It’s the final stretch for the Eastern Hockey League’s (EHL) 2020-21 campaign. With two weeks remaining, Week #19 entailed plenty of action and key victories for a few clubs, and one of which that was crowned the 2021 Granite Cup champions.
You know the routine – let’s take a lap, or two, around the rink for another edition of Keeping Up With Kyle.
Speaking of champions, the North Division finished its first-ever Granite Cup tournament, after the Seacoast Spartans took home the title. Head coach Brett Tryder and company defeated the New England Wolves by a score of 6-3 on Monday, which also improved the team’s overall record to 16-16-3 (35 points) on the year.
Seacoast’s Clendenin Stewart shined for the Spartans in the clincher. The 6-foot-7 forward not only tallied five points but recorded his first hat trick on the year. Talk about clutch, right? While the Spartans are one of the EHL’s hottest teams since the calendar struck 2021, the Wolves were the league’s lone squad that shook the power rankings.
New England earned the five seed for the power rankings, after the squad recorded three wins for Week #19. Donnie Feldman and the Wolves took down the Lumberjacks Hockey Club by scores of 7-5 and 6-4, and collected a 6-3 win over the New Hampshire Avalanche.
The win against the Avs also marked the second occasion this season that the Wolves netted six goals against New Hampshire. Still, it was New England’s Patriks Marcinkevics who stole the headlines. The Latvian native tallied five goals in his EHL debut. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the newcomer also earned Top Performers of the Week honors on the offensive side of the puck, either.
Additionally, Marcinkevics recorded a multi-goal effort in the team’s recent defeat to Seacoast.
As for division’s other two squads – the Avalanche and Lumberjacks both suffered two losses but did collect one win. New Hampshire masked man Ronan Mobley posted his second shutout on the year, after the California native recorded 24 saves against the Spartans. Per usual, the Avs also displayed their depth scoring. Aden Hotchkiss, Christian Halbig and Maxwell Cocchi all inked their names onto the score sheet in the shutout victory.
While the Lumberjacks dropped both their contests to the Wolves, the squad earned a victory against the Avalanche in overtime on Monday. The ‘Jacks defeated New Hampshire by a score of 4-3 after Egan Schmitt scored with less than 00:20 remaining in the extra frame. The Cambridge, NY native also chipped in one helper on the day, and enters Week #20 with 37 points (15g-22a) in 30 games played.
The Central Division witnessed two Top Performers for Week #19.
Let’s begin with the Walpole Express who recorded three wins over the frame, which included victories against the Western Mass Chiefs (5-2), East Coast Wizards (7-3) and a 3-0 shutout over the Boston Jr. Rangers.
Walpole goaltender Mason Palmer blanked the Jr. Rangers after recording 29 saves. The shutout marked No. 33’s third shutout for the season, while the Express received scoring help from Lorenzo Marcolin, Josh Grund, Ryland Dukes and Dalton Garcia. On the team’s blueline, it was Tod Philibert who earned top performer honors. The Laval, Quebec native posted six points during the frame, while collecting one goal and recording five assists. Keep in mind that Philbert is a newcomer for Walpole and has 13 points (1g-12a) in eight games played.
Overall, Walpole enters the new frame riding a seven-game winning streak but sits in second place for the division and 10 points behind the Jr. Rangers.
Let’s stay on track with the Top Performers and recognize one the league’s top stories from 2021.
Jr. Railers goaltender Stefan Kulhanek proved again why he’s one of the EHL’s top masked men. The Austria native not only recorded two wins over the frame, but was almost unbeatable – just ask the Chiefs and Valley Jr. Warriors.
Kulhanek recorded 66 saves after facing 69 shots in the two contests and helped the Jr. Railers bump into third place for the division. The 6-foot goaltender improved to 14-7-0 on the year and has won his last four outings. Let’s not forget that the Jr. Railers kicked off the season with five losses out of seven contests. Entering the league’s final stretch, the Jr. Railers established their case that they’re a legitimate contender moving forward.
The Jr. Rangers also collected victories for the Central Division and a shutout. Boston defeated the Chiefs by a score of 7-0, which witnessed goaltender Nathan Mueller record another impressive performance between the pipes. No. 35 turned away 26 shots and earned his fifth shutout for the 2020-21 campaign. The Rogers, MN native’s five shutouts lead the EHL entering the new week.
