The regular season concludes in less than three weeks when the South Conference leading Philadelphia Little Flyers visit the eighth-place Connecticut Nighthawks, a game that could still have post-season implications for the Nighthawks.
However, the overall playoff picture figures to be clear before then with resolution a possibility as early as the conclusion of play next weekend. While the Top Four/Bottom Four breakdown in each conference seems all but set, the final ordering is not quite so certain.
Six points separate the first-place Boston Bandits (24-7-3), second-place New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs (22-7-5) and third-place Northern Cyclones (22-11-1).
Each has seven remaining games and, as luck would have it, they all play each other down the stretch, beginning with the Bandits’ visit to the Monarchs on Saturday. The Bandits return to the Granite State to take on the Cyclones on Wednesday, Feb. 10. The Monarchs and Cyclones then square off at Cyclones Arena on Saturday, Feb. 13.
The fourth-place Walpole Express (17-11-7) could play a major role in settling the division with two remaining games against both the Bandits (Feb. 11 and 21) and Cyclones (Feb. 6 and 17). The Monarchs, aside from their games against the Bandits and Cyclones, have five games against sub-.500 opponents.
Eduards Tralmaks (24-25-49), Scott Donahue (14-23-37) and Chaise Howard (14 goals) drive a Bandits’ attack that boasts seven players with 11 or more goals. Goalie Kenny Graham (16 wins, .922, 2 SO) anchors the defense. Tralmaks is third in the league in scoring and leads with eight game-winning goals. Defenseman Ryan Barnes earned EHL Defenseman of the Month accolades for January.
The Monarchs feature Connor Powell (19-28-47), the league’s No. 5 scorer, Luke Bennett (15-23-38) and Hunter Laslo (18-18-36, nine PPGs) on the conference’s highest-scoring offense.
Four Cyclones – Jarrod Fitzpatrick (16-28-44), Nolan Redler (18-22-40), Joey Meehan (19-20-39) and Tyler Bullard (11-21-32) – have eclipsed 30 points. Goalies Drennan Atherton and Joe Lissak continue to split time.
At this point, it’s the Philadelphia Little Flyers (28-6-0) division to lose. They are six points clear of the second-place Connecticut Oilers (24-9-2) with seven games to play and can all but lock up the top seed when the teams square off this weekend for a two-game set at The Ice Works.
A sweep would essentially solidify the Little Flyers’ as the top seed although a dangerous rivalry series with the Jr. Flyers looms next weekend. A weekend split would maintain the status quo, leaving the Oilers with little chance to close the gap. Connecticut clearly needs four points this weekend.
With only four games remaining, the third-place Philadelphia Revolution (23-11-3) could still vault past Connecticut. Fourth-place Hartford Jr. Wolfpack (22-7-4) still has ample opportunity (eight games) for late movement.
The Little Flyers remain the team best built for the long run into March. They lead the league in goals scored (170) and fewest goals allowed (72).
League Forward of the Month Tyler Pietrowski (26-21-47) exploded for 14 goals and 21 points in January and is but one cog in the Flyers’ offensive arsenal that features eight players with 30 points or more. Austin Kelly (16-38-54) and Pavel Mikhasenok (18-35-53) rank one-two in league scoring. Goalie Brock Thompson earned League Goalie of the Month accolades with five wins and a 2.00 GAA in January.
The Oilers take their best shot this weekend driven by Walker Harris (22-24-46), Todd Jackson (18-24-42), Marc Happy (11-26-37), Christian LaCroix (11-20-31) and Alexander Wilkinson (15 goals) and ironman goalie Michael Tilford.