Veteran coach Bill Flanagan calls this year’s Eastern Hockey League champion Northern Cyclones “the most resilient team I’ve ever coached” — with good reason.
Down two games to none and trailing, 2-0, in Game Three of the best-of-five EHL Championship Series against the regular-season champion New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs, the Cyclones rallied to capture Game Three in triple OT and came all the way back to win the championship. The Cyclones now meet the USPHL Elite champions Springfield Pics in the first round of the Junior Tier III National Championship Tournament Thursday at 7 p.m. in Simsbury, CT.
The Cyclones persevered and prevailed in the EHL title series despite playing without Dalton Carter, who left mid-season for UMass-Lowell; and without league MVP and league scoring champion Kevin Valenti, who suffered a shoulder separation on the first shift of the first game against the Monarchs.
“We faced a tremendous amount of adversity but never quit. Everybody contributed some how, some way all season. They all did their part,” said Flanagan. “We were down 2-0 early in Game Three and that’s when we decided we better change something quickly. We battled to win but it was just a great game and great series by both teams.”
Flanagan said the goal is to win Nationals, but is also realistic.
“Our objective was to win to win two championships. We have one. But, I also know we poured every ounce of emotion into that championship series. I just hope we can rally a bit and find some more adrenaline,” he said.
The Pics present a formidable offensive opponent, having scored 47 goals in eight post-season games.
“I know they have a good record and that most of the guys were on the team when we were both in the EJHL last year. Each game is about 60 minutes of hockey. I think that our league, based on the evaluations of college scouts, has proven it’s a top-end Junior League,”said Flanagan.
The Cyclones also play Friday at 1:30 p.m. against the Northern Pacific Hockey League champion Bellingham Blazers and on Saturday against the North American 3 Hockey League runner-up Flint Junior Generals.
The Monarchs earned the at-large berth with a 6-0 win against the Metro Junior Hockey League runner-up Boston Jr. Rangers Sunday. Kyle Lajeunesse scored two goals while Hunter Laslo, Peyton Baldillez, Colin MacGillivray, and Cam Owens had a goal apiece. The Monarchs begin their National title quest tomorrow against USPHL Premier champion Junior Bruins at 1:30.