BOSTON, MA -- With the Thanksgiving Holiday in less than 10 days, it seems that the busiest time of the year also impacted the Eastern Hockey League (EHL) schedule. The EHL and Eastern Hockey League Premier (EHLP) levels experienced plenty of action over the past week, which again displayed the league’s parity.
Hockey Night in Boston (HNIB) recaps Week #8 for another edition of Keeping Up with Kyle.
Let’s grab a bowl of clam chowder (considering the temperature outside is colder) and drop the puck on the New England Conference – because things are heating up on the ice, especially in the north.
Much of last week’s #ESHOW podcast focused on the Boston Jr Rangers and Walpole Express, which shouldn’t come to a surprise given their recent success. Yet, the two New England Conference foes faced-off twice over the weekend and the outcomes impacted the rivalry’s intensity that much more.
While the Jr. Rangers defeated the Seahawks Hockey Club, 4-1, to kick-off the week, Boston aimed for another statement win when it played the Express on Friday at Rodman Arena. The Jr. Rangers’ impressive win streak arguably faced its toughest challenge, yet. After regaining its top-ranked form, Walpole entered the contest riding an eight-game winning streak and recorded three consecutive shutouts - a league high for the 2020-21 campaign.
Boston head coach Rich DeCaprio and company didn’t get the memo for the first matchup.
The Jr. Rangers stunned Walpole by a 7-1 score after finding the back of the net on four occasions during the first two frames. Boston earned the commanding 4-0 lead in large thanks to Jack Moore, Jack Karges, Markus Cook and Joey Schaefer. Karges later netted his second tally on the day in the 3rd period, while Connor Bizal followed his teammate with two goals to close out the contest.
Keep in mind that even when the Express created offensive scoring opportunities, Jr. Rangers’ goaltender Nathan Mueller shut the door on Walpole with his 34 saves.
Yes, Boston left Rodman with all smiles, but the Express didn’t seem phased by the lopsided loss.
On Saturday, the circumstances weren’t pretty from the get-go for the Express after they fell into a 2-0 hole. However, Walpole’s Justin Sullivan and Max Burum both netted goals towards the end of the 1st period and the Express were back in business.
The 2nd period didn’t witness a goal-scorer until Walpole forward Matt Ryan scored 11:38 into the frame, which also marked his third goal on the year. Ryan’s second-period tally stood as the game-winner, while the Express received an insurance goal from the stick of Lorenzo Marcolin who scored an empty-net tally.
The victory marked the first time that a team defeated the Jr. Rangers in regulation since Jan. 25, 2020, against the Vermont Lumberjacks. The Express enter Week #9 with a 9-1-0 record in their last 10 outings and sit in 3rd place for the NEC (9-5-1--19PTS).
Another NEC team that has this hockey enthusiast’s full attention is the Seahawks. The Cape Cod-based squad was the lone team that earned votes for this week’s power ranking and extended their winning streak to three games after suffering a loss on Tuesday to Boston.
The Hawks took down the East Coast Wizards (4-1), the Valley Jr Warriors (4-2), and the Railers Jr Hockey Club (4-3). The green and blue earned wins from all three goaltenders in Blaine Moore, Peyton Durand, and Tristan Hadley, respectively. The Seahawks improved defensive play and depth between the pipes are areas to keep an eye on from here on out. On the offensive side of the puck, Austin Pick tallied two goals and chipped in two helpers for four points for Week #8.
Five days after suffering a loss to the New England Wolves (3-1), the New Hampshire Avalanche proved that they were ready to roll, again.
The Avalanche won all three contests for the week, which included victories over the Vermont Lumberjacks (4-0), Wolves (6-2) and Seacoast Spartans (3-0). Overall, New Hampshire enters the week with five shutouts on the year which also leads the EHL. Additionally, Avs’ goaltender George McMichael leads all masked men with three shutouts.
Forward Artem Mateichenko leads New Hampshire’s offensive attack with his two goals and 14 assists for 16 points. The 5-foot-8 forward recorded three helpers in the team’s recent win against Seacoast, while team captain Chris Aarons netted a multi-goal effort. Both the Clifton, NY native’s tallies were on the man advantage, and four of Aaron’s five goals were scored on the power play this season.The Avs rank in second (11-2-0—22PTS) for the NEC and at the time of writing are three points behind Boston for first place.
