With a little more than a month to the playoffs, a three-horse race has developed in the North Conference while just five points separate the four leading teams in the South. The final push begins in earnest with 14 games on tap this weekend. The top four teams in each conference will be rewarded with home ice for the first round of the playoffs that begin Feb. 23.
The Boston Bandits lead the North with 45 points, three points better than the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs and four ahead of the Northern Cyclones.
In the South, the Philadelphia Little Flyers have ridden a 9-1-0 surge into first place, their 50 points two points better than the Connecticut Oilers following Wednesday night’s 6-2 victory against the Philadelphia Revolution. The Hartford Jr. Wolfpack and Revolution are deadlocked at 45 points apiece.
The Little Flyers (25-6-0) own the league’s best record, its most prolific offense (147 goals) and its top differential (plus-77) and hold three games in hand on both the Oilers and Revolution. Tim Higginbotham struck for a pair of power play goals 1:15 apart in the second period to break open Wednesday’s game as the Flyers raced out to a 6-0 lead.
The Little Flyers were particularly impressive at the league’s annual Martin Luther King Showcase last weekend at Tri-Town Ice Arena, sweeping past three Northern Conference opponents. They knocked off the host Junior Monarchs, 3-2, in OT behind Pavel Mikhasenok’s power play game-winner and Brock Thompson’s 22 saves; the Northern Cyclones, 5-2, powered by a pair of Oleg Potemkin power play strikes; and the Junior Rangers in a shootout, 3-2.
South teams dominated the holiday extravaganza, winning 16-of-27 contests. The Oilers, New York Bobcats, New Jersey Rockets, Applecore and Jr. Wolfpack all picked up two wins apiece. Among Northern teams, only the Cyclones and Valley Jr. Warriors earned multiple wins with two each.
Based on their performances at the league’s third and final Showcase, the Little Flyers’ Potemkin (three goals, assist), Douglas Elgstam (four goals, assist) of the New Jersey Rockets and Walker Harris (two goals, assist) of the Connecticut Oilers were named EHL Stars of the Week.
Goals – Joshua Larson, Jr. Flyers, 22
Assists – Austin Kelley, Little Flyers, 32
Points — Donny Flynn, New Jersey Rockets, 47
Power Play Goals – Douglas Elgstam, New Jersey Rockets, 9
Game-Winning Goals – Eduards Tralmaks, Boston Bandits, 7
Shorthanded Goals – Four tied with 3.
Goals Against Average – Josh Reinstein, Jr. Monarchs, 1.62
Save Percentage – Vinny Evans, Boston Bandits, .944
Wins –Michael Tilford, Connecticut Oilers, 15
Minutes Played – Connor Rodericks, Walpole Express, 1,512:45
Shutouts – Cayden Primeau, Philadelphia Revolution, 5