Eastern Hockey League – Frozen Finals Preview: EHL, EHLP Titles On The Line; Play Begins Tuesday At PC’s Schneider Arena

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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The field has been narrowed down to eight teams as the Eastern Hockey League and Premier Division will start the Frozen Finals on Tuesday.

Four EHL teams and four EHLP teams will compete for a championship win at Schneider Arena on the campus of Providence College. The EHL will have a best-of-three semifinal and a one-game championship while the Premier Division will feature each team playing three round-robin games, followed by a winner-take-all game.

Here’s a quick rundown of the eight remaining teams including how they got here and how they can win it all.

EHL

#1 Seed: Railers Jr. Hockey Club

Adam Casper
Railers JHC

How they got here: The regular-season champions swept the Connecticut Chiefs in the first round, then defeated New York Apple Core in a highly-anticipated Central Division Final. The Railers won Game 1 by a score of 2-1, lost Game 2 in Brewster by a score of 5-1, then bounced back with a statement 6-0 win in the deciding Game 3. Marcus Chrisafideis scored twice, including the game-winner just 40 seconds into the first period. Adam Casper shut the door in net with a 24-save shutout.

Why the Railers can win: It can be argued the Railers don’t have individual star power like most teams, but they have proven to be dominant in all facets of the game this season. Six different skaters are producing at a point-per-game pace in the postseason while being led by Jack Wineman with eight points (3g, 5a). Corbin Melie, Tristan Boyer, Sean McBride among others have been part of a steady d-corps and Adam Casper has been stout in net with a .925 save percentage. If the team continues to play as one cohesive unit, they are a favorite to win this year’s Frozen Finals, and with it, their first-ever championship.

#2 Seed: New Hampshire Avalanche

David Basin
NH Avalanche

How they got here: After losing their first game of the postseason to the Valley Jr. Warriors, the Avs have not looked back. They won the next two over the Warriors and swept the Seacoast Spartans in the North Division Final. Down 3-1 heading into the third period of Game 1, New Hampshire twice in a span of 48 seconds to even the score, and Conor Kelly netted the overtime winner. In Game 2, the Avs cruised to a 7-3 win as David Basin and Owen Guerin scored two goals each.

Why the Avalanche can win: Barring a pandemic-induced cancellation, the Avalanche have never missed a Frozen Finals. This year, the Avs are getting it done with an incredible postseason performance from David Basin, who has 10 points (5g, 5a) in five playoff contests. Mike Marchese and Ryan Pappalardo both have seven points (4g, 3a) and defenseman Robert Martiniello has a goal and six assists. New Hampshire is also scoring at a torrid pace while missing key players like Connor Hagness and Theo Angelopoulos due to injury. It also helps to have a goaltender like Sam Boos, who is sporting a .921 save percentage through two rounds. New Hampshire may be the most skilled team offensively heading into the Frozen Finals, and if their big guns are firing on all cylinders, it would be hard-pressed to find a team that can stop them.

#3 Seed: Boston Jr. Rangers

Kaleb Miller
Jr. Rangers

How they got here: Following their triple overtime win over the East Coast Wizards, the Rangers were set for another playoff date with the Express Hockey Club. Boston dropped Game 1 by a score of 2-1, but they bounced back with a 4-1 win in Game 2 and a 3-1 victory in Game 3. Kaleb Miller had three assists in Game 2 and scored the game-winning goal in the series-deciding contest, sending the defending EHL champions back to Providence.

Why the Jr. Rangers can win: Last year when the Rangers won the title, three of their top four scorers were Bret Beale, Tay Melis and Kaleb Miller. That trio is leading the team once again, and Miller leads the bunch with seven points (3g, 4a). Boston’s real strength, however, is their defense and goaltending. Ayden Pierce has a .960 save percentage and leads all goalies in the postseason with 191 saves. That’s no small feat considering how strong the East Division was this year. If Pierce can continue his stellar goaltending while the Rangers’ veterans keep scoring, they have a chance to repeat as champions and pick up their third title in four seasons.

#4 Seed: Philadelphia Little Flyers

Cristo Walker
Little Flyers

How they got here: After winning the play-in game and upsetting the New Jersey Bears, the Little Flyers swept the New Jersey 87’s in two tightly-contested games. Cristo Walker scored a pair of power-play goals (both terrific deflections) in a 2-1 win in the Garden State. Game 2 in Philadelphia was scoreless and went into double overtime, until Jakub Uhlir buried a one-timer for the double-OT winner and series clincher. Ronnie Petrucci was excellent in the series with a 43-save shutout in Game 2.

Why the Little Flyers can win: The aforementioned Petrucci was incredible in the South Division Final, stopping 86 of the 87 shots he has faced and has the best save percentage of any goaltender heading into Providence with a .974 mark this postseason. Trevor Kruczek leads the team with four goals plus an assist while Cristo Walker and Logan Downs also have five points each. Philadelphia is still dangerous on the power play with Braedon Dougherty and Walker generating most of the offense on the man-advantage. The Little Flyers are out to prove that a number-four seed can win it all, and considering Petrucci looks like a brick wall in net, a championship is well within reach for them.

