A look ahead to the 2019 USPHC where the only certainty is a good time.
The week ahead of the event is absolutely bonkers for us here in Minneapolis. All of our planning is tested, curveballs get thrown into the mix, and excitement hits fever pitch. We don't get to sleep much as we do everything possible to make sure the USPHC is the best event it can be.
There's nothing like seeing our ice crew from Recess Factory pull the big rigs into Nokomis to transform the frozen beach into pond hockey heaven. Lots of bro hugs to go around and seeing Sam, Davey, Matt, Lindsay and team work their magic is something I wish all of you could witness. They work night and day to get everything perfect on the ice leading up to the event and through the entire weekend.
Our event managers at WOW are the best in the business. I spend more time with Jody, Jesse & Miquette, and watching them pull rabbits out of hats to get everything lined up is amazing.
At SportsEngine, our teams are in high gear as well. As a software company who owns the USPHC to not only be an incredible experience for our staff (we have like 8 teams registered), it's an event for us to battle test our software to ensure our sports organization customers get the best software in the business.
Then we have the Ultimate Events team, all of our sponsors, our volunteers, Adam and our entire ref team. Everyone is in motion getting ready for Nokomis to be perfect. It will be and I can't wait for you all to get there to join us.
But here's my Official Predictions for the 2019 USPHC. Many of the names I mentioned last year had good runs, but this year, I'm hoping to get 2 right. If I don't, who cares. It's all in good fun.
Women's Division - Last year, Lululemon came in like a storm, stacking their roster and ultimately, taking home the top prize. Going undefeated is not easy and this year, repeating won't be easy either.
Long time powerhouse teams like Top Shelf Tricks and Shenanigans are back to challenge Lululemon for the title, but I'm going to go with the returning champs to sweep, yes I said sweep, the pool play and championship round.
Teams to Watch: Top Shelf Tricks, Shenanigans
40+ Division - Is it 3 or 4 in a row for Tradition Mortgage? Not sure, but I do know Hendy is going to have the team back in top shape. We've got a smaller field this year, but with familiar names like the Schreeching Pterodactyls, 10 Meter Radius, and SportsEngine Relics, there will be lots of goals and some serious competition.
As will be a theme in this prediction piece, I'm not going against multi-year champs until they are bounced from the proverbial perch. Still lots of tread on the tires for these boys, but Tradition Mortgage is going to be my pick for the 40+ Golden Shovel Championship.
NOTE: Thanks Erik and Tradition Mortgage for sponsoring the hats, I love you and you know it.
Winner: Tradition Mortgage
Teams to Watch: Wright Homes, SportsEngine Relics, 10-Meter Radius
Cedar Division - The Cedar Division has 110 teams and while 8 top teams were promoted to the Open Division, there's still plenty of heavyweights in the field.
The top seed went to Greasy but with an expanded Championship Sunday field of 64, it's anyone's game. Ok, not anyone's, but Greasy will be challenged. Physically....mentally.....soberly.....
The Sticky D (who has bounced yours truly's team the past few years), The Little Lebowskis, and Dekes of Hazard are favorites to make a run on Sunday. The big question though is how will the promoted Rat teams fare? Last year's Rink Rat Champs, Saucy Twigs, and perennial powerhouses Lube Tech Oilers and Vanek at the Disco will look to show the Cedar field that they belong.
I'm going with Riverfront Athletic Club. After losing 6-9 to recently promoted Dangleberries in last year's round of 16, I have a feeling they are going to make the run. Nice.
Winner: Riverfront Athletic Club
Teams to Watch: The Sticky D, The Little Lebowskis, Dekes of Hazard
Rink Rat Division - 2019 brings some big changes to the Rink Rat. In addition to an expanded Sunday field of 64, the Rat also moves to 4 game Friday/Saturday pool play. Just like the big boys. With some "more junior in experience" teams moving to the Bender, the field of 105 is wide open.
sandbaggers top teams heading up to the Cedar, it's time for some new teams to challenge for the Scoop.
Brew City Danglers, Putting on the Foil, No Regretskis, and The Dekes of Hazard all got bumped in the round of 16 last year, which not only ended their runs at the Scoop, but it also kept them off the promotion list. They've got to be favorites heading in to the tournament.
However, the Rat is known for huge upsets and unknown team runs so it's so hard to come up with a prediction. But, this entire article would be a waste if I didn't, so here it is.
I'm going with Boozehounds. Butt Chuggers made a deep run last year, and Boozehounds only lost to them by a goal in the opening round Sunday. No doubt that memory is etched in their brains so their are going to come to Nokomis ready and angry. (figuratively speaking, I'm sure they'll be very happy people)
Teams to Watch: Brew City Danglers, Putting on the Foil, No Regretskis
Open Division - Let's get it out of the way. I'm going with Wright Homes/Four Star Hockey. You're a fool if you don't predict the 3-time returning champs. With that said, a few things:
Wright Homes/Four Star Hockey are talented, have experience and get in the heads of opponents. I see 6-8 other teams with legitimate chances on Sunday if they can solve the Wright Homes/Four Star Hockey mind game, and utilize youthful legs on good ice, to wear down the aging wonders of the Open.
With 24 teams advancing to Sunday, getting a first round bye is going to be incredibly important. Orange Theory Fitness is the obvious top challenger to the Wright Homes/Four Star Hockey run for a forth straight Golden Shovel. However, I've grown to love Stewart's Duluth, and they have a legit shot on great ice.
But at the end of the day, you can't ignore Lululemon who is stacked with pond hockey all stars. They have an incredible defensive strategy, but in a game of goals, can they get enough offense to take the title? We shall see.
This field is stacked. Elevate Hockey, a new name will make a run. Old time favorites Tailgators, Woodstars, RJ Ryan, Iowa Nice, Clam Lake Hacks will challenge as well.
Winner: Wright Homes/Four Star Hockey
Teams to Watch: Lululemon, Orange Theory Fitness, Elevate Hockey, Stewart's Duluth
Well, there it is. My 2019 prediction piece. If you don't agree, the best way to respond is to score more goals. It solves everything.
Love you all, Jim