While the calendar year flipped to 2021, it is fair to expect, well, the unexpected.
Week #16 for the Eastern Hockey League (EHL) entailed notable changes in the league’s power rankings, but that didn’t prevent other teams outside the top-five rankings from earning key victories.
A winter storm might hit the northeast on Tuesday, but let’s recap another EHL frame – yes, it’s that time for Keeping Up With Kyle.
Let’s make a line change and begin the segment with the South Division.
Well, for starters the New Jersey 87’s advanced and earned the No. 1 spot for the league’s power-rankings after recording three wins during Week #16. The 87’s also recorded consecutive shutouts against the Connecticut RoughRiders, while outscoring the RoughRiders 11-0 in the two contests.
New Jersey masked man Matt Sayles not only earned back-to-back shutouts (his first of the season), but the Milton, GA native improved to 8-1-0 on the year. While Sayles shut the door between the pipes, 87’s forward Dante Terramani reminded the EHL why he’s still a forced to be reckoned with.
The 2019-20 EHL Rookie of the Year posted four points (3g-1a) in the two contests vs. Connecticut, but shined again during a Sunday night showdown against the Protec Jr. Ducks.
Head coach Adam Houli and company later defeated the Protec Ducks by a score of 5-2 at the Pond in Somerset, NJ. Yet, Terramani netted New Jersey’s first-two goals of the game and was arguably the game’s top-playmaker throughout the contest.
While the Jr. Ducks displayed a tough fight against the No. 1 ranked team in the 87’s, the blue and gold eventually pulled away from a 3-2 lead during the latter stages of the third period.
New Jersey goaltender Jon Kopack displayed big and timely saves, while forward Joe Guercio and Jon Gabriel also chipped in on the score sheet. New Jersey enters Week #17 riding an eight-game winning streak, but faces a tough schedule – Philadelphia Little Flyers, New York Apple Core & Protec.
Speaking of rankings…the South Division’s second-seeded squad in Team Maryland collected a pair of victories in Week #16.
Maryland improved to 13-9-4 (30PTS) on the year, after taking down the Little Flyers in overtime (5-4) and then Apple Core by a final of 6-3. Keep in mind that the team’s leading scorer in Denys Arkhypenko (11g-16a—27PTS) and Maryland entered the frame having lost consecutive contests.
Yet, the Ukraine native netted two goals against Philadelphia, while forward Bobby Geier earned the overtime winner.
The 6-3 victory over New York featured Halen Cookston, who record a four-point effort (2g-2a) in addition to goaltender Oliver Quinn earning his seventh win for the 2020-21 campaign. Additionally, Rory Gresham and Evan Donnelly recorded multi-point outings vs. Apple Core after both skaters found the back of the net once and chipped in one helper.
The Central Division entailed a few intriguing matchups, which also witnessed the Valley Jr. Warriors and Railers Jr. Hockey Club collect notable wins.
Valley kicked off the week with a 4-3 overtime win over the Western Mass Chiefs, and in large thanks to Maxwell Tucker who netted the game-winner in the extra frame.
“The vibe before the game was that this is a business trip,” said Tucker. “They (Chiefs) came to our barn and beat us, and we wanted to return the favor. That was a huge win for us going forward. We’re battling to climb back up the standings and those were a huge two points for us.”
As for the Railers, the squad collected two wins during Week #16 after earning victories against the Chiefs (7-3) and Seahawks Hockey Club (4-2). In the team’s clutch win over Western Mass, it was Kolye Bankauskas who led the way on the score sheet. The left-handed shot recorded his first hat trick for 2020-21 and finished the day with four points overall (3g-1a).
“The win was huge,” said Bankauskas. “Every game from here on until the playoffs matters, and we as a team had goals that we were looking to accomplish. And, we checked all the boxes of what we were trying to do.”
The Railers are 5-5-0 in their last 10 contests and sit just two points behind the Chiefs (11-10-4—26PTS) for fourth place in the division.
Don’t worry, Massachusetts. The Boston Jr. Rangers rebounded after a tough loss to the Chiefs last week.
The Jr. Rangers improved to 23-2-1 (47PTS) after head coach Rich DeCaprio and company recorded back-to-back wins against the Seahawks. Boston defeated the ‘Hawks 6-4 on Thursday and later walked away with a 4-3 overtime win on Friday at Tony Kent Arena.
Boston’s Johnny Malandruccolo wasn’t a stranger to the score sheet after No. 17 posted two goals and one assist in the first meetings against the Seahawks. As for the overtime winner, let’s credit Nathan Young who played the role of hero in Round 2 against the Jr. Rangers’ divisional foe.
Captain Young, 20, ranks first on Boston (tied) with 10 goals and 28 assists for 38 points on the year.
One other notable headline for the Central Division is the roster changes that the Walpole Express executed over the past week. Head coach Cody Campbell and the Express added forward Brayden Patricia to kick off 2021 on the right track, and the offensive threat wasted no time making his presence known for Walpole.
The Express earned a 4-1 victory over the Seahawks on Wednesday and guess who broke headlines…
Patricia recorded a hat trick and chipped in one helper in the New Jersey native’s debut for Walpole. Believe it or not, while the point-producer in Patricia didn’t find the score sheet in the team’s next victory against the Chiefs, the Express still managed to collect another 4-1 victory.
