The Eastern Hockey League (EHL) experienced its busiest week since dropping the puck on the 2020-21 season. Over the past seven days, the Junior A league witnessed 17 contests and notable victories in both conferences.
New England Conference
After earning a spot in the preseason power rankings, the Walpole Express experienced a tough start. Walpole kicked off the campaign with an 0-4-1 record, but Walpole earned headlines when it took down the Vermont Lumberjacks on Thursday, Oct. 15.
The Express not only earned their first victory on the year but recorded a 5-0 shutout. While the Express were outshot, 43-31, goaltender Eric Buchholz stood tall between the pipes and lifted Walpole to its much needed first win this season. What is arguably more impressive is that Buchholz and the Express
killed off nine Vermont power plays.
Still, the Lumberjacks bounced back with a win on Monday. Vermont’s Davis Bone posted his second multi-goal effort on the year and led the Lumberjacks to a 6-3 victory over the Valley Jr. Warriors. The 5-foot-10 forward also chipped in one helper while collecting two points on the power play, overall.
The win ended Vermont’s two-game losing streak and marked the fourth occasion that the team recorded four or more goals in a contest this season.
Let’s not forget that the Boston Jr. Rangers were back in action, after a brief hiatus away from the rink. The Jr. Rangers earned three victories in Week 4 while outscoring opponents 17-7. It seems that Boston sent the message to the league, that it means business, again. Leading scorer Ryan Bailey and the Jr. Rangers defeated Walpole by a 9-3 final, which also witnessed Markus Cook tally four points on the day (1g-3a). The Bear, DE native enters Week 5 riding a four-game points streak (3g-6a-9PTS). Cook earned honors for the league’s Top Performers, too.
The red, white and blue later earned victories against the Valley Warriors and Maine. The expansion Maine Eclipse gave Boston a run for its money, regardless of the 3-2 loss. The two unfamiliar foes displayed an intense and competitive third period during the contest, while Maine’s Nikita Pryymak proved again why he’s an impressive goaltender to keep an eye on this season. The youngster recorded 48 saves on the day against one of the EHL’s top offenses in the Jr. Rangers.
Though, the heartbreaking loss to the Jr. Rangers shouldn’t overshadow Maine’s second victory on the year. Prior to the 3-2 defeat, the Eclipse took down the Seahawks Hockey Club, 3-1. The NEC’s newest squad received goals from Timothy Miller, Ryan Turse and Damon Dulac against the Seahawks while Pryymak again shined between the pipes. Maine’s masked man turned away 38 of 39 shots and the Summit, NJ native now owns a .949 save % on the year.
The New Hampshire Avalanche regained first place in the conference after the Avs collected wins against Vermont and the Worcester Jr. Railers. New Hampshire’s Parker Sondag and Robert Martiniello led the way for the Avs with two points each (1g-1a) in a 2-1 win over the Lumberjacks, which was later followed up with a 4-0 shutout victory over Worcester.
The win vs. the Jr. Railers improved the team’s record to 6-1-0 and marked netminder Oliver Quinn’s second “W” in addition to his first shutout this season. Forward Mitch McGinn also netted a multi-goal effort in the contest.
Team Maryland not only bumped up one spot in the EHL power-rankings, but skated in four contests during Week 4. Denys Arkhypenko recorded his 100th career EHL point and led Maryland in consecutive wins over the Protec Jr. Ducks on Thursday and Friday at the Protechockey Ice Ponds. The red and black defeated the Jr. Ducks in dramatic fashion in both games at the Pond. Thursday’s matinee witnessed Maryland defeat Protec in a 4-3 shootout victory, which also entailed goaltender Bobby McCloskey displaying several big and timely saves.
New Jersey native, Mike Kocsis, made himself right back at home in the Garden State after he netted goals in both contests vs. Protec. While the Jr. Ducks erased a two-goal deficit and netted three goals during the early stages of the third period on Friday, Maryland responded with a clutch road goal and again forced overtime. Halen Cookston played the role of the hero, after he skated end-to-end and buried a breakaway goal which helped Maryland complete the sweep over Protec. While the pair of victories lifted Maryland to second place in the conference, the squad later bumped into an eager Philadelphia Little Flyers team.
