The Eastern Hockey League best-of-five championship series gets under way Friday night when the regular-season champion New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs square off against the second seeded Northern Cyclones in Game One at Tri-Town Arena in Hookset (7:10 p.m.). Games Three and Five (if necessary) will be in Hookset while Games Two and Four (if necessary) are slated for the Cyclones 1 Rink in Hudson, NH.
The Monarch, coached by Ryan Frew, had the better of it during the regular-season, winning four of five meetings between the North Division teams. However, the Monarchs were pushed to three games in the semifinal round by the Boston Bandits while the Cyclones , under Bill Flanagan, swept aside South Division champion Philadelphia Little Flyers.
The series will feature the EHL’s top three individual awards winners: MVP and Forward of the Year Kevin Valenti of Queensbury, NY and the Cyclones, who’s headed for Utica College; Defenseman of the Year Grant Gallo of San Diego, CA and the Cyclones, off to SUNY-Plattsburgh; and Goaltender of the Year Jake Theut of Washington, MI and the Jr. Monarchs.
No. 1 Jr. Monarchs vs. No. 6 Boston Bandits
(Monarchs win series, two games to one)
The Monarchs got all they bargained for against the upstart Bandits. After dropping the opener, the Monarchs trailed in the decisive third game before ripping off five unanswered goals to advance. Brent Beaudoin turned the game the Monarchs’ way with two shorthanded goals on the same shift in the second period for a 3-2 lead after Alex Bonito and Jon Stickel put the Bandits ahead, 2-1. Payton Baldillez added a pair for New Hampshire and Theut turned back 34 shots.
Goalie Ryan Hubbard (who had 109 saves in three games) turned in a 47-save Game One performance, anchoring the Bandits’ 3-2 win. Freddy Gerard gave the Bandits a 2-0 lead and, after the Monarchs pulled even on goals by Kyle Lajeunesse and Beaudoin, Tyler Drevitch delivered the game-winner at 58 seconds of the second period.
Game Two went to the Jr. Monarchs, 3-2, on Shawn Nelson’s game-winner at 7:14 of the third period. Theut had 23 saves. The Bandits’ Connor Court and Eric Salzillo sandwiched goals around a pair of Beaudoin strikes that left the teams tied, 2-2, through two periods.
No. 2 Northern Cyclones vs. No. 3 Philadelphia Little Flyers
(Cyclones win series, two games to none)
Sean Brown’s second goal of Game Two, at 2:05 of OT, sent the Cyclones into the championship series. Zach Felser and Jesse MacIntyre gave the Flyers a 2-0 lead with goals 20 seconds apart in the first period. Brown and Jack Jenkins countered with second-period tallies. Goalies Drew Weigman (39 saves) of the Cyclones and Alec Derks (33 saves) of the Flyers played well.
Game One was tied three times before the Cyclones scored the final three goals in a 6-3 win. Aaron Bland had two goals, including the game-winner at 9:54 of the second period, while Timothy Baylis, Jack Jenkins, Tony Crow and Alec Lefave also scored in support of Weigman (22 saves). MacIntyre, Jude Warner and Cameron Berry had the Flyers’ goals.