California Rubber

California’s and Nevada’s Authoritative Voice of Hockey

Sabers, Jr. Reign make noise opening 2022 in Boston at USPHL Winter Showcase


The San Diego Sabers and Ontario Jr. Reign trekked 3,000-plus miles Jan. 7-10 to play in the USPHL Winter Showcase in the Boston area.

Both teams played teams out of their region with the Jr. Reign going 2-1-1 and the Sabers 2-2 in a very competitive environment at the New England Sports Center.

“The boys were pretty focused going out to Boston, and I liked how we started the first game of the showcase (defeating the Boston Advantage 6-4),” said Sabers head coach Domenick DiCicco. “Trips like this always help bring the team closer together even though the guys were close to begin with. I liked how our guys kept playing regardless of the way the game was going and adjusted to the different format of the games.”

“The boys played hard all four games as we collected five of a possible eight points,” added Jr. Reign head coach Jeremy Blumes. “I thought our depth helped create scoring opportunities and limit opposition chances. Goalie James Palmer played exceptionally well, and the addition of Damon Agyeman really helped solidify our back end.”

San Diego also defeated the Hershey Cubs 4-1 while falling 6-2 to the Buffalo Stampede and 6-1 to the South Shore Kings.

Adam Wedberg and Carson Brown each had a goal and two assists in the win over the Advantage and Filip Plars made 25 saves in goal, while Jonathan Gosselin netted all four goals against Hershey, all unanswered after the Cubs took the initial 1-0 lead. Francis Plant finished with 23 saves for the win as well.


“It’s a bit of a different style out East and the officials call the game a bit different,” DiCicco said. “The boys found ways to not let that difference in styles affect them and do what they could to stick to our game.

“Jonathan Gosselin really stood out for us. He returned to us in November from last year’s team and this past weekend was able to find his game. We expect more of that from him moving forward.”

Ontario gained a 6-1 win over the Decatur Blaze and a 5-1 victory over the Boston Jr. Bruins while losing 4-3 in a shootout to the Palm Beach Typhoon and 6-0 to the Tampa Bay Juniors.

Junah Croteau led the way with a goal and three assists against Decatur, Aiden Szautner added two goals, and Braedon LeGrandeur had a goal and a pair of helpers in the win. Against the Jr. Bruins, Cole Kershaw went for three goals and an assist and Palmer stopped 32 shots in goal.


“Our captain Jackson Wade did a great job keeping the oppositions off the scoresheet as well as on the PK; he led by example all weekend,” Blumes said. “His partner, recent addition Damon Agyeman, was solid as well. Newcomer Michael Deforeal adjusted nicely with his partner Zach Stangness and they formed a formidable top-4 ‘D’ corps. Braedon LeGrandeur terrorized the opposition’s defense on the forecheck and played a heavy game all weekend. Cole Kershaw finally broke out and scored a hat trick in our final game against a highly-regarded Boston Jr. Bruins team.

“Our hockey operations department did a great job of preparing the guys for the opposition that we were unfamiliar with. I felt like going into each of the games we had a solid scouting report and game plan put together going into each and every game.”

Going forward, each coach knows any momentum gained can be sustained heading into this upcoming weekend where Ontario and San Diego each play three games in Utah against the Utah Outliers, Ogden Mustangs and Provo Riverblades.

“I feel the showcase helped us build momentum and confidence for the last bit of the regular season by showing us that if we stick to our game then we can beat anyone,” DiCicco said. “We fell short in two games out there, but it was good in the sense that it showed us what we need to focus on improving for the remainder of the season going forward and, ideally, into playoffs.

“We’ve collected a 10 out of a possible 14 points the last three weeks dating back to Christmas (prior to last weekend),” Blumes added. “I believe our team is turning the corner as we prepare for a strong second half. When we play the game the right way, we are a very good hockey team.”

— Matt Mackinder

(January 19, 2022)

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