The cancellation of the Eastern Hockey League’s (EHL) 2019-20 Frozen Finals was painful for everyone last March. There’s no denying that aspect.
Yet, there’s hope on the horizon for the EHL’s 2020-21 campaign, which also entails both familiar and fresh faces on the ice around the league. The regular season gets underway Friday with three games.
Speaking of fresh faces… the EHL welcomed two new organizations in the Protec Jr. Ducks and Maine Eclipse during the extended offseason, giving the league 18 total teams.
The Ducks are based at Protec Ponds Ice Skating Center in Somerset, NJ, and will skate out of the Mid-Atlantic Conference (MAC).
Fans should recognize one name who is set to fly high with the Ducks this season. Former Philadelphia Revolution forward Brayden Patricia returns for his second stint in the EHL, after the 6-foot skater led Philadelphia with 28 goals and 27 assists (55 points) in 2019-20.
Patricia expressed that the team portrayed great “chemistry” during training camp and while Protec is the new kid on the block – the center believes that the Ducks are a force to be reckoned with.
The Eclipse enter the league in style with their flashy branding and unique nickname, and hail from the Biddeford Ice Arena & Expo Center in Biddeford, ME. Head coach Michael Grace’s squad aims to shake up the New England Conference this season and can accomplish that by collecting a “W” when Maine faces-off with the New England Wolves this afternoon. Puck drop is set for 5:45 p.m. at Merrill Fay Arena in New Hampshire. The two teams also play on Saturday as well.
It seems that one club entails high expectations and to start right where they left off last season. The Boston Jr. Rangers finished with the league’s best overall record in 2019-20 (39-5-2), and the #ESHOW wasted no time power-ranking the Jr. Rangers at No. 1 in the preseason poll. The Jr. Rangers were deep in all areas on the ice in 2019-20 and won nine of their last 10 regular-season contests.
Though, the red, white and blue don’t have an easy task from the get-go – considering that Boston skates against the New Hampshire Avalanche in its season opener on Friday (1:10 p.m., Ice Den). Chris Aarons returned for a third season with the Avs and the third-year captain is also fresh off a 41-point campaign (11g-30a) in 2019-20.
Let’s transition into the blue paint and between the pipes where the Vermont Lumberjacks goaltender David Reduzzi is ready to lead his squad back into the postseason. The St. Charles, MO native recorded 18 wins last season, which ranked third in the EHL. Fans shouldn’t be surprised if the veteran netminder’s name finishes in the top-three for wins, again.
First-year EHL goaltender Mason Palmer signed with the Walpole Express in the offseason, and the 6-foot masked man’s resume entails impressive experience. Prior to joining the EHL this season, the 2000-born netminder strapped on the pads for the Ogden Mustangs (WSHL) and the Minnesota Moose (USPHL). Palmer recorded a commendable 2.32 goals-against-average and .911 save % with the Moose last season, and let’s not forget that Walpole is expected to be a serious threat in the NEC.
Heading back south in the MAC, the New Jersey 87s mean business again. Expect the 87s to live up to their motto this season, “Finish the job.” New Jersey and 2019-20 Rookie of the Year recipient Dante Terramani aim to repeat as conference champions. Terramani not only posted 55 points in his rookie campaign (25g-30a), but earned 16 power-play points while netting six goals on the man advantage. Overall, the 87s’ 234 goals-for led the EHL in 2019-20 by a landslide (209, Boston).
There are 22 games scheduled in the EHL for the month of September…see you at the rink.