Fans likely noticed yesterday that there was only one change for the EHL’s power-rankings, and it was well deserved. Team Maryland entered the rankings after statement wins over the Philadelphia Little Flyers and the New Jersey 87s.
Maryland kicked off its impressive slate with a 7-4 victory over Philadelphia on Tuesday. Entering the contest, red and black were 0-2-1 vs. the Little Flyers and were winless since Oct. 16 (hiatus). The victory against the City of Brotherly Love witnessed Denys Arkhypenko earn his first multi-goal effort on the year (2g-1a). Additionally, Bobby Geier collected three helpers on the afternoon while Maryland goaltender Bobby McCloskey earned his sixth win for 2020-21.
One day later, Maryland stole Week #8 headlines when they hosted and defeated the 87’s by a 5-4 final in overtime. The roller coaster game entailed Maryland outscoring the 87’s 4-1 during the second period, which also entailed Geier (2 goals) and Arkhypenko (2 assists) again inking their names on the score sheet multiple times. While New Jersey displayed a commendable comeback to tie the game at 4-4 during the final frame, Maryland skated away in celebration after Drew Iannucci’s game-winning goal in overtime.
The win marked just the second time this season that a team defeated New Jersey (Connecticut RoughRiders, 4-3 SO, Oct. 21). Still, the 87’s enter the week having never lost in regulation this season.
Speaking of “roller-coaster” games …
The Protec Jr Ducks and Little Flyers did not disappoint during their first-ever matchup on Friday at Ice Works in Aston, PA. It seemed that this year’s Friday 13th was meant to entail two teams that don orange and black – spooky, right?
Philadelphia’s physical presence and strong forecheck early on benefited the Little Flyers and their offensive opportunities. The Little Flyers took a commanding 4-1 lead after Kyle Patton netted a power-play goal less than five minutes into the 3rd period. While it seemed like the Little Flyers were on the verge of ending their three-game losing streak, Nick Newman netted his second goal on the day which re-energized the Jr. Ducks with less than 10:00 remaining in regulation.
Protec controlled the tempo for the last eight minutes of regulation, and it was Jr. Ducks' captain Brayden Patricia who stole the show. The center-man recorded a power-play goal 16:17 into the frame and cut the Flyers lead to 4-3. After Protec head coach Terry Watt pulled goaltender Tristan Fattedad, it was none other than Patricia who scored the dramatic game-tying goal with 30 seconds left in the contest.
The ice was titled in Protec’s favor for overtime and Patricia completed the natural hat trick less than two minutes into the extra frame. The thrilling contest also marked the sixth occasion that the Jr. Ducks skated in an overtime contest during their inaugural season.
Yet, the Little Flyers and Robbie Seewagen finally ended their four-game skid two days later back at IceWorks Skating Complex. The 18-year-old in Seewagen recorded two helpers on the day and his 14-overall-points (7g-7a) rank second on Philadelphia.
Additionally, the Little Flyers erased multiple Protec leads in the Sunday matinee contest and in large thanks to skaters such as Patton and Gavin Fritch. Patton enters Week #9 riding a four-game points streak (3g-3a) in hopes that he can help turn Philadelphia’s fortunes in the Mid-Atlantic Conference standings. Let’s not forget that the Little Flyers utilized goaltender Jakub Kubik in both contests, in addition to the Czech Republic native recording over 30 saves in each outing.
There were another pair of MAC foes who also met for a two-game set in Week #7. The Battle for Connecticut was up for grabs, when the Connecticut RoughRiders and Connecticut Chiefs faced-off on Thursday and Saturday for a home-at-home showdown.
The Chiefs entered the contest with a 2-0-1 record vs. Tyler Buonopane and the RoughRiders. Keep in mind that Buonopane (13g-20a—33PTS) and fellow teammate Colin Bella (17g-14a—31PTS) sit atop of the league for scoring, respectively.
