For the second time in three seasons, the Boston Jr. Rangers defeated the New Hampshire Avalanche to win the Eastern Hockey League championship.
Bryan McLachlan scored the game-winning goal with 4:41 left in regulation, and goaltender David Filak was named MVP of the Frozen Finals after making 42 saves on 44 shots, as the Jr. Rangers secured their second EHL title.
The Jr. Rangers had a two-goal lead erased in the second period, and they bounced back with two of their own in the third period between McLachlan and Bret Beale. Head coach Rich DeCaprio spoke about the team’s resilience heading into the third.
“Going back into the locker room after the second period, I just told the guys ‘That’s the Avs. You guys can’t play lax against this team.’ I said go out and match it and we’ll see what happens. We worked, were resilient, and I’m just super happy for this team,” DeCaprio said.
Boston appeared to take a 1-0 lead early in the first period when Will Halecki buried a rebound on a net-mouth scramble. The goal was waved off after the officials reviewed the play and determined the net was knocked off its pegs.
Minutes later, Tay Melis raced down the left wing and snapped a shot that snuck past Avalanche goaltender Shane Peremba on the short side, putting Boston up 1-0. Halecki doubled the lead when a shot from James Berg went off the end boards, where it popped back out the other side and Halecki slammed it into an open net.
Aaron Racino got New Hampshire on the board six minutes into the second period, as he carried the puck into the high slot and flung a wrister over the glove of Filak. Aden Hotchkiss tied the game up with 3:46 left in the period when he buried a rebound on a point shot from Andrew Woloszyn. For Hotchkiss, it was his first goal of the Frozen Finals.
Both teams started pushing in the third period for the go-ahead goal. With just under five minutes left in regulation, Halecki took a shot that went under the pads of Peremba, and McLachlan pushed it into the net. The play was initially waved off, but after an official review, it was called a goal.
McLachlan talked about his game-winning goal, which happened to be his first EHL postseason tally.
“I was just following the play and the puck squeaked to Will (Halecki), he shot it on net and I just saw the puck sneaking out from under his pad so I just drove to the net, tried to push it home and luckily after review they gave it to us. It was all the forwards’ effort, I’m just the lucky one on that play,” he said.
Bret Beale made it 4-2 for the Jr. Rangers with 1:23 left in regulation, as he rang a shot off the post and in, icing the game and securing the Rangers’ second title in three seasons.
Filak made some big saves to thwart the Avalanche attack. His best stop came on an Avs power play where Kyle Dann ripped a one-timer from the left circle, and Filak went into the splits to make a right pad save. Early in the third period, he robbed Daniel McKiernan on a breakaway with a blocker save.
DeCaprio spoke about Filak, who finished the postseason with a 7-2 record and .955 save percentage, while highlighting his save on Dann.
“We don’t have him, we’re not here, it’s as simple as that. He made a save today in the second period that was mind boggling to everybody in the building, and if that goes in the net I might not be here and you’d have (Avalanche coach) Chris Cerrella here,” DeCaprio said.
Filak discussed the championship win and what it means to him and his team.
“It’s amazing, I couldn’t think of a better family to do this with. This is what we set our goal to, and we knew it was going to be us versus them, and it we took it to them and did everything you need to do to win,” Filak said.
After getting knocked out in the 2022 playoffs by the Express Hockey Club, the Jr. Rangers had a slow start to the 2022-23 campaign, dropping their first four games.
“They’ve battled all year. I go back to the first week in training camp when we had to evacuate our rink with an ammonia leak and had to walk, in hockey equipment, in 90 degree weather across the street and order 25 pizzas and wait until we can go back into the rink. It’s just been that kind of a year,” DeCaprio said.
By winning this year’s title, the Boston Jr. Rangers join the New Hampshire Avalanche as the only two active EHL teams with two championships.