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Chicago Crush Elite Battles Top Teams at USPHL Nationals


#91 Tony Frachalla and the Chicago Crush battle the Metro Jets at the USPHL Nationals | Photo by Sara Vasseur
#91 Tony Frachalla and the Chicago Crush battle the Metro Jets at the USPHL Nationals | Photo by Sara Vasseur

UTICA, NY- When the Chicago Crush Elite squad took the ice for their first-ever USPHL season, just making the national tournament would have been considered a remarkable achievement. But this relentless group did much more than simply qualify - they left an indelible mark on junior hockey's biggest stage. The Chicago Crush Elite took on some of the top teams in the USPHL at the National Championships in Utica, New York from March 21-25. While they didn't capture the title, the Crush gained valuable experience against elite USPHL competition and showed their true grit.


Opening Round vs. Carolina Jr Hurricanes


#87 Forward Austin Kessel | Photo by Beverly Buchinger
#87 Forward Austin Kessel | Photo by Beverly Buchinger

The Crush got a challenging opening draw, facing off against last year's national champion Carolina Jr Hurricanes. Austin Kessel scored to give Chicago a 1-0 lead early, but Carolina responded with 6 unanswered goals. Maxwell Sullivan had a hat trick to lead the Jr Canes' offensive onslaught. Despite the lopsided score, the Crush hung tough against one of the USPHL's premier teams.


Battling valiantly against the defending champion Carolina Jr Hurricanes, the Crush came out on the wrong end of a 6-1 score. However, the lopsided result belied the stellar performance of goaltender Johnny Augusta, who made 31 saves against the powerful Carolina offense. Augusta's brilliant effort kept Chicago in the game until the Jr Canes finally wore them down.


Game 2 vs. Wilkes-Barre Scranton Knights


#33 Goalie Kyle Tyszkiewicz | Photo by Beverly Buchinger
#33 Goalie Kyle Tyszkiewicz | Photo by Beverly Buchinger

The Crush ran into another juggernaut in the Knights, last year's national runner-up. The high-powered Wilkes-Barre Scranton offense was firing on all cylinders, getting goals from 6 different players including Tyler Hamlin and Jason DiMatteo. The Knights' defense stifled the Crush, holding them to just 14 shots on goal in the shutout victory.


Kyle Tyszkiewicz turned aside 32 of 38 shots he faced, keeping the score relatively close at 6-0 against the Knights' onslaught. Without Tyszkiewicz's heroics, the deficit could have been more.


Consolation Game vs. Metro Jets Elite



#88 Center Joey Coglianese | Photo by Beverly Buchinger
#88 Center Joey Coglianese | Photo by Beverly Buchinger

In their final game of nationals against division rival Metro Jets, the Crush finally got the stellar goaltending and offensive support on the same night. Christopher Stamos pitched a 38-save gem, allowing just one goal. Ryan Parkin opened the scoring for Chicago in the first period.


After Metro tied it early in the third, Joey Coglianese netted the game-winner with under 2 minutes remaining to give the Crush a 2-1 win over the USPHL Midwest Division champions. Coglianese's clutch goal earned him Player of the Game honors.




Chicago Crush Exceeds Expectations in Historic Inaugural Season


2023-24 Chicago Crush Elite | Photo by Beverly Buchinger
2023-24 Chicago Crush Elite | Photo by Beverly Buchinger

For this first-year program, posting a 27-14-3 record bordered on the unimaginable beforehand. They finished as runners-up in the USPHL's Midwest East Division behind only the Metro Jets. An explosive offensive attack spearheaded by snipers like Coglianese and Austin Kessel struck fear in opposing defenses all season long, while the stonewall men in the crease, Johnny Augusta, Kyle Tyszkiewicz, Ilan Walny, Tyler Suida, and Christopher Stamos, held rival pucks out of the net.


Johnny Augusta & Tyler Rentner celebrate a big win | Photo by Beverly Buchinger
Johnny Augusta & Tyler Rentner celebrate a big win | Photo by Beverly Buchinger

The Crush's remarkable inaugural campaign was a testament to their precocious young talent rapidly acclimating to junior hockey's elite level. Players like Jaden Yuknis, Tyler Rentner, and 16-year-old Brody Luzbetak became household names with their stellar play on the ice. Their accelerated development, coupled with steadying leadership from captains John Schumacher, Kevin McKenna and Yuknis himself, allowed this group to gel almost seamlessly in year one.



#44 Defenseman Brody Luzbetak | Photo by Beverly Buchinger
#44 Defenseman Brody Luzbetak | Photo by Beverly Buchinger

While their national tournament run was brief, facing off against championship-caliber opponents like Carolina and Wilkes-Barre provided an invaluable teaching moment. The Crush now understood the rarified air they must reach to become perennial contenders themselves. As the players went their separate ways after nationals, an unmistakable sense of pride and optimism surrounding the program's future enveloped them.


In just one season, Chicago had forged an identity, established a winning culture, and represented the city admirably on junior hockey's biggest stage. More importantly, they had laid a foundation to build upon. With a talented young core, committed leadership, and the benefits of their inaugural campaign's trials, there is no putting a ceiling on how far this determined group can go. The Chicago Crush are just getting started on what appears to be a very promising journey.


#27 Forward Jaden Yuknis | Photo by Beverly Buchinger
#27 Forward Jaden Yuknis | Photo by Beverly Buchinger

While failing to win the USPHL national title, the experience of facing off against powerhouses like Carolina and Wilkes-Barre should pay dividends down the road for this up-and-coming Crush squad. With players like Coglianese, Kessel and Yuknis leading the way in 2023-24, the Chicago Crush now have great examples on the type of players needed for future success on junior hockey's biggest stages.






The entire Chicago Crush organization would like to congratulate the Crush coaches and players on an incredible inaugural season that exceeded all expectations. The future is bright for Crush hockey!


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