The Junior hockey community is less than one month away from the Eastern Hockey League’s (EHL) 2020-21 Frozen Finals, but that doesn’t mean that there’s not plenty to catch up on. While there are first place teams riding momentum towards the postseason, there are other squads making their case that they’re also forces to be reckoned with.
Here’s the EHL’s 20th edition of Keeping Up With Kyle.
Let’s start with the Central Division and one team that entailed Top Performers honors on both offense and defense.
The Boston Jr. Rangers not only collected three consecutive wins during Week #20, but witnessed Andy Moore and Jake Lachance earn top performing accolades at the forward and defense position, respectively. The Jr. Rangers kicked-off the week with a 3-1 win over the Jr. Railers Hockey Club, and later recorded consecutive overtime wins against the Walpole Express (3-2) and East Coast Wizards (4-3).
Moore, 18, notched six points (3g-3a) onto his rookie belt. The EHL’s potential Rookie of the Year also leads Boston in scoring with 18 goals and 28 helpers for 46 points. As for Lachance, the Andover, MA native tallied both overtime winners for the Jr. Rangers – talk about clutch, right? No. 21 for the red, white and blue enters Week #21 with 23 points (6g-17a) and perhaps his knack for finding the back of the net when it matters most could pay dividends once the postseason arrives – and beyond.
Keep in mind that the Jr. Rangers were 6-1-0 during the month of February, and advanced to the No. 2 spot in the league’s power rankings.
One Central Division team that confuses the EShow Podcast crew is the Valley Jr. Warriors. The Warriors sit in the basement for the division with a 9-23-2 (20PTS) record, but are the lone squad that’s collected wins against the New Hampshire Avalanche, Boston and Walpole this season.
Again, the parity this season is apparent across the EHL. Valley broke headlines again in Week #20 after defeating the Jr. Express by a final of 5-2. Ryan Nolte (2g-1a) and Tyler Rossi (2a) led the way for the Jr. Warriors over Walpole, while goaltender Noah Dorsey-Sorofman recorded 39 saves against a top-ranked squad.
It might be safe to say that the EHL could experience its own March Madness, but let’s take it one week, or game, at a time.
Let’s not forget about the Western Mass Chiefs who enter Week #21 in third place for the division, after earning a victory over the Jr. Railers (5-3) and a dramatic 2-1 shootout win against the Seahawks Hockey Club. The Central’s third-place club owns a 16-16-4 record (36PTS), and is led by Matt Loftus (14g-21a-35PTS) and Jason Gordon (24g-6a-30PTS). Gordon, 18, leads the EHL with his 24 tallies. While credit is due towards the youngster, the stat-line might be a surprise considering the adversity the Chiefs experienced this season.
Traveling north, it was the Lumberjacks Hockey Club who turned heads. Not only did head coach Jim Mosso and company record a three-game winning streak during the frame, but the ‘Jacks also earned a shutout victory.
The Lumberjacks defeated the Seacoast Spartans twice by scores of 6-4 and 6-0, and then took down New Hampshire in overtime, 5-4. The team’s shutout victory against Seacoast witnessed multi-goal efforts from Paul Fine-Lease (2g) and Louis-Joseph Guernon (2g-1a). Between the pipes, it was goaltender David Reduzzi who turned away all 44 shots and earned his first shutout for the 2020-21 campaign. Additionally, the St. Louis, MO native’s 13 wins rank fourth in the EHL.
The Lumberjacks’ fourth win against the Avs this season was a back-and-forth affair, but it was forward Egan Schmitt who netted the game-winner 3:50 into the extra frame. The overtime tally marked the Cambridge, NY native’s third game-winning goal in his last four contests and sixth overall – take note.
Schmitt and the ‘Jacks enter the new frame with three games remaining and sit in fourth place for the North Division (16-16-1-33PTS), but trail Seacoast by two points.
It was a beautiful weekend in Laconia, NH, especially after the New England Wolves hosted their sixth annual JBT game and raised $15,000.00 for the Cure Starts Now Foundation. New England also displayed a commendable comeback against the Avalanche on the night. The Wolves trailed the Avs 3-0 and rallied back for a 4-3 overtime victory.
Newcomer Patriks Marcinkevics recorded an impressive four points (2g-2a) and tallied the overtime game winner. The Latvia native enters Week #21 with nine goals and three assists in just four games played – yes, you read that correctly.
