Round-Robin pool play is now over and the EHL Frozen Finals will head to Saturday’s semifinal round:
4:30pm New England Wolves vs New Jersey 87s
7:30pm Worcester Railers JHC vs Walpole Express
Winners will meet Sunday for the EHL title. Here is a look at Friday’s action:
New England Wolves: 2 – Walpole Express: 0
The New England Wolves finished the round robin of the EHL Frozen Finals with a perfect 2-0 record after defeating the Walpole Express 2-0.
Declan House and Jack Bortle scored the goals while Trevor Joule finished the game with a 29-save shutout, as the Wolves won their third consecutive playoff game.
Both teams had already advanced to the semifinals prior to this matchup, but Wolves head coach Tim Kunes said he was happy to see his team come away with the win.
“Any time we’re in a game situation, we want to try to win the game,” Kunes said. “Obviously, you don’t want any players hurt or suspended from the game, so we try to control it as much as we can. It’s a good result that we set out what we wanted to do prior to the game.”
The Wolves struck first on a power play goal by House. The defenseman took a wrist shot from the blue line that went through traffic and went over the shoulder of Express goaltender Scott Bird.
Bortle doubled the lead with a shorthanded goal in the second period. Right off the faceoff, he chased after a loose puck and picked it up right around the hash marks. He went upstairs on the backhand for his first goal of the postseason.
House spoke about the Wolves’ special teams and the impact it had in their win over the Express.
“We practiced it all the time, we executed the things that coach told us to do, so it worked out for us,” House said.
Trevor Joule was sharp in his first start of the postseason, picking up 29 saves for the shutout. Not long after House’s goal, he stopped a shot from the high slot by Express forward Jake Lincourt, then denied Ryan Green at the top of the crease off the rebound.
He also made a couple of great saves on the leading scorer of the Express, Justin Guelph. In the second period, Guelph dangled between two defenders, went to the forehand on a breakaway, but Joule made the save. When the Express put out the extra attacker late in the third, Joule made a great stick save on a one-timer by Guelph in the closing seconds to preserve the shutout.
Kunes spoke highly of Joule’s performance after the game. “Trevor has been a good player for us this season and also a great teammate. The guys played hard for him and Trevor was excellent,” he said.
In addition to winning their third straight playoff game, the Wolves will head into the semifinal off a solid shutout performance. Kunes noted how important it was for his team to finish the round robin and head into that semifinal matchup with a 2-0 record.
“It’s part of why you want to win every game,” Kunes said. “Play the right way, the guys feel good about themselves, feel some confidence, and we hope to keep that going for tomorrow.”
Railers Hockey Club: 4 – New Jersey 87’s: 2
The Railers Jr. Hockey Club won its final round robin game with a 4-2 victory over the New Jersey 87’s.
Connor Chesner scored a power-play goal that turned out to be the game-winner, one of three goals the Railers scored in the final period of play.
Following a relatively tame Express-Wolves game, the 87’s and Railers looked the complete opposite, fast-paced and physical with a fair share of penalties on both sides.
While the Railers pulled through to get the win, head coach Sean Bertoni felt it was a sloppy performance with plenty to improve on.
“It wasn’t our best effort, they’re a very-well coached team and a very good team,” Bertoni said. “First period we were physical, we had a little bit of energy, but that energy dropped a little bit in the second and third. We pulled away, the power play goals were nice to execute, but it was a sloppy game.”
Mike DiMascolo opened the scoring for the Railers with a power play goal in the first period. He snapped a quick shot from the right faceoff dot that went over the blocker of goaltender Jeremy Connor.
The 87’s tied the game in the second period as Robbie Seewagen notched his fourth goal of the playoffs. Ben Gibbons threw a puck towards the net from the goal line, and as Railers goaltender Cam Carroll made a stick save, the rebound went right to Seewagen where he buried the rebound.
The pace picked up in the third period, as the Railers scored on a two-on-one rush to take a 2-1 lead. Matt Pimental made a seam pass right to Connor Donovan, who snapped a shot high blocker side to make it a 2-1 game. Just 54 seconds later, a puck popped from the corner boards right to Matt Zdanowicz in front of the Railers goal, as he lofted a backhander upstairs.
Worcester went to the power play soon after, and Chesner carried the puck from the corner, cut to the middle and snapped a shot blocker side to give the Railers a 3-2 lead. Jack Lee iced the game with an empty-net goal in the final minute, securing the Railers’ 4-2 victory.
“I felt like we were jumping a little bit, I know that our team could play better, we kind of faded off on the systems a little bit but it was definitely one of our more physical games throughout the year,” Chesner said of the win. “I feel like we’re hitting our stride and we want to just keep going in the semifinals.”
Carroll finished the game with 21 saves out of the 23 he faced. In the first period he stopped Douglas McGuire as he made a power move to the net, and kept the puck out on an ensuing scramble. In the second period he made a great save on Jason Atkinson as he ripped a one-timer from the low slot.
Bertoni gave credit to Carroll and the depth of his roster to scrap their way to a win.
“We have depth and we expect all 25 to step up when their name is called. We built the team that way and we’re happy for Cam (Carroll), we weren’t very good in front of him, so he made some key stops which was nice, and it was great for him to get the win.”
For Chesner, he believes the momentum from this win should help the Railers in their upcoming semifinal matchup against the Walpole Express.
“Even though the first two seeds were eliminated, we knew this game was a must-win for us because we wanted to just keep going with this momentum through this tournament, and I feel like we got that done today,” he said. “We’re ready for the Express tomorrow.”
For a complete schedule of the EHL Frozen Finals, you can check out the official Frozen Finals hub on the league website.