Two of three teams from Pinellas County clinched playoff berths in the Lightning High School Hockey League. East Lake and Palm Harbor University advanced, but Seminole did not make it.
The Eagles and Hurricanes spent all season battling it out for the top spot in the Western Conference’s Bradley Division. That division, named after the Tampa Bay Lightning’s first All-Star, Brian Bradley, was won by East Lake, which tallied 39 points with an 18-1-3 record.
PHU was the runner-up with a 13-7-2 record for 28 points.
Meanwhile, Seminole struggled to a 7-13-2 finish in the Lecavalier Division, named after Vinny Lecavalier, a former captain who led the Lightning to a Stanley Cup title in 2004.
Heading into the stretch run, the Eagles had a slim lead atop the standings with a 15-1-3 record for 33 points. The Hurricanes were right behind at 12-6-2 for 26 points before the Eagles pulled ahead at the end.
Last season, East Lake advanced to the second round of the playoffs while PHU missed the postseason altogether.
“In the past few years, it hasn’t been so great,” said PHU coach Frank La Greca, adding that his team has improved.
Keith Mcadams, in his first year coaching East Lake, said his team is “kind of peaking at the right time.”
East Lake outscored the opposition 115-47 with two solid lines to go along with what Mcadams considers four of the league’s top defensemen in Connor Sheridan, Ryan Piper, Caleb Webber and Oliwier Matejek.
“They’re the difference,” Mcadams said. “We have a really good offense, but when they’re playing good, we have a really good team.”
Scoring leaders for the Eagles are Kyran Stahlke (28 goals, 45 points), George Brkljacic (17, 34) and Benjamin Gentry (20, 30).
PHU finished the regular season with a 104-76 scoring advantage. Scoring leader Ben Reimer had the scoring leader with 25 goals and 39 points. Dominic Huey and Jan Zeman each added 11 goals.
Seminole struggled at the varsity level.
“A tough season,” is how team manager David Goodwin termed it. “We have a lot of travel kids and it seems this year we’ve had a lot of conflicts with out-of-state travel (tournaments). We’re young and we knew it was going to be a struggle. We thought we’d sneak into the playoffs, but that didn’t happen.”