It’s fair to say that goatlender L.J. Newell was another key reason why New England took home two points. Newell earned his ninth win on the year and posted 31 saves against the Avs.
“Leading up to last night we talked a lot about having a good effort and attitude,” said Newell. “I think that really showed in the way we battled back in the third period. We didn’t give up and found a way to get it done.”
At the time of writing the Wolves sit in the second place for the North with an 18-3-3 record (39PTS).
There are no traffic delays heading down I-95 south – keep that in mind once the Frozen Finals arrive. Also, considering crossing the ol’ Tappan Zee Bridge instead of the George Washington.
Yet, the EHL’s South Division provided plenty of action over the last frame. The New Jersey 87’s once again proved why they’re potentially they league’s regular-season champions, after the Garden State recorded three wins.
Forward Kei Yasuda and company defeated the Protec Jr. Ducks (4-1) and then swept New York Apple Core by scores of 6-1 and 5-3. Speaking of Yasuda, the Japan native netted four goals and chipped in one assist during Week #20. Additionally, his 58 points (20g-38a) lead the league. New Jersey forward Nick Swain wasn’t a stranger to the scoresheet, either. The 6-foot-2 forward recorded one goal and added five assists during the team’s successful week.
The 87’s are 9-1-0 in their last 10 games and own a league-best 174 goals-for entering the new frame.
While Protec dropped a contest to the first-place 87’s, the Jr. Ducks also earned a 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Little Flyers. The newly acquired goaltender in Matt Sayles improved his record to 2-0-1 with the flock, after collecting the win against Philadelphia. The 6-foot-2 goaltender’s heroics also earned him top performer honors between the pipes, after he recorded 31 saves against Philadelphia.
Jr. Ducks forward Olivier Charest had himself a week, too. The La Prairie, Quebec native recorded three points (1g-2a) against the City of Brotherly Love and also became the first EHL skater that committed to the University of Wisconsin Stout’s NCAA Division III program. Yet, No. 77 also spoke after the team’s key victory over the Little Flyers.
“It was an overall very good game from our part,” said Charest. “It started defensively. We all played a strong game in our zone, limited the scoring chances and our goalie played good. We worked hard and it paid off.”
Behind the first-place 87’s for the south, it’s the Little Flyers (18-13-3-39PTS) and then Team Maryland (16-11-7-39PTS).
Eastern Hockey League Premier
At the Eastern Hockey League Premier (EHLP) level, it was the Jr. Railers who stole the show. The squad took home three victories during Week #20, after outscoring opponents 19-4. That also included two wins over the Chiefs (8-3 & 6-1) and a 5-0 shutout victory vs. the Jr. Warriors. Additionally, Cameron Koretsky earned top performers honors. The 19-year-old recorded one goal and nine helpers over the frame – well deserved, right?
The Wolves displayed their heroics at the EHL level, but the EHLP squad also hustled. The pack witnessed two top performers on the backend with defenseman Alarico Valentini and goaltender Ayden Kopec.
For starters, the team snapped a skid when the Wolves collected a 7-2 win overt the Lumberjacks. The New York native in Valentini posted one goal and added two helpers in the win, while the Wolves’ masked man in Kopec posted 39 saves in the contest.
At the time of writing the Avalanche rank in first place for the North Division (25-2-1-51PTS), Jr. Rangers sit in first place for the Central (26-3-4) and the 87’s in the south with a 21-5-2 (44PTS) record.
Keep An Eye On
First and foremost, it’s been a pleasure to cover the League this season.
While there’s plenty of ice-time remaining including the postseason, keep an eye out for more NCAA commitments.
Still, the 87’s aim to clinch the regular season title this week and New Jersey needs three points in the standings to achieve that – yet, knowing that organization – the eye is still on the bigger prize, regardless.
Let’s give credit where it’s due (yes, you’ve read that before), but the Seahawks welcome a challenge that most Junior hockey teams can’t say they’ve accomplished – which is six games over the next seven days. A “grind” is an understatement, but if there’s one team in the EHL that “works hard” – it’s the Seahawks – opponents, be prepared.
Walpole entails a busy schedule over this frame and don’t be surprised if the Jr. Express end the campaign in a bang and on the right track.
See you at the rink…
(Kyle McKenna covers the EHL for HNIB and can be followed on Twitter @KMcKenna_EHL)