It seemed that it was the Express’ Dalton Garcia’s time to shine, after he netted two goals for his first-two tallies in a Walpole sweater (four games played). The Express enter Week #17 with a 20-8-1 record and sit seven points behind Boston for first place in the division. It’s distant memory by now, but remember that the Express started the year with an 0-4-1 record – how things have changed, no?
The North Division has been nothing shy of interesting since the calendar struck 2021.
At this rate, it seems that north is up for grabs – it’s wild.
The Lumberjacks backed that statement after they earned their first win on the year against the first-place Avalanche on Thursday. Egan Schmitt and the Lumberjacks defeated the Avs, 2-1, after the Cambridge, NY native earned his second game-winning goal on the year.
“I’m proud of how the guys came together and played a full 60 minutes today,” said Schmitt. “We know that when we’re on our game that we can play with anyone. Our goalie (David Reduzzi) played light out.”
The Lumberjacks goaltender Reduzzi is the third netminder this season that’s held the Avalanche to just one goal in a contest – impressive, no? No. 1 between the pipes not only helped the ‘Jacks erase a three-game losings streak, but the St. Louis, MO native also turned away 33 Avalanche shots while earning his seventh win for 2020-21.
Yet, the Avs rebounded with a victory of their own against the Lumberjacks after a 5-3 win on Friday. New Hampshire reminded the EHL that its depth in all areas of the ice is still top-tier for the EHL, and this time around it was Matt Carlson (2g-0a) and Mark Blaney (1g-1a) who came through in the clutch.
Both skaters found the back of the net during the third period, while Blaney earned the game-winning goal. New Hampshire improved to 21-4-1 on the year and enter Week #17 with an 8-2-0 record in its last 10 games. Still, there’s a team that’s continued to make noise in the north over the past month and counting.
The Seacoast Spartans extended their overall winning streak on the year to six games after defeating the Lumberjacks 3-2 on Saturday. The win marked the lone contest for the Spartans during the week, but also kept the squad in second place for the division and ranked No. 5 in the power rankings.
The Rinks at Exeter played host to the exciting matchup between the Spartans and Lumberjacks, which also witnessed four tallies in the third period. Seacoast received scoring helped from three different skaters in Azam Jiwa, Ashton Callazo and Cooper Board, respectfully. As for Board, his third-period tally marked the Glen Ellen, IL native’s third game-winner on the year.
Additionally, Seacoast killed off seven Lumberjacks’ power plays while Spartans’ goaltender Jakob Wepman recorded 28 saves on 30 shots.
Eastern Hockey League Premier
The EHLP level witnessed 11 contests over the frame, which highlighted the Avalanche rolling and breaking out the broom sticks. New Hampshire collected three wins last week while outscoring opponents 14-9. The Avs took down the Lumberjacks in back-to-back contests by scores of 4-3 and 4-1 and later defeated the New England Wolves 6-5 on Sunday.
While the EHLP’s Avalanche squad doesn’t own the league’s best record at 18-1-0 with 36 points in the standings, New Hampshire’s winning-percentage is a league-best at .947%. The Jr. Rangers sit atop the league standings with 44 points (20-3-4).
It seemed that the Jr. Warriors turned heads in the EHLP, after the squad collected wins over the Express (4-1) and Jr. Rangers (7-3). The victories extended Valley’s overall winning streak to three games on the year, which also marks a season-high for the group.
The 87’s also continued to roll at the EHLP level. The Garden State entry collected wins against the New Jersey Renegades (8-4) and Little Flyers (5-1). The 87’s enter the upcoming week having won three consecutive contests and improved to 9-1-0 in their last 10 games.
While the power rankings didn’t wager in the EHLP, the 87’s are ranked at No. 2 behind the Avs…similar to the EHL level – perhaps that changes in due time while Jersey reigns over both levels as February nears.
Keep An Eye On
The South Division is back to work, with all six teams in action over the next frame.
Apple Core and the RoughRiders return after a hiatus, while the Little Flyers and Team Maryland contend for the second seed behind the 87’s – yet, Protec entails a different and modified roster and has skated hard against Maryland, Philadelphia and Jersey over the past two weeks….timing is everything and as noted in the first line from this post – expect the unexpected…
‘Who are the Chiefs?’
The newcomers for the north (Central Division in Massachusetts) shocked the EHL, respectfully, with wins over the Express and Jr. Rangers in Week #16 but then suffered a three-game losing streak. Let’s see how Week #17 goes for captain Max Phillips and company before we answer the notorious EShow podcast question – ‘Who are the…’
In the North Division, the New England Wolves are back in action. After witnessing Seacoast turn its season around over a short time frame and watching the Lumberjacks finally bounce back – how does New England respond?
At the EHLP level, keep a close eye on the Railers vs. the Express on Sunday (11:00 a.m.) It’s a battle of the trains, but a potential overtime matchup there should be a ride worth watching.
See you at the rink…
(Kyle McKenna covers the EHL for HNIB and can be followed on Twitter @KMcKenna_EHL)