Still, Chiefs captain Max Phillips and company proved that they’re still a force to be reckoned with in the MAC. On Thursday, Phillips netted two goals while Mitch Rickert (1g-1a) and Zachary Boulet (2 assists) recorded multi-point efforts en-route to a 4-3 overtime victory.
After the RoughRiders scored two third-period goals to erase a 3-1 deficit, it was Rickert who tallied the game-winning goal 56-seconds into the extra frame.
However, the following contest was a dominant performance by the Chiefs who served the RoughRiders a 6-2 loss. Phillips wasn’t a stranger to the score sheet again after netting one goal and collecting two assists, and Jason Gordon found the back of the net twice in the “W.” The Chiefs improved to 7-6-2 and their six wins in the last 10 contests are second only to New Jersey who is 8-0-2.
Let’s check in on the EHLP’s Week #8 action which also played the role of host for numerous Boston Jr Rangers-Walpole Express showdowns.
The Jr. Rangers and Express faced-off three times during the frame, but it was Boston that got the upper-hand in two of the three contests. After Walpole began the set with a 5-4 shootout victory, the Rangers turned the tables with with a 6-0 shutout, and a 5-4 victory of their own in overtime. Boston’s near-perfect week improved its record up to 8-1-3 on the year, but that wasn’t enough to jumpstart the team ahead of the New Hampshire Avalanche in the power rankings.
The Avalanche’s two wins against the Vermont Lumberjacks and New England Wolves kept New Hampshire's No. 1 rank safe and sound entering Week #9, while the team sits atop of the North Division and entire EHLP with an 11-0-0 record.
New Hampshire’s Graham Hassan not only leads the Avs with 20 points (8g-12a), but ranks tied for 2nd in the league for scoring. His seven points (3g-4a) on the man advantage also an impressive feat. Between the pipes, Shane Peremba won both games for the Avalanche this past weekend, and justifiably earned Top Performers honors.
The City of Brotherly Love’s Premier squad was also busy with a set of contests. The Philadelphia Little Flyers kicked off the week with a 7-4 win over the New Jersey Renegades and later completed the home-and-home sweep against the Renegades with an 8-1 victory on Sunday.
The Flyers’ Nicholas Bouchard not only recorded a hat-trick in the first meeting but also earned three points on Sunday. Bouchard leads the EHLP with 26 points (9g-17a) and has also collected six helpers on the man advantage for the 2020-21 campaign.
Let’s not forget that the Railers Jr Hockey Club chimed in and entered the power rankings after the week ended. The Jr. Railers rank No. 4 entering the new frame and were fresh off wins vs. Walpole (5-0) and the Valley Jr Warriors (6-1). The pair of victories ended the team’s two-game skid and marks the second time this season the Jr. Railers won back-to-back contests. Additionally, the Jr. Railers 21 goals-allowed is the fewest by an EHLP team and in large thanks to netminders Kyler Breland, Stefan Kulhanek, and Sal Caruso.
New Rivalries were born in the EHL while other familiar foes squared off twice in less than five days. Week #9 presents rematches with the 87’s and Team Maryland, in addition to the RoughRiders and Chiefs.
The Seahawks and Apple Core’s schedules entail a full slate, but perhaps a pair of wins could lift the Seahawks into the power rankings for the first time this season.
At the Premier level the Renegades and 87’s meet twice.
See you at the rink…
Kyle McKenna spent four seasons working in various communications roles at the professional hockey level from 2015-2019. McKenna served as the New Jersey Devils Communications Assistant for the 2015-16 season and Community Hockey Assistant and Lightning High School Hockey League Beat Writer from 2016-2018 for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Additionally, the New Jersey native worked at the 2018 World Junior Championship at Buffalo in as a Media Relations Assistant and was also the Communications Assistant for the ECHL’s Adirondack Thunder in 2018-19. Since graduating Monmouth University with a bachelor’s degree in communications (2015), the former Junior Hockey player also covered the NHL for various blogs in freelance roles. McKenna’s familiarity with the EHL dates to last season (2019-20) when he was an organization’s communications manager, while creating written and digital content on a daily basis.