The dash to playoffs resumes this weekend with a light three-game slate. With every team having played approximately 30 games, the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs have established themselves as the league’s most complete team.
The Monarchs (24-5-1-0) boast the league’s top two goalies in Brendan Cain (2 SO, 2.37 gaa, .931 save pct.) and Jake Theut (3 SO, 2.57, .933) with Theut winning 16 of 17 decisions. Top 10 forwards Shawn Nelson (17-23-40), Payton Baldillez (12-27-39) and Eric Berglund (12-21-33) drive the offense and the defense features Cameron Spicer and Jacob Donahue.
The Northern Cyclones (22-7-0-0) are the league’s only other team with plus-40 points heading into 2014 and will push the Monarchs to the limit. Kevin Valenti (27-29-56) is running away with the scoring title and gets support from Chris Zuccaro (10-25-35). Defensemen Grant Gallo (14-15-29), Dalton Carter (25 points) and Bryan Dalliare (9-13-22) provide plenty of offense while protecting top keeper Evan Morelli (2.64, .925).
The third-place Boston Bandits (15-8-3-2) have too much ground to make up to contend for the division and must concentrate on securing the best playoff position. Forwards Freddy Gerard (11-20-31), Alex Bonito (11-17-28), Matt Baldino (10-17-27), Tyler Drevitch (10-15-25) and Eric Salzillo (14-10-24) drive a balanced attack. Lead goalie Ryan Hubbard (.909) is backed by Billy Palmer (3.14, .923) while Martin Chrkavy, Shayne Bailey and Matt Michalke lead the defense.
The Boston Junior Rangers (13-12-2-2) will take the same approach behind forwards Tyler Thodoulou (12-21-33), Alan Boozer (14-11-25) and Greg Stoya (10-12-22). Goalies Cole Burack (2.85, .939) and Matt Beliveau (3.86, .916) have six wins apiece and will continue to share time. Chris Hinrichs and Andrew Standish are the anchors on defense.
The Valley Jr. Warriors (9-13-2-5) will require a strong second-half surge to move into the post-season picture. Overall team defense will have to tighten in front of goalies Matt Penta and Ross Bendetson. Shane Tracy (8-16-24), Christian Elsborg (12-11-23) and Charlie Widmar (7-14-21) lead the offense with Hunter Wilhoite and Justin DeWitz strong in the back end.
The Connecticut Oilers (18-7-1-1) own a seven-point lead but will negotiate the remainder of the season without top goalie Nik Nugnes, bound for UMaine for the rest of the scholastic year. Chris Bastone and Josh Sarlo will most likely step in. The Oilers’ plus-36 differential has been built on the offensive production of forwards Joe Widmar (11-24-35), Tommy Nolan (17-13-30) and Jay Heinle (11-16-27), and defensemen Drazen Zack (23 points), Alex Wilkinson (21 points) and Manny Manns (18 points); and a commitment to team defense.
One point separates the next four teams.
The New York Bobcats (13-10-4-1) hold down second place by virtue of a better winning percentage. Goalies Gabe Grunwald (2.83, .933) and Justin Kapelmaster (3.64, .913) provide the Bobcats with one of the league’s top goalie tandems. They are fronted by top defensemen William Campion (7-12-19), Sean Kacerosky (7-9-16) and Jeff Baum (10 points). Lucas Brown (9-10-19) and Daniel Malafronte (11 goals) are the most productive forwards.
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights (13-12-5-0) have received consistent production from forwards Dan Perez (13-11-24), Matt Cessna (9-15-24), Chris Deming (9-9-18) and Gaven LaValley (15 points) as well as defensemen Oskar Gerhardson (11 points) and Nick Foland (10 points). Matt MacInnis (2 SO, 2.81, .922) and Daniel Ernandes (3.20, .905) split the goaltending.
Fourth-place Hartford Jr. Wolfpack (13-10-2-2) hold from one to five games in hand on the teams clustered around them and have the best opportunity to improve their playoff position. Goalies Spencer Landry (3.15, .932) and Scott Brown (3.11, .920 have combined for three shutouts. Dylan Vander Esch, Dave Horan and Ori Benyami are top forwards and Theo Tydingco and Zach Stein lead the defense.
New York Applecore (14-16-1-1) gets consistent production from forwards Rikard Keussen (13-25-38), Cle Schoenberg (19 goals) and John Ganss (25 points) and defenseman Frank Sherding (23 points). Filip Akermark (16 points) and Shawn LaCorte (13 points) have excelled on defense. Goalies Blake Wojtala, Luke Andriuk and Alec Hardman have all logged action.
The Walpole Express (9-14-5-2) will have to shore things up defensively to emerge as a late factor. Offense comes from forwards Frankie Cefalu (35 points), Garrett Reilly (13 goals), Max Bartell (11 goals)and Matt Gaetz (10 points). Jamie Young and Cam Hainey are top defensemen in front of alternating goalies Kyle Shapiro and Evan McCarthy.
The New Jersey Rockets (16-12-2-1) hold a slight lead heading down the stretch but will have to stay on top their game as all of their divisional foes hold multiple games in hand. Forwards Michael Gillespie (12-28-40), Troy Conzo (11-20-31), Jonathan Lazarus (14-14-28) and Austin Albrecht (14 goals) trigger the offense. Lead goalie Joshua Creelman (2 SO, .925) is fronted by top defensemen Frank Coscia (20 points) and Chris Gambardella (14 points).
With five games in hand, the Philadelphia Little Flyers (14-9-2-1)are well positioned to make a move on the top spot. Forwards Zach Felser (13-22-35), Jesse MacIntyre (15-12-27) and Jude Warner (16 points) form a potent first unit. Gabe Chuckran (16 points) and Matt Day (11 points) lead the defense while Alec Derks (2.93, .925) gets the bulk of the work in goal.
The Philadelphia Junior Flyers (11-14-3) have adopted a defense-first approach and will look to pick up the pace on offense. Billy Wager (2 SO, 2.89, .913) and Tommy Bay share the goaltending. Forwards Jonathan Ruiz (14-12-26), Jamie Lukas (11-10-21) and Thomas Crabtree (20 points) are having productive seasons. Taylor Olson, Joe Heffernan and Spencer Keglovic lead the defense.
The Philadelphia Revolution (11-18-1-0) must cut into a minus-38 differential (116 goals against). Ample offense has come from Riley Egan (12-19-31), Ken Tencza (13-13-26) and Zach England (10-10-20). The defense must do a better job of providing quality support for top goalie Jacob Caffery and back-up Hunter Tetrault.
The New Jersey Titans (8-16-3-2) are on the periphery of the playoff picture. Mac Howey (10-7-17) is the top forward, Matt Armenti (10 points) leads the defense and Justin Kirk and Michael DePhillips play equal time in goal.
Sixteen inactive players says a lot about the struggles of the Washington Junior Nationals (1-20-1-1). Mike Darosa is the most productive forward, Michael Amelio the top defenseman, and Timothy Cooney a workhorse goalie.