Eastern Hockey League – EHLP Frozen Finals: New England Wolves Edge NJ 87s In Overtime

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It was just a single game docket today at the EHLP Frozen Finals, with the #2 New Jersey 87’s taking on the #3 New England Wolves. Both squads came in at 0-2 in the Round Robin, and battled it out for the third place position.

The Wolves were able to come out on top. Despite squandering a 3-0 lead, they prevailed 4-3 in overtime on a game-winning goal from Zach Spicuzza just 1:22 into extra time.

Although the game didn’t have championship implications, Wolves head coach Andrew Trimble thought it was important to play the game as normal.

“It says everything about the character of the team and the organization that we play the game. Even though you don’t get the results you want, you still mount up, go to work, and represent your team and your family.”

Harrison Kramer and Zach Spicuzza celebrate game-winning OT goal by Spicucca which gave the New England Wolves a 4-3 win over the New Jersey 87s.

New Jersey head coach Adam Houli agreed, stating that his message to the team focused on despite the game “not mattering,” his players needed to have “respect for the game” and not let a bad effort be “your final time as an 87.”

Perry Collatos would open the scoring just over five minutes in, cashing in on a rebound after Jackson Hanson pulled the trigger from the point. The 87’s would pile eight shots on Wolves’ netminder Cade Corbin, including a handful on an unsuccessful powerplay. He stopped all eight, before Eli Caine would take over for the second.

And it was an eventful middle frame. Just 35 seconds in, Jack Kovacs would tap home a slick feed from EHLP Top Forward Prospect Harry Kramer, a duo that combined for 116 points in the regular season. Alex Valentini would extend the lead to 3-0, beating 87s goaltender Landon Blaine at the 4:33 mark.

“Alex started to pick up his play about a month ago,” Trimble said. “He’s always been solid and steady, but he has really separated himself as a top two defenseman in this premier division. He’s been a big part of the team.”

However, the more experienced  87s group would battle back with Chris Erasmus scoring first at the net front. Three minutes later, New Jersey made short work of their second man advantage of the day when Adam Moule found Gabriel Santamaria for a one-time slam dunk to draw the 87s within one at 3-2. The Wolves’ Caine, who took over in net for the second period, stopped 11 of the 13 New Jersey shots he faced.

The 87s would waste no time taking it to New England in the third period. They had the first five shots of the period, and it was their seventh that finally broke through. From between the circles, Alec Osher fired one past the Wolves third goaltender of the game, Krystopher Richard, leveling the score. They would go on to outshoot New England 11-4 in the final frame. 

“I think our guys battled there and certainly thought they wanted it,” Houli said. “Our vets did a good job as an 87, most of them are champions. They wanted to go for another one.”

Discussing the Round Robin as a whole, Houli added “when we were playing our best, we were probably one of the best. Puck didn’t go our way.”

After regulation time expirec, a five minute three-on-three commenced, and the Wolves didn’t miss a beat. It only took a minute for Wolves captain Spicuzza to find himself on a breakaway. Unable to convert on the initial attempt, defenseman Antoine Vaillancourt would send the puck backdoor to a waiting Spicuzza who would direct it home for the 4-3 overtime win. 

“I went on the breakaway and it was rolling, so I whiffed,” Spicuzza said. “I saw they were changing and threw it to the middle. Once that happened, I waited backdoor and the puck got to me.”

Talking about a season of wild games, Spicuzza added “it happened to us a bunch of times that way. It was the perfect way to end the season. It’s fun, too.”

“The kids never took it as a rollercoaster,” Trimble concluded. “It was an upward trajectory all year. We got to the end of the story, and although it didn’t end with a game tomorrow, this is a close second.”

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