped 32 shots during the Game 2 loss. 

The team was facing about 10 days between games, so Bushbacher said the team’s time would have to be very well planned. 

“We will have a bit of time between games, so we will have to practice with a lot of tempo and detail,” said Bushbacher. “We have had a few long breaks during the year, and it will be good to recharge after a long season and focus on some areas of needed improvement.”

The Crush had quite the Seeding Round draw, as they will face the defending National Champion Carolina Jr. Hurricanes on March 21 and the 2023 runner-up Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights. The Crush have only ever played one game outside of their division: a 3-1 victory over the Elmira Impact (Atlantic Division) on Nov. 18 at the USPHL Detroit Showcase. It doesn’t matter who they draw, said Bushbacher, the Crush have to be ready to play their two best games all year – because everyone else will. 

“Every team in the event will be strong. All of us are the best teams from our respective divisions, so the level of play will be high,” said Bushbacher. “Carolina is a team that we are eager to see, as they have had a tremendous regular season and playoffs. We are also looking forward to seeing how Metro does. As a division, we want to make a splash, so this will be one instance in which we are pulling for the Jets!”