The Railers Jr. Hockey Club opened up the EHL Frozen Finals with a 3-1 victory over the Boston Jr. Rangers, taking Game 1 in the best-of-three semifinals series
Tristan Boyer had a goal and an assist while Stefan Kulhanek made 20 saves on 21 shots, as the Railers are now one win away from reaching their first-ever EHL championship game.
Head coach Sean Bertoni lauded his team’s effort, especially as the Jr. Rangers opened up the game with a few high-quality chances, including a shot from Tay Melis that went off Kulhanek’s glove and hit the post.
“We had a slow start, they came out fast and I felt we were a little shocked the first couple minutes of the game, but then we settled in and I thought both teams really brought it,” Bertoni said.
Anthony Marchant struck first for the Railers on the power play. Sean McBride took a shot from the point that was stopped by Rangers’ goaltender David Filak, but a big rebound sat right in the low slot for Marchant as he punched it home for his third goal of the postseason.
“We know their goalie is really good, and we knew we needed to get screens on him, so we got in front of the net and Chris (Lawson) tipped it into his chest and it landed right down on my stick and I got a lucky tap-in goal,” Marchant said of his first-period tally.
The Rangers responded with a power-play goal of their own in the second period. Bryan McLachlan drove to the net along the goal line, and Mike Boschetto slammed home a rebound for his first goal of the postseason.
A few minutes after Boschetto’s goal, the Railers pulled ahead on a point shot by Tristan Boyer that skipped through traffic and got by Filak.
Chase Carney added an insurance goal with 8:36 left in the third. He drove down the left side of the ice and snapped a shot over the glove of Filak for his second goal of the postseason.
Marchant talked about the Railers’ offensive effort in Game 1, and what it meant to get an early jump on Filak, who led the EHL in save percentage this season.
“It’s a huge confidence boost. Like I said, with these goalies you have to make them not see the puck. You have to get in front of them and get them a little frustrated; we did a really good job of that today and we got three.”
Bertoni emphasized the youth of his team and their ability to come through when it matters most.
“We’re a really young team, it’s much different than last year and you can tell. When we started the game today and dropped the puck, it’s almost like we were deer in headlights for two minutes,” Bertoni said. “I praised them after the second period, Dan Lemanski, Chase Carney and Chris Lawson. They had more offensive zone time than any of our other lines, and it was nice they got rewarded with that goal from Chase.”
The Jr. Rangers had some quality scoring chances throughout the game but were unable to get more than one puck past Kulhanek. Not long after Melis’ shot off the post, Cole Heintz nearly finished a pretty passing play with a tap-in by the crease, but Kulhanek kicked it out with the left pad.
Kulhanek’s biggest save came shortly after Carney put the Railers up 3-1. Spencer Sykes slid a pass to Chris Merryman for a redirection, but Kulhanek went into the splits for a right-pad save.
Boston also had to play down a forward when Bret Beale was shaken up in the first period after a check.
Game 2 will take place on Thursday at 11 a.m. where the Railers can go for the sweep. If they win, it will be the first time the EHL team will reach the championship game.