The New England Wolves and New Jersey 87s both won their opening games in the EHL Frozen Finals, and in the process eliminated the NH Avalanche and Little Flyers.
New England Wolves: 2 – New Hampshire Avalanche: 1
Julius Kvandal scored the overtime-winning goal as the New England Wolves defeated the New Hampshire Avalanche by a score of 2-1.
Liam Kilgallen had another terrific performance in net, making 29 saves out of the 30 he faced, and Eli Brubacher also scored in the Wolves’ victory as the team won its first round robin game of the Frozen Finals.
“It’s a team effort, we’ve been playing real well after a really slow start to the season, and especially after the new year, we’ve been playing great together as a group,” said Wolves head coach Tim Kunes after the game.
The Avs had some early scoring chances, including a point shot deflected by Joe Santoro that was stopped by Kilgallen, he then stopped the rebound opportunity from Santoro at point-blank range.
It was Brubacher who opened the scoring for New England, as Ricards Jelenskis went for a wrap-around attempt, and Brubacher put away the rebound for his first goal of the postseason.
New Hampshire finally broke its goal drought in the Frozen Finals when Graham Hassan scored 4:01 into the second period, tying the game at one. He made a nice stutter step to cut to the middle of the ice and slipped a shot five-hole past Kilgallen, picking up his second goal of the postseason.
For the rest of the second and third periods, Kilgallen managed to fend off bursts of sustained offensive pressure from the Avalanche. Midway through the second, Kilgallen made a big stop on Hasson from ponit-blank range after he corralled a centering pass in the slot.
In overtime, the Wolves broke through on the goal by Kvandal. The sequence started as Kilgallen made two saves on Michael Tersoni, and Svoboda carried the puck the other way for a counter-attack. It started a two-on-one rush and he fed a backdoor pass to Kvandal for the tap in.
Kvandal spoke about the overtime goal and thanked his teammate Svoboda for setting him up on the two-on-one.
“I gotta give credit to Pavel (Svoboda) for making that pass. We were pretty gassed and we just tried to skate as hard as we could and get that two-on-one, and full credit to him making that great pass right on my stick; it’s easy when you just have to tap it in.”
The Wolves’ victory eliminated the New Hampshire Avalanche from the Frozen Finals, and New England will have one more round robin game against the Walpole Express tomorrow at 11:00 a.m.
“As a group I think we have a lot of confidence in the way we play, and that if we play the best of our game we can beat anybody,” Kunes said of his team. “We’ve played some really good teams in the Avalanche and the Rangers to be where we’re at right now, so we’re feeling real good right now.”
New Jersey 87’s: 6 – Philadelphia Little Flyers: 2
The New Jersey 87’s may have been swept by the Philadelphia Little Flyers in the South Division Final, but the 87’s got revenge with a 6-2 win in their first round robin game of the Frozen Finals.
Matt Anastasio led the offensive outburst for New Jersey, picking up a pair of goals and an assist, as the 87’s knock out the Little Flyers, who went 0-2 in the round robin. 87’s head coach Adam Houli spoke about the South Division rivalry and how the game went back and forth for the first 40 minutes.
“It was a coin flip all year, it’s always a heck of a battle and it’s unfortunate that one of us has to go home, but for us we’re happy with the win and we’re excited about where we’re going,” Houli said.
Patrick DeMarinis struck first for New Jersey, as Jason Atkinson threw a puck towards the net, and under the pads of Flyers goaltender Joseph Henson. DeMarinis poked it through Henson’s legs and in the net, giving the 87’s a 1-0 lead in the first period.
The floodgates opened up in the second period, with each team scoring twice.
In a four-on-four session, Chris Blango slid a nifty backhand pass to Sava Smirnov at the left faceoff circle, who roofed a one-timer past Hains to even the score.
Anastasio picked up his first goal in a different four-on-four session later in the period, his initial shot from the point was blocked and it bounced right back to him, as he fired a shot low-glove side with 9:39 left in the 2nd.
The Little Flyers responded quickly on the power play, as Smirnov ripped a pass from the half-wall that was tipped by Vincent Nicosia, through the legs of Owen Hains.
Everest Schneider scored the goal that turned out to be the game-winner, as Matt Zdanowicz gloved down an airborne puck back to the ice and slid it right to Schneider at the right side of the crease, and he buried a one-timer to give the 87’s a 3-2 lead.
It was all 87’s from there, scoring three goals in the final period. Anastasio picked up his second goal on a four-on-two rush. Robbie Seewagen dropped a pass to Anastasio, where he passed it to Mettler and then corralled a return pass and scored on a tap-in.
“He’s got a pure ability to put the puck in the net and create offensive chances and I love that about him,” Houli said about Anastasio. “It carried us today, and I give him a lot of credit because he stepped up when I pushed him.”
Seewagen added to the lead with a power play goal, firing a shot low blocker side past Henson. Atkinson capped the scoring at 6-2 with an empty net goal late in the third period.
Anastasio spoke about the 87’s power play and their four-on-four units, who came through big today against the Little Flyers.
“We put a lot together this week over the power play, and as a unit we’ve been talking it over a lot, trying to figure out what we need, and we got what we needed today,” Anastasio said.
Before the 87’s pulled away in the third period, the Little Flyers were generating an abundance of scoring chances, often times keeping 87’s skaters out on the ice for extended shifts on defense. Houli gave credit to Hains, who stopped 24 of the 26 shots he faced, but also his skaters for blocking shots in front of him.
“We were blocking shots, and that was the biggest factor. TJ Branish was phenomenal in the back end blocking shots for us, our forwards who we expect to block shots did that,” said Houli.
The 87’s will play their second round robin game against the Railers Jr. Hockey Club on Friday at 2 p.m. While they prepare for that game, Anastasio said it was nice for the 87’s to win its first Frozen Finals game against the Little Flyers.
“We needed to get over on top of that team,” he said. “They’ve had a few good wins on us recently but we knew we could get them back if we do what we normally do.”
For a complete schedule of the EHL Frozen Finals, you can check out the official Frozen Finals hub on the league website.