While Mueller also collected a win against the Jr. Railers on Monday (3-1), Andy Moore was arguably the game’s first star. The Cumberland, ME native netted two goals and chipped in one assist. Moore and Ryan Bailey lead the Rangers in scoring with identical stat lines of 17 goals and 26 assists for 43 points.
Let’s migrate and review the South Division.
For starters, Team Maryland earned two victories after skating in four contests during the frame. Yet, head coach Josh Fusco and company are the lone EHL team that’s defeated the New Jersey 87’s twice this season.
After Maryland took down the Protec Jr. Ducks, 4-2, on Tuesday, the squad then defeated New Jersey in a 3-2 shootout victory. Goaltender Oliver Quinn recorded 29 saves against the 2020-21 South Division champions and improved his record to 10-3-3 on the year. Team Maryland also earned goals from Halen Cookston and Kyle Peters en-route to the team’s 16th win on the year. The squad enters the new frame in second place for the South Division (39 points), and that’s regardless of the fact that it lost consecutive contests to end Week #19.
The team that’s fighting for second place in the south with Maryland is the Philadelphia Little Flyers. The orange and black trail Maryland by one point for the second seed, but enter Week #20 riding a three-game winning streak.
Over the last frame, the Little Flyers outscored opponents 19-7 and swept the Connecticut RoughRiders by scores of 7-2 and 7-1. The City of Brotherly Love then earned a statement win over Maryland on Monday, after the Little Flyers collected a 5-4 shootout win against their division rivals.
Forward Connor MacDonell led the way with two goals and one helper, and let’s not forget that defenseman Ryan Clear recorded two assists on the day. As for the Clear, the Cherry Hill, NJ, native extended his points streak to six games (4g-5a) and now owns eight goals and 13 assists on the year.
The Jr. Ducks were another squad who earned multiple victories for Week #19 in the south. Protec recorded points in three consecutive games and is fresh off a 2-1 overtime victory against Maryland on Tuesday.
…talk about March Madness on the horizon in the south.
Jr. Ducks forward Spencer Quinn tallied the game-winner against Maryland, and while the Pond sits in fourth place for the division – keep an eye out on the flock as the postseason nears.
Eastern Hockey League Premier
At the Eastern Hockey League Premier level (EHLP), it was Jack Randall and the Lumberjacks who led the way. The Queensbury, NY native recorded five goals on the week, while helping the ‘Jacks earn three wins.
The Lumberjacks enter the new frame in second place for the North Division with a 15-9-2 (32 points) record.
Transitioning to the blueline, Philadelphia’s Angelo Carboni helped his squad earn a three-game winning streak. The defenseman tallied four points (0g-4a) over the frame which earned him top performer honors, and Carboni enters Week #20 with one tally and 14 helpers.
Boston Jr. Rangers’ masked man Logan Palmer earned Top Performers honors and earned his 13th win on the year. The Jr. Rangers own an EHLP-best 25-3-4 (54 points) record and are riding a five-game winning streak.
Keep An Eye On
At this point in time, the EHL’s playoff picture is set…but, that doesn’t mean that the Junior hockey community should ignore the unexpected.
If there is one aspect that we’ve all learned from 2020 – it’s, well, expect the unexpected.
Tell me otherwise.
With that being said, keep an eye on Walpole vs. Boston on Friday. It’s a 1:00 p.m. puck drop, and my guess is that the Jr. Rangers bounce back after the squad was shutout for the first time this season – the Central Division heats up over the next week…just wait.
Here’s a question…
Did the Wolves and Spartans take over the ‘north’? Seacoast pleaded its case since the calendar struck 2021, while the Wolves hinted all season that perhaps they are the ‘pack’ to be reckoned with.
Down south, the 87’s aim to finish the job and earn the league’s regular-season title. New Jersey faces-off with New York Apple Core twice over the next frame – but I’d expect Apple Core to provide a competitive fight.
See you at the rink…
(Kyle McKenna covers the EHL for HNIB and can be followed on Twitter @KMcKenna_EHL)