#USPHLPlayoffs: Chicago Crush vs. Fort Wayne Spacemen

Midwest Division 

Fort Wayne Spacemen (4) at Chicago Crush (2) 

All Games At Addison Ice Arena, Addison, IL

Friday, March 8, 7:10 p.m. CST

Saturday, March 9, 6:40 p.m. CST

Sunday, March 10, 7:10 p.m. CST (If Necessary) 


By Joshua Boyd / USPHLElite.com


Either the Chicago Crush or the Fort Wayne Spacemen will be among the first two USPHL Elite Midwest Division teams to reach the USPHL Nationals. The teams are two wins away from reaching the Utica University Nexus Center for the “big dance” between March 21-25 for the USPHL Elite National Championship tournament. 

Both teams’ coaches understand just how huge this weekend’s series is in the grand scheme of their historic first season.

“This series is going to be even harder than the first. The Chicago Crush are a great team. We battled with them all year, maybe got the best of them in the season series, but that doesn’t matter anymore,” said Spacemen Head Coach Cam Wirick. “We know we will see their best hockey and we will be ready for it.”

“The series with the Spacemen this weekend will be a hard-fought battle. We have played them a number of times this season, and they have been a tough opponent,” added Crush Head Coach Phil Bushbacher. “They are well coached, have a lot of skill, a lethal power play, and compete for 60 minutes. 

“We know that it is going to be a series won on the small details of the game,” Bushbacher added. “We know it is going to be a fast, physical, and emotion-filled series. They have gotten the better end of our season series, and we have something to prove on our way to Utica.”

The Spacemen finished 22-16-3-3 for 50 points, literally one point out of the third place spot. They were matched up in the first round with the No. 5 Chicago Cougars and came out of it with a 2-1 series victory. The two teams swapped one-goal wins, the Spacemen taking Game 1 4-3 before the Cougars won 3-2 in OT in Game 2 to extend their season. The Spacemen capped the series with a 5-2 victory to pave their way to Round 2. 

“I am very pleased with how we performed this past weekend,” said Wirick. “We were faced with adversity all weekend long and I am very proud at how our guys handled it. We faced it head-on and prevailed. I have to give credit to the Cougars for battling hard all weekend.”

The Spacemen also faced the Chicago Crush eight times and went 6-2-0-0 against the Spacemen. The Spacemen won the closest games, a one-goal game and a two-goal game, and the Crush won 5-2 and 4-1 games in November and January. 

The Crush went 27-14-0-3 to capture the second seed and the first round bye, six points behind the division champion Metro Jets and six points ahead of the third place Motor City Gamblers (who fell to the Decatur Blaze last weekend). 

“We had an opening round bye, so this will be our first action of the postseason,” said Bushbacher. “We had a great regular season, grew a lot as a group, and have really found our stride in the second half. We have a deep team that plays their best hockey when we push the pace, are combative in all three zones, and remain disciplined.”

The Spacemen were led offensively by Joseph Richardson, who had 34 points in 27 games (and he also had three assists in five Spacemen Premier games). Oleksandr Zinoviev was second with 30 points and the two top scorers were among a crowd of eight players who had more than 20 points this year. This included the leading scorer among defensemen, Landyn Ringenberg, who had 27 points. 

Goaltenders Justin Mackley and Brendan Kusbel both played the lion’s share of Spacemen games. Kusbel led the way with seven wins and Mackley led with a .910 save percentage. Ryan Tolbert (7-1-0-0) also had a strong season in the crease. 

All five goalies who suited up for the Crush this year finished with an either winning or even record, led by Johnny Augusta (9-3-0-1, 2.27, .924). Kyle Tyszkiewicz led the team with a .937 save percentage. 

Depth is a trait that both teams had in common, as the Crush had 11 players with 20 or more points, including Jaden Yuknis (43 points in 44 games) and Joseph Coglianese (38 points in 40 games). Defenseman Tyler Rentner had 28 points in 37 games to lead the blue line crew. 

“I’m very proud of how far we have come together, and I am thrilled for our guys to have the opportunity to play this weekend. Our growth on the ice and off has put us in a great position to accomplish some goals that we all knew were ambitious at the start of the year,” Bushbacher added. “We know it may require 180 minutes of effort, or more, and we are excited to have a chance to play a team like Fort Wayne.”