Eastern Hockey League – Newington Showcase Preview: Action In Final Showcase Of Calendar Year Gets Underway Tuesday

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 calendar year of 2022 is coming to a close, meaning the Eastern Hockey League is right around the halfway point of the season and players are getting ready to head home for the holiday break.

But first, another showcase.

All of the EHL teams will meet at Newington Arena, home of the Connecticut Chiefs, from Tuesday to Thursday for the latest edition of the showcase series. A total of 27 games will be played over the three-day event, and for most teams it will be their final stretch of games before the holidays.

Here are some topics and storylines to watch out for ahead of the showcase.

Home Ice Advantage?

Last year, the Chiefs EHL and EHLP teams took full advantage of home ice by combining for a 6-0-0 record at the Newington showcase. This year’s Showcase will only feature EHL teams, but nevertheless, the Chiefs could use this boost to head into the holiday break on a high note.

While they have lost their last three games, Connecticut still sits second in the Central Division and are only six points behind the first-place Railers Jr. Hockey Club. Ethan Lim leads the team with 21 points (12g, 9a) while their two goaltenders, Adam Yost and Jesse Easterwood, have save percentages of .923 and .925 respectively. It won’t be an easy schedule for the Chiefs as they play the Philadelphia Little Flyers, Boston Jr. Rangers and Seacoast Spartans this week, but they do have a 4-2-0 record at Newington this year, making another host’s sweep possible.

The showcase of Northern aggression

Back in the Haverhill showcase, the four teams in the North Division combined for an 11-1 record. The New Hampshire Avalanche, New England Wolves, Vermont Lumberjacks and Spartans all look like Frozen Final contenders right now, as all four teams have a points percentage of at least .692. The division is also home to the top three teams in terms of goals scored with the Wolves (100), the Avalanche (99) and the Lumberjacks (93).

William Pray

William Pray of the Spartans and Aden Hotchkiss of the Avalanche are tied for the league lead with 39 points. Spartans forward Drew Olivieri (35) and Wolves forward Heath Mensch (34) are right behind them. The Lumberjacks also have a pair of forwards who have reached the 30-point plateau in Victor Daigneault (31) and Louis-Joseph Guernon (30). The point being, if a Northern Division team is playing Newington this week, expect to see goals, and lots of them.

Seahawks take flight

Something special is brewing in Cape Cod, as the Seahawks have risen to the top of the East Division with a 15-11-2 record and a four-point cushion over the second-place Jr. Rangers. They have a 6-2-1 record since the Haverhill showcase, and they’re fourth in the league with 87 goals scored. Forward Scott McManus (10g, 21a) and defenseman Adam Jubran (3g, 27a) have led the Seahawks’ offense in addition to Cade Herrera, who has 14 goals in 17 games since joining the team.

Scott McManus
Seahawks HC

What also makes this Seahawks’ current run impressive is they are beating quality opponents. They are currently 2-1-1 in the month of December with wins over the Lumberjacks and Jr. Rangers. This week they will face three formidable opponents in Maryland, the Spartans and New Jersey 87’s.

Defense wins….showcases?

One particular matchup to watch on Tuesday is the Boston Jr. Rangers against the New Jersey 87’s at 2 p.m. Apart from being the two most recent EHL champions, these teams have another thing in common: they don’t score too many goals, but they don’t give up that many either. Coming into the showcase, they are the two best defensive teams in the EHL, giving up only 1.68 and 2.12 goals against per game respectively.

For New Jersey, much of that success comes back to their goaltending. Kyle Spann and recent acquisition Jake Hugessen have been stellar between the pipes, as they both sport a save percentage of .940 or higher and have combined for three shutouts. Their penalty kill has been near-perfect, going 96.3 percent through 25 games. Just to get an idea of how dominant their PK is, coming into the month of December they had more shorthanded goals than power-play goals conceded. Their goal differential while shorthanded is currently -1.

Boston notably struggled early in the season by losing four straight games, but they have gone 14-6-0 since. David Filak is the main man in goal for the Jr. Rangers, earning nine wins so far with a .943 save percentage and three shutouts. Bret Beale and Luke Morrisette are tied for the team lead with 17 points while Beale leads the Jr. Rangers with nine goals. While there aren’t too many stats that jump out about the Rangers, they do have a league-best 4-0 record in overtime, one that reflects the team’s ability to win close games. Maybe that record will be put to the test with Tuesday’s matchup against New Jersey.

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