#USPHLPlayoffs Series Preview: Florida Eels vs. Atlanta MadHatters
By Joshua Boyd / USPHL.com
Florida Division Preview
Florida Eels (1) vs. Atlanta MadHatters (2)
All Games at Fort Myers Skatium
Eels are home team for Games 1 and 3; MadHatters are home for Game 2
Game 1: Saturday, March 11, 10 a.m. EST
Game 2: Sunday, March 12, 10 a.m. EST
Game 3: Monday, March 13, 10 a.m. EST (if necessary)
It had been a while since the Atlanta MadHatters had to worry about whether or not they were making playoffs. By Jan. 1, they had a 10-point lead on the fifth place position and that increased to 23 points by season’s end.
Safely in, the MadHatters still pushed themselves in trying for the third place position, but just came up four points shy and set up a showdown with the division champion Florida Eels. The MadHatters took a win in their last meeting with the Eels, played what seems like eons ago, on Nov. 7, by a 4-3 shootout score. The Eels never gave up regulation points, however, during the season, going 5-0-0-1. Atlanta went 1-3-1-1, earning four points over the course of the season series.
“We played them tight all year, with three of the six games going to OT or shootout,” said Atlanta Head Coach Sean Bernhardt. “We’re excited to get another shot at them as six of our players weren’t on our roster in the two series that we played them.”
Florida Head Coach Mitch Hill echoes the sentiment, in terms of the competitive nature between the two teams. With half of the games going beyond regulation, he “[expects] a great series.”
“Our games were super competitive against Atlanta. They are a good team that works hard and makes you earn every inch on the ice,” said Hill. “We are excited about our series against the MadHatters.”
Hill’s Eels were able to recapture the division championship, giving them consecutive Elite division titles for the first time. They had also won the title in 2019-20, but the Tampa Bay Juniors won the division in three of the first four years of the current format of the USPHL Elite (going back to 2017-18).
“We accomplished what we set out to do in the regular season. We solidified first place in the division heading into playoffs,” Hill added. “We spent a ton of time working on our structure and getting everyone involved in our team play so I am very pleased with how we ended the regular season this year.”
“Our pace is what worked out best for us this year. We have a relentless pace and can play with anyone in any situation,” he added. “We are continuing to push that pace while understanding our structure and how to play ‘Playoff Hockey’ come this weekend.”
Playoff hockey will be a showcase for players such as Lorenzo Marchetta (68 points), the leading scorer, in addition to Adamo Di Re (58 points) and Alexander Clingerman (55 points). Defenseman Jachym Cermak was often selected for player awards during the season.
Atlanta’s Cooper Lundberg crossed the finish line as a top 20 scorer in the league with 58 points, while Colby Sims and Alan Qiao also finished the season averaging better than a point per game.
“The season was a bit up and down but we feel we ended on a positive note with a strong game against Tampa that we lost, and then a strong game to end the season where we beat them,” said Atlanta’s Bernhardt. “When our compete level is up we can be one of the most dangerous teams in the league. We had big wins against teams like Richmond, Carolina, Eels, and Tampa, but we also had some down weekends where our compete level wasn’t there.
“Compete level – that was our focus [in practice] preparing for playoffs,” he added.