EHLP

#1 Seed: Railers Jr. Hockey Club

Zackary Warner-Senee
Railers JHC

How they got there: After defeating the Valley Jr. Warriors in the first round, the Railers automatically qualified for the Frozen Finals. As regular-season champions, they could have secured the at-large bid, but that did not stop them from beating the Boston Jr. Rangers in three games. After dropping Game 1, the Railers bounced back with a 4-1 win in Game 2 and a 3-2 victory in Game 3. Sonny Arsenault had goals in both wins including the series-clinching goal with 1:52 remaining in the third period of Game 3.

Why the Railers can win: The Railers EHLP team is very similar to their EHL counterpart; regular-season champions that played as one cohesive unit instead of relying on pure star power. Jaymin Rolfe (4g, 2a) and Zackary Warner-Senee (3g, 3a) lead the team with six points each while Matteo Medoro and Christopher Gingras have split time in net. Medoro is the hot hand of the tandem with a 3-0 record and .943 save percentage. After losing in the championship game last year, the Railers have been on a war path in the EHLP, setting the regular-season record for wins and knocking down the Rangers to secure the number-one seed in their return to Providence. As mentioned in the EHL section, the Railers are bound to get a championship at some point, and the same applies to the Premier team here. This is probably their best chance yet.

#2 Seed: New Jersey 87’s

Gabriel Santamaria
NJ 87s

How they got here: Following a 2-0 sweep over the Little Flyers, the 87’s faced the Pennsylvania Huntsmen in the Mid-Atlantic Division Final for a second straight year. Down 2-0 late in the third period in Game 1, New Jersey stormed back with two goals to even things up. Gabriel Santamaria, tied the game, went on to bury the overtime winner just 49 seconds into the extra session. They rode that momentum with a 5-0 win in Game 2 to complete the sweep. With that win, the 87’s also set an EHLP record with 17 consecutive victories.

Why the 87’s can win: Not only are the 87’s defending EHLP champions, but many of those players are back this year looking for another title. Logan Behrje leads the bunch with nine points (4g, 5a) in four games, and other returning players like Ivan Borisov, Ayden Georgiano and Nik Shoats are all producing above a point-per-game pace. Santamaria and defenseman Adam Moule are first-year players but have also played a big part in the team’s playoff success. While he’s gotten plenty of goal support, Frankie Smith has been excellent with a 0.82 goals against average and a .966 save percentage. With their record-setting win streak, the 87’s are by far the hottest team coming into Providence, and they hope to secure their third EHLP title in four years.

#3 Seed: New England Wolves

Krystopher Richard
NE Wolves

How they got here: After sweeping the New Hampshire Avalanche in two games, the Wolves swept the Vermont Lumberjacks in the New England Division Final. Down 2-1 in Game 1, Rihards Kelmers evened the score with 2:21 left in the third period, then Harrison Kramer buried the overtime winner. Kelmers would go on to record a hat trick in Game 2, while Kramer and Jan-Sebastian Vancura scored two goals each in that series-clinching 7-2 victory.

Why the Wolves can win: The Wolves have four different players scoring at or above two points per game. Vancura, Kelmers and Zach Spicuzza all have nine points while Kramer has seven goals plus a helper. Defenseman Alex Valentini has six points (2g, 4a) and Perry Collatos has five points (3g, 2a). Goaltender Krystopher Richard is getting the job done in net with a 4-0 record and .922 save percentage. The Wolves are a young team with a lot of ’05 and ’06 birth years, but they are rising to the occasion with their first trip to the Frozen Finals since 2019. Their young guns will be put to the test against much stronger and defensive teams in Providence, but this team looks more than ready to take on that challenge and come out swinging in the Frozen Finals.

#4 Seed: Boston Jr. Rangers

Carter Amidon
Jr Rangers

How they got here: After knocking out the Express Hockey Club in a three-game series, the Rangers faced the Railers in the Boston Division Final and secured an automatic bid to the Frozen Finals. While Boston lost to the Railers in three-games, they took the number-four seed with the at-large bid.

Why the Jr. Rangers can win: It only makes sense that two teams from the Boston Division qualify for the Frozen Finals. The Jr. Rangers thrived all season long in that juggernaut of a division and did what was needed in the playoffs to secure the at-large bid. Max Wretsell and Carter Amidon have six goals each in the postseason, and Amidon has three game-winning goals including one against the Express in double overtime. Evan Crawford and Luciano Chinappi have split the duties in goal; Crawford is 1-1 with a .937 save percentage while Chinappi is 2-2 with a .929 save percentage. With a healthy mix of goal scoring and big-time goaltending, Boston will be gunning for its second EHLP title in three seasons.

Schedule:

All games will take place at Schneider Arena on the campus of Providence College. The EHL games will start Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. while the EHLP games begin Wednesday at 5 p.m. You can follow the schedule along the EHL website and their Frozen Finals hub here:

https://www.easternhockeyleague.org/playoffs

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