Kevin joined HNIB in 1990 and is a Senior Writer and Director of the Northern New England and Mass/R.I. High School Division camps. A veteran editor/writer of 40 years in the print and digital mediums, he has edited and produced original content and coordinated production for local and global publications and websites. He holds degrees from Merrimack College and Boston University and won multiple industry awards as Sports Editor of The Daily News of Newburyport and News Editor of The Amesbury News. He is the 2016 recipient of the North Shore Lifetime Commitment From the Community award presented by Moynihan Lumber and a 2017 Newburyport High School Wall of Fame inductee. He resides with his family in Portsmouth, NH. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @kdoyle40
Twenty-six regular-season games remain – nine in the Elite Division, 17 in the Premier – before the playoffs begin. Only five seeds (four Premier, one Elite) are locked in, so much remains to be settled until the final regular-season whistle blows next Wednesday.
The eight teams will be split into two four-team groups based on regular-season standings. Group A will be made up of Seeds 1, 4, 5 and 8 while Group B will consist of Seeds 2, 3, 6 and 7. Round-robin pool play will be held Feb. 26-28 at Breakaway Ice. The Group winners meet in the best-of-three championship series March 4-6.
The final push for positioning begins tonight with the first-place Boston Jr. Rangers hosting the fourth-place Boston Bandits. Three games are on the schedule Saturday with four on Sunday.
Based on the Rangers’ result against the Bandits tonight and the outcome of the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs’ home game against the New England Wolves tomorrow, Sunday’s regular-season finale between the Rangers and Monarchs could settle the regular-season championship and the top two seeds.
The Rangers (31-6-3) roughed up the Northern Cyclones in last weekend’s two-game set, 7-4 and 8-3, and look to finish as the division leader in both Goals For (210) and Goals Allowed (99), a plus-111 differential. Mike McPherson (48-38-86) and Jonny Andrews (31-55-86) could both eclipse 100 points while Nikita Kuznetsov (24-43-67) has also enjoyed a massive season. Twin goalies Harrison Vangellow and Mike Paglucca have combined for six shutouts.
The Monarchs (32-8-0) tripped the Bandits, 2-1, in overtime in their only game last weekend on a Troy Nelson goal. Statistically speaking, the Monarchs are just a stride behind the Rangers at 208/113 (+95). Balanced scoring is provided by James Pelton (26-38-64), Adrian Sjoqvist (20-35-55), Joe Nutting (23-29-52) and Cam Neary (20 goals).
The third-place Walpole Express (27-11-1) is riding a five-game winning streak heading into a three-game weekend. Sunday’s visit to the fourth-place Boston Bandits could determine the third and fourth seeds. In the past week, the Express tripped the Wolves, 5-2, swept the Valley Jr. Warriors, 5-2 and 4-3. Bradley Arvanitis had 79 saves in the two wins against the Warriors.
For the Bandits (24-9-7) to bump up to third place, they will have to beat two teams ahead of them in the standings, the Rangers and the Express. Five players – scoring leader P.J. Vinci (39 points), Rodahn Evans, Andrea Maino, Riley Kraemer and goals leader Victor Lombardi (22) – have scored between 32 and 39 points.
Regardless of the outcomes of their games at Walpole and at the Cyclones, the Vermont Lumberjacks (17-21-2) will be the fifth seed in the playoffs.
The final three seeds are still to be determined. The New England Wolves (11-25-4) will finish either sixth or seventh. The Valley Jr. Warriors (10-26-4) can bump up to sixth or fall to eighth. The Northern Cyclones (7-28-4) could snag seventh by winning their final three.