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Keeping Up with Kyle - Week #10

By Kyle McKenna - HNIB Beat Writer, 11/25/20, 9:00AM EST


Chiefs Earn Spot in Power Rankings; Valley is Week 9's Biggest Surprise

BOSTON, MA -- There’s no doubt that the Mid-Atlantic Conference (MAC) stole headlines for Week #9 in the Eastern Hockey League (EHL). Yet, a New England Conference (NEC) squad also turned heads after a trio of key victories.

Hockey Night in Boston (HNIB) recaps Week #9 for another edition of Keeping Up with Kyle.

Mid-Atlantic Conference

After a tough start to the 2020-21 campaign, the New York Apple Core displayed clutch efforts in Week #9. The Apple Core kicked off the frame with a 3-2 win over Team Maryland on Tuesday, Nov. 17, which also witnessed multi-point efforts from Colin Callanan and Matt Milone. New York masked man Jackson Bernard also earned the win between the pipes, after No. 31 recorded 41 saves on the day.

While Callanan and company were on a roll and won four of their last six games, it seemed that Apple Core bumped into a pair of hot teams. The Protec Jr Ducks hosted New York on Thursday at Protec Ponds, and reminded the league that the flock is still a force to be reckoned with.

Jr. Ducks’ team captain Brayden Patricia netted his fourth multi-goal effort for the year and earned his third game-winning goal. Protec forward Connor Tartaglione joined Patricia on the offensive surge, when the 6-foot-1 forward also recorded two goals in the contest. Additionally, goaltender Dylan Knighton stood tall between the pipes for the Jr. Ducks and recorded over 40 saves.

The Philadelphia Little Flyers proved that they’re back on track after sweeping the Apple Core over the weekend by scores of 4-3 and 9-2. Not only did the Little Flyers extend their winning streak to three games, but Philadelphia forward Dante Gattone earned EHL Stars of the Week honors.

No. 7 recorded five points (2g-3a) against New York and now ranks fourth on the team with 14 total points (5g-9a).

While the Connecticut RoughRiders have only won three out of their last 10 contests, the squad enters Week #10 in second place for the MAC. It didn’t hurt that Colin Bella and company split their weekend series with the Connecticut Chiefs. The RoughRiders collected two points in the standings after taking down the Chiefs 5-4 on Thursday, but were later reminded that the Chiefs are the talk of the EHL, lately.

The Chiefs earned a spot in the EHL power rankings for the first time in 2020-21. While the Chiefs were 1-0-1 in Week #9, the team has won five of their last six contests, overall. The Chiefs have clearly turned things around this season, while also displaying scoring depth.

In the team’s 4-3 shootout victory over the RoughRiders on Sunday, the Chiefs witnessed three different goal-scorers during regulation (Jason Gordon, Mitch Rickert & Dante Amato) in addition to Matt Loftus’ shootout winner – which gained plenty of attention over Twitter.

However, the New Jersey 87s were back in action and head coach Adam Houli’s squad didn’t hesitate to refresh that EHL that they own the league’s top record. New Jersey knocked off Team Maryland by scores of 8-2 on Friday and 5-1 on Monday, with a victory over the Jr. Ducks (5-2) sandwiched in the middle of those two games. To no surprise, 87’s forward Kei Yasuda recorded a pair of multi-point efforts over the weekend, while netting one goal and collecting five helpers, overall. Tim Debord also came through in the clutch for New Jersey. The team captain earned one goal and chipped in two helpers during the team’s three-game winning streak, and Debord’s goal against Protec was timely, to say the least.

Keep in mind that New Jersey started all three goaltenders in Jeremy Connor, Jon Kopack and Matt Sayles, respectively – talk about depth down the middle of the ice, no? The 87’s enter Week #10 with the EHL’s best-overall record at 15-0-2 and are the only team that hasn’t lost a contest in regulation.

New England Conference

The EHL’s NEC hosted top performers on the blue line and between the pipes.

Let’s start with the Valley Jr Warriors who earned the Junior hockey community’s full attention, after winning three of their last four games. Valley’s Joe Biddle was not only awarded the league’s top defenseman of the week honors, but the Warriors proved that they’re on the verge of turning their season around.

Valley earned back-to-back wins against the East Coast Wizards and outscored their in-conference foes 7-2, prior to a tough loss vs. the Railers Jr Hockey Club (6-4). However, the day before the Railers defeat, Valley earned their 2nd win of the season, picking up a 4-3 shootout victory over the Seahawks Hockey Club.

“We were in control against the Railers and laid an egg in the 3rd period, and we learned our lesson,” said Valley head coach Ryan McGrath following his team's win over the Wizards on Monday. “We brought it for 60:00 today (vs. Wizards). Max Tucker was huge up front getting us started and (goaltender) Nate Brennan shut the door for his first Junior (hockey) win in the net.”

Led by Biddle, and with complementary skaters such as Gehrig Oppenhimer, the Warriors are a team to watch in the NEC moving forward.

In the blue paint, goaltender Nathan Mueller stole headlines and helped the Boston Jr Rangers improve to 13-1-1. Boston took down East Coast on Friday, 4-1, and Mueller enters Week #10 with an impressive 1.78 goals-against-average and .947 save percentage.

The New England Wolves expect victories and no matter who they play. It just so happened that the Wolves also made headlines this past week. After a 5-4 shootout victory against the New Hampshire Avalanche on Tuesday, the Wolves became the lone team in the EHL that’s defeated the Avs twice this season.Wolves’ skaters Donnie Feldman, Ricards Jelenskis and Denis Danilov all recorded multi-point efforts in the win. Additionally, New England’s masked man LJ Newell proved again why he’s one of the EHL’s top goaltenders. The Colorado native recorded 29 saves on the day, but also displayed big and timely stops throughout the contest.

Eastern Hockey League Premier

It seems that the New Jersey 87s are also thriving at the EHLP level. New Jersey’s Premier squad recorded two wins over the frame, while outscoring its opponents in the New Jersey Renegades 9-6. Additionally, it likely wasn’t a coincidence that 87’s’ defenseman Ben Peiffer was named the EHLP’s top defenseman of the week, after the youngster inked a five-point weekend. The Monclair, NJ native also netted the overtime winner against the Renegades in the first matchup.

While the Warriors were busy in the EHL this past week, so was the EHLP squad. The Valley Jr Warriors split their two-game set but also collected a win over the Railers Jr Hockey Club. Valley’s Nick Pitarys led the Warriors with two helpers in the “W” against the Railers.Yet, it was Jr. Warriors’ goaltender Tucker Hanson who took home the honors for top goaltender of the week in the EHLP. The Boxford, MA native earned his second win on the year and also turned away 29 shots.

Keep An Eye On

This Thursday marks the EHL’s first-ever Thanksgiving Showdown.

The Walpole Express face-off with the Seahawks Hockey Club for an 11:00 a.m. puck drop on Cape Cod. Bragging rights are on the line for these two NEC rivals, and it cannot get much better for Junior hockey on the holiday weekend.

Walpole enters the contest having won 10 of its last 11 games, while the Seahawks aim for a statement win on home ice.

Fans can watch for free by clicking here.

See you at the rink ...

Kyle McKenna covers the EHL for HNIB and can be followed on Twitter @KMcKenna_EHL

Kyle McKenna Bio

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.