Anchored by an MVP playoff performance by goaltender Mike Paglucca and powered by the highest-scoring line in program history, the Boston Jr. Rangers swept the Boston Bandits in two games to capture the Eastern Hockey League’s Elite Division championship.
The Rangers were 5-0 in the post-season with Paglucca posting four wins. He turned back 73 of 75 shots in the two-game set against the Bandits and 137 of 144 total shots. For the season, he finished with a slash line of 2.30/.928/5 SO.
Nine Rangers registered points in the two-game series, powered by the line of former Matignon High teammates Mike McPherson of Somerville, MA, and Johnny Andrews of Wakefield, MA, along with Nikita Kuznetsov from St. Petersburg, Russia. McPherson (56-44-100) and Andrews (37-63-100) became the first Rangers ever to reach triple digits in a season while Kuznetsov contributed 28 goals and 81 points.
“We are extremely proud of what this team accomplished this year. The guys really gelled in the locker room and they were totally selfless and sacrificed a lot to achieve our ultimate goal,” said coach Rich DeCaprio in a post on the team web site.
The Jr. Rangers seized control of Game One on second-period goals by Brendan Boyle and Luke Klecker en route to a 4-1 victory. McPherson (power play) and Kuznetsov (shorthanded ENG) sandwiched third-period tallies around the Bandits’ lone goal by Eli Haller.
Jack Rogers staked the Rangers to a 1-0 lead after one period in the 5-1 Game Two clincher. Andrews (two goals, assist), McPherson (goal, assist) and Kuznetsov produced a decisive three-goal burst in a span of 6:53 of the second period. Andrews delivered the game-winner at 6:04 followed by power play goals by McPherson (10:57) and Andrews (12:57) for an insurmountable 4-0 edge. Klecker scored in the third period. Chad Merrill had the Bandits’ goal in the second period.
The Bandits swept the Valley Jr. Warriors (9-3), the Walpole Express (7-2) and the New England Wolves (7-2) during the round-robin portion of the playoffs Feb. 26-28 and outscored opponents, 32-9, in the post-season. No other team had more than 14 goals.
The Bandits rebounded from a round-robin loss to the Vermont Lumberjacks to advance by knocking off the N.H. Jr. Monarchs (2-1) and Northern Cyclones (7-1).
DeCaprio praised the work of assistant coach Ryan Blair, who essentially took over the team in November, allowing DeCaprio to focus on the Rangers’ Premier Division squad.
“It was clear to me what kind of coach Ryan is and I felt comfortable with him becoming the head coach. I had a lot of responsibilities with the Premier team and conflicting schedules didn’t allow me to attend a lot of the Elite games. Blairsy did a phenomenal job with the guys,” DeCaprio said.
The Rangers finished the season with a 37-7-2 record and now own the distinction of being the EHL’s first formal champion of the Elite Division, which began play this season. The four-year-old program has a 147-35-13 record.
Mike McPherson, Jr. Rangers
Eric Wright, Walpole Express
Jimmy Pelton, N.H. Jr. Monarchs
Brendan Horgas, Jr. Rangers
Nicholas Cramer, Vt. Lumberjacks
Mike Paglucca, Jr. Rangers