Ten days after the puck dropped for the 2020-21 Eastern Hockey League (EHL) campaign, the Junior A league witnessed 16 contests. That’s an impressive showing for a short time frame considering the obstacles the league experienced over the last six months.
Both the Mid-Atlantic and New England Conferences displayed their new rosters and hinted what the Junior Hockey community can potentially expect for the EHL’s eighth season.
Here’s a look at Week 1 around the rink.
New England Conference
The first-place New Hampshire Avalanche look like the team to beat this season. Third-year captain Chris Aarons and company won all three of their contests, defeating the Boston Jr. Rangers, expansion Maine Eclipse and Walpole Express.
That’s not an easy feat considering that Boston and Walpole were top-tier teams last season and power-ranked in the top five for the league’s preseason poll. Artem Mateichenko led the way for New Hampshire with two goals and five helpers, while Aarons recorded six points (2g-4a). Let’s not forget that Ryan Malko wasn’t a stranger to the scoresheet, either. The 6-foot-1 forward found the back of the net on three occasions and chipped in two assists.
Oh, and the Avs’ power play was rolling on all cylinders, which finished Week 1 at 40%.
The Seacoast Spartans earned their first victory in dramatic fashion. Head coach Brett Tryder’s squad defeated the Seahawks Hockey Club, 5-4, after Seacoast’s Azam Jiwa scored the overtime game-winner on the man advantage. Jiwa finished the day with two goals and one helper, while Jake Dubay recorded one goal and one assist.
Two other NEC squads earned victories over the weekend – the Vermont Lumberjacks and New England Wolves both collected commendable wins in the standings.
While Vermont allowed three power-play goals in its contest against the Worcester Jr. Railers, the Lumberjacks managed to record three tallies in the third period and defeated the Worcester by a score of 5-3. But what might be even more impressive was that Vermont’s Egan Schmitt netted all three of the Lumberjacks’ goals for the hat trick in the final frame – talk about a grand entrance, right?
Speaking of a three-spot…
The Wolves, off to a 3-0 start, netted three first-period goals against Maine on Friday, which proved to be difference maker in the contest. New England defeated the expansion Eclipse, 5-2, and all five tallies were even strength. Four different skaters found the back of the net for the Wolves – Dalton Karl netted two goals, while Kevin Bite, Miles Kirby and Donnie Feldman all earned one tally on the day.
On the other side of the ice, Clendenin Stewart recorded both of Maine’s goals, which marked the Eclipse’s first goals in team history.
The Wolves sit atop the NEC standings with a 3-0-0 record. New England defeated the Valley Junior Warriors, 5-2 this past Saturday and then shutout the Connecticut Chiefs, 3-0, on Sunday.
To see the EHL’s Stars of the Week for Week #1 click here
While Junior hockey games aren’t physically hitting the ice in the state of New Jersey, that didn’t hold back the EHL’s two clubs from the Garden State. The expansion Protec Ducks and New Jersey 87s were both successful in Week 1 and collected overtime victories in the process.
The Ducks swept New York Apple Core after collecting a 5-4 overtime victory and one day later took down Apple Core by a score of 7-4. Second-year EHL skater Brayden Patricia recorded eight points (3g-5a) in Week against Apple Core, and his 12 points (4g-8a) lead the league in the early going. The 20-year-old also netted the overtime winner in the team’s first ever EHL contest.
Additionally, Ducks forward Tyler Ebeling recorded a great first impression for the orange and black. No. 12 found the back of the net five times and earned three helpers.
As for New York, Michael Carducci was Apple Core’s standout – the youngster netted one goal while chipping in four helpers.
The 87s also broke out the broom sticks. New Jersey took down the Connecticut RoughRiders, 9-1, in the first contest, but Connecticut bounced back in round two. The Roughriders led the 87s twice on Friday during the matinee contest. Yet, New Jersey completed the comeback when 87s forward Nick Swain found the back of the net to tie the game with 29.5 seconds remaining in regulation, after New Jersey pulled its goaltender for an extra attacker.
The 2019-20 EHL Rookie of the Year Dante Terramani then netted the game-winner less than one minute into overtime. New Jersey’s next contest is scheduled for Friday against the Philadelphia Little Flyers at 1:00 p.m. Keep in mind that Philadelphia’s first contest is set for Tuesday, Sept. 29, against the Connecticut RoughRiders with an 11:30 a.m. puck drop.
The Connecticut Chiefs were another squad that took down its in-state rivals to kick off the 2020-21 campaign. The Chiefs defeated the RoughRiders, 7-3. Jason Gordon recorded a hat trick, while first-year EHL skater Matt Loftus posted three assists on the day. The contest witnessed five different goal-scorers for the Chiefs, which also included a couple of blue liners in Michael Kubachka and Joshua Haines – the two were teammates last season with the Philadelphia Revolution (now Maine).
Team Maryland capped off Week 1 with a sweep of its own.
Maryland collected four points in the standings when the it won back-to-back contests against Protec. The Chesapeake-Bay squad won the EHL’s first shootout victory for the 2020-21 campaign when it defeated the Ducks 6-5 on Sunday, and then took down Protec by a score of 3-2 on Monday. Entering Week 2, Vincent Maurice leads the way for Maryland with one goal and four helpers.
See you at the rink…