Entering Sunday’s showdown against McCloskey and company, the City of Brotherly Love only earned one win on the season. However, the Little Flyers found new life with a 6-5 overtime win over the second place MAC club. Flyers’ forward Jake Frankenfield was one of six different Philadelphia skaters to find the back of the net at Ice Works Skating Complex in Aston, PA, while Robbie Seewagen netted the overtime winner to send his fellow teammates into full celebration mode. The Langhorne, PA native enters Week 5 with 10 points (5g-5a) in 10 games played, thus far.
The two rivals met in a rematch the following day, but this time around – it was Philly flying high with confidence. The Little Flyers out-dueled Team Maryland on Monday in a 4-1 victory on home ice. Keep in mind that orange and black recorded all goals in the first period in large thanks to Seewagon, Kyle Patton, Gavin Fitch and Ryan Clear. Czech Republic native Jakub Kubik earned his second career EHL win after posting 19 saves on 20 shots for the Little Flyers. Perhaps the 19-year-old can continue his strong play between the pipes in Philly, while helping the Flyers turn around their early-season woes.
One team that didn’t budge in the EHL power rankings, and for all the right reasons, was the New Jersey 87’s. The 87’s enter Week 5 as the only squad to play in five or more games and entail an undefeated record (8-0-0). Additionally, youngster Nick Swain and the 87’s remained ranked at No. 1 for consecutive weeks.
New Jersey faced-off with New York Apple Core twice during Week 5 and defeated the Empire State by scores of 6-2 in both contests. Forward Tim Debord led the way in the first outing after netting his first hat trick this season, and followed up the memorable performance with three assists on Monday at Jersey Shore Arena – talk about a player to keep an eye on…it’s the Parker, CO native.
Yet, Matthew Bielisnki introduced himself on a high note during round two between the two conference rivals. The 6-foot forward netted two goals in the team’s second victory which was also his first appearance with the team on the year. New Jersey head coach Adam Houli didn’t hesitate and utilized two goaltenders against Apple Core. Jeremey Conor collected his second win for 2020-21, while Matt Sayles earned victory number three on the year. The 87’s lead the EHL with their plus-25 goal differential, after netting a league-best 41 goals and allowing just 16 in eight contests.
(All photos by Dan Hickling/Hickling Images)
Eastern Hockey League Premier
On Monday, the Eastern Hockey League Premier (EHLP) announced that Jayde Justus (New Hampshire Avalanche), Lucas Kline (New Jersey 87s) and Samuel Boos (Maine Eclipse) were named the Top Performers for Week #4.
New Hampshire’s Justus netted two goals and chipped in two helpers, which contributed towards the Avs’ 5-3 victory over the Vermont Lumberjacks. Additionally, Avalanche forward Joshua Martin found the back of the net twice and collected two assists in the comeback win over Vermont.
Still, the Lumberjacks responded with back-to-back victories after taking down the Walpole Express, 5-4, and the Valley Jr. Warriors by a score of 2-1. Vermont enters Week 5 led by Sawyer Wirsing, who has recorded nine points (4g-5a) in five games played, while netminder Nick Digiacomo has stopped 58 of 61 shots, to date.
The Philadelphia Little Flyers not only displayed success at the EHL level, but also in the EHLP. The City of Brotherly Love collected two victories, after sweeping the New Jersey Renegades by scores of 5-2 and 5-3. The first meeting between the South Division foes witnessed multi-goal efforts from Philadelphia’s Nicholas Bouchard, Chris Claycomb, Johnny Zebley III and Angelo Carboni. Goaltenders Ronan Marley and Trey Mattern both collected victories between the pipes, respectively.
Speaking of goaltenders, the Maine Eclipse earned their second victory in team history and in large thanks to netminder Samuel Boos. No. 35 for the expansion Eclipse recorded 34 saves on 35 shots in a 1-0 victory over the Boston Jr. Rangers. Keep in mind that Boston outshot the Eclipse, 34-15. Maine’s Kyle Dunigan celebrated with his fellow teammates after netting the contest’s lone shootout goal.
The EHLP resumes action on Tuesday and keep an eye out for the Lumberjacks and Valley Jr. Warriors. The two squads face-off twice during Week 5, as do the New Jersey 87’s and Connecticut Chiefs. The chances are all four teams make headlines for next week’s edition of Keeping Up with Kyle.
See you at the rink…