Eastern Hockey League – EHL Championship Game: Worcester Railers Put Finishing Touches On Impressive Campaign, Blank Jr. Rangers For First EHL Title

Anthony DiPaolo
Anthony DiPaolo
Anthony Di Paolo has been working in various levels of hockey over the last five years, ranging from juniors to the pros. Di Paolo spent four seasons as the Communications Director and play-by-play announcer for the New Jersey Titans of the North American Hockey League (2016-2020), and is entering his fifth season in a similar role with the New Jersey 87’s of the Eastern Hockey League. Graduating from Seton Hall University in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, the New Jersey native covered Division I athletics for his school’s radio station, WSOU, and spent two years writing for the Fischler Report, a newsletter run by U.S. Hockey Hall-of-Fame inductee Stan Fischler.

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Jack Wineman scored the first goal which stood as the game-winner and was named Most Valuable Player for the 2024 Frozen Finals, as the Worcester Railers closed out a impressive season with a 6-0 shutout win over the Boston Jr. Rangers to win their firsr-ever EHL crown.

With the Railers’ EHLP team winning earlier in the day, it was also the first time in league history that a single team won the Frozen Finals at the EHLP and EHL levels in the same postseason.

Railers head coach Sean Bertoni, surrounded by the regular-season and postseason trophies earned by both teams, reflected on the monumental day for the organization.

Railers defensman Corbin Melie with the EHL championship trophy after Worcester won its first-even EHL championship,blanking the Boston Jr. Rangers, 6-0.

“The word that comes to mind is history. And this is pretty beautiful to look at. But it’s not about that; here, it’s about our players'” he said. “We’ve often talked about the power of silence and just doing your thing. The credit is all to the players, we just play relentless. You saw it from puck drop from both teams today.”

Five different players scored for the Railers while Adam Casper blanked the Rangers with a 30-save shutout. The Railers controlled the pace of play all throughout the game, though the big momentum swing came early in the second period when they scored two goals in a span of 1:38.

The Worcester Railers celebrate a shorthanded goal from by Austin Jerzak that game them a 2-0 lead in the first period

Wineman spoke about the team’s performance, dethroning last year’s EHL champion in the Boston Jr. Rangers.

“I think we dominated the game; we came in ready and we were really hungry to get to this point. The Railers have been close for so many years and I knew if we were getting here, we weren’t going to lose this game,” Wineman said of the commanding victory.

The Frozen Finals MVP opened the scoring at 12:01, skating down the right wing and firing a wrist shot high-glove side, just under the cross bar for his sixth of the playoffs. Austin Jerzak doubled the lead with a shorthanded goal late in the period. Chase Carney started a two-on-one rush and snapped a low shot; Rangers goaltender Ayden Pierce made the save and Jerzak shoveled in a backhander for his seventh goal of the postseason.

Rangers forward Cullen Hennessy looks to knock puck away from Railers blueliner Matt Schirm. Worcester rolled to 6-0 win to take its first-ever EHL Championship

The game turned on its head when Daniel Prazma extended the lead at 5:58 of the second period. Jack Dalto sprang him onto a two-on-one rush, and Prazma from the left wing snapped a shot blocker side. Sean McBride made it 4-0 just a minute and 38 seconds later. He fluttered a shot from the point through traffic and went over the glove hand of Pierce.

“We were locked in from the start of playoffs and before the game we were going over what we needed to do today. Everyone was laser focused but also relaxed with a ton of energy and just ready to go,” Wineman said. “So many guys came back from last year, we came so close last year and we all came back and had a collective mindset to win the championship this year, and I’m just so happy we got it done.”

The Railers added two more goals in the final period. Jack Dalto collected a faceoff win from Jake Kloss and he flung a shot high blocker side for his first of the postseason. Marcus Chrisafideis capped the scoring in style, as walked down the left wing, pulled a curl and drag and fired a shot five-hole with 7:02 left.

With the 30-save shutout, some of Casper’s biggest saves came against Cullen Hennessy. In the second period, the Ranger forward powered his way down the left wing and snapped a shot on goal, but Casper came up big with a stick save. With seconds left in the third period, a cross-ice pass went right to Hennessey as Casper went into the splits to stop the one-timer.

“It felt pretty good. I was a little nervous but once the whistle blew, I was pretty fired up and got the bench fired up a little bit,” Casper said of the save. “That shutout doesn’t happen without the team in front of me. The forwards and the d-men blocking shots all game, I can’t thank them enough. They do all the little things right and make it easy for me, so that scoreboard is a reflection of the whole team today.”

Bertoni spoke at length about Casper, who bounced back from giving up five goals in Game 1 against the Little Flyers and stopped 71 of the next 72 shots he faced between the last two semifinal games and Championship Saturday.

“At one point we were looking into bringing another goalie, and it didn’t phase him. I think that speaks volumes about who Adam Casper is,” Bertoni said. “He is going to be a very successful young man, he’s a tremendous man. He thanked me for giving him an opportunity, I said ‘you’re nuts, man, we loved having you here and you worked your butt off all year.’ I couldn’t be happier for him, obviously having that goalie-to-goalie relationship, but he really is a tremendous guy.”

It was a storybook season for the Railers, winning the regular-season and postseason championship in the same year at both levels; something that has never been accomplished in the EHL and EHLP.

Bertoni also spoke about winning the championship in honor of Mike Addesa, a long-time coach and owner of the Railers who passed away last year.

“We hung up a picture on the bench, like he’s looking over us. He’s the greatest mentor I could ask for, taught me so much and I’m very appreciative of not only the big guy, but to Matt, and Mike III and everything the Addesa’s have done for me to give me the opportunity here. He’s still probably barking up there about my power play or something, but to win the way we did with both teams is special,” Bertoni said.

He continued, “I was telling Matt and Mike III (Addesa), literally the last 48 hours, all I could think of is Mike saying ‘we have a five-year plan,’ the big guy would always call me and say that, and of course this was year five. It was almost like destiny, but I definitely think he was watching over us today.”

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