The Northern Cyclones will defend their Eastern Hockey League championship and the Connecticut Oilers will make their first trip to the title series after both executed two-game semifinal series sweeps over the weekend.
In a rematch of last year’s riveting championship series, the Cyclones ousted their chief rivals and the Northern Division regular-season champion New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs. The Central Division champion Oilers were equally impressive in bouncing the high-scoring South Division champion Philadelphia Little Flyers.
The best-of-five championship series begins tonight at 6 p.m. at Cyclones Arena and continues tomorrow at 3 p.m. at the same venue. The series shifts to SoNo IceHouse for Game Three (6 p.m.) next Monday and Game Four (if necessary) next Tuesday. Game Five, if needed, would be played at Cyclones Arena on March 25 (6 p.m.)
Connecticut Oilers sweep Little Flyers
The Oilers got the jump in Game One, 4-1, as goalie Chris Bastone withstood a relentless opening Flyers’ flurry and turned back 38 shots. The Oilers grabbed a 2-0 lead after one period on goals from Jim Buckingham and Nick Jermain. Following a scoreless second period, Gabe Chuckran pulled the Flyers to within 2-1 with a power play strike at 3:42 of the third period. However, Lucas Bombardier countered at 6:57 and Marc Happy deposited an empty-netter with 1:29 to play.
Game Two was more of the wide-open style favored by the Flyers but the Oilers matched and ultimately bettered them at their own game, 6-5. Four lead changes saw Philly take 1-0 and 4-3 advantages while the Oilers surged ahead 2-1 and 5-4 before Todd Jackson completed his hat trick and a four-point night, netting the game-winner with 9:46 to play. Cam Cundy, Kevin Robinson and Josh Victor also scored for the Oilers while five Flyers – Drew Gannon, Blake Delisle, Cam Berry, Garrett Gallagher and Hector Majul – found the net.
Cyclones knock out Monarchs once again
The Cyclones got the series jump with a controlled all-around performance in a 4-1 Game One win. First-period goals 2:20 apart by Drake Longaker and Nick Felan (GWG) established a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Hunter Laslo had the Monarchs’ lone goal at 13:55 of the third period but the Cyclones pulled away on a pair by Dylan Bengston, at 7:22 of the second period and 17:41 of the third. Meanwhile, goalie Jimmy Poreda sent back all but one of the 47 shots he faced.
Game Two went to double overtime before the Cyclones’ Aaron Bland delivered the series clincher at 15:02 of the second extra session. Laslo, at 6:11 of the first period; and Garrett Geane, at 15:40 of the second period staked New Hampshire to a 2-0 lead. The Cyclones scrapped back with two in the third period from Sean Brown at 35 seconds and Aaron Huffnagle at 5:17. Poreda made 38 saves while the Monarchs’ Cole Burack piled up 58 stops.