HOOKSETT, NH -- The Eastern Hockey League (EHL) held its first-ever All-Star tournament, featuring four teams of 68 players from around the league.
Over the span of two days, the four teams--Red, Blue, White and Gray--played three round robin games followed by a consolation and championship game. Each team featured 15 skaters, two goaltenders and two coaches from each division, and all of the games followed a format of two 20-minute periods.
Four games were played on Saturday, meaning each team started the All-Star showdown with two games each. Team Red started things off with a 3-2 win over Team Blue, as New York Apple Core forward Colby Walters recorded a goal plus an assist. In the second period, Walters slammed home a rebound that proved to be the game-winner.
Team Gray and Team White were up next, and for much of the first period the game remained scoreless. Adam Zukowski of the Boston Jr. Rangers finally broke through at 17:22 of the first period for Team White, and it held up as the game-winning goal. Team Maryland goaltender John Werber and Apple Core netminder Jackson Bernard combined for a shutout, stopping all 21 shots from Team Gray.
Team White went right back onto the ice to face Team Blue, and fatigue did not seem to be a concern as the teams entered the intermission in a 1-1 tie. The Blue team pulled through in the second period, however, as Walpole Express forward Anthony Persi notched a goal and an assist in the second period to lead Team Blue to a 3-1 win over Team White.
Closing out day one was Team Red and Team Gray, and it appeared Red was going to run away with the game. New England Wolves forward Kevin Johnston and Vermont Lumberjacks forward Louis-Joseph Guernon scored in the first period to give Red a 2-0 lead, and Philadelphia Little Flyers forward Adam Beauvais tacked on another goal to extend the lead to 3-0.
Just when it appeared all was lost for Team Gray, they responded with four unanswered goals and scored six of the next seven goals after falling behind 3-0. Colin Bella scored a hat-trick, while Alex Raketich, Robbie Seewagen and Aden Hotchkiss also found the back of the net in their 6-4 victory.
Each team went 1-1-0 in day one, meaning the winners of the final two round robin games would advance to the championship game. Team Blue and Team Gray started up day two, and it was Blue who jumped ahead early and never looked back. They scored four goals in the first half, including one by Railers defenseman Tyler Drummond that finished off a pretty passing play with Boston Jr. Rangers forward Jack Karges and Seahawks forward Will Crowley.
East Coast Wizards forward Jake DiNapoli, who scored once in the first half, and then picked up two more goals to complete the hat-trick and help Team Blue advance to the championship game with an 8-3 victory.
Team Red came out strong in their third round robin game, jumping to a 4-0 lead over Team White in the first half with two more goals from Little Flyers forward Adam Beauvais. Seacoast Spartans forward Colin Marks and Valley Jr. Warriors forward Billy Hartnett added a goal and assist each as Team Red went on to a 6-2 victory.
The consolation game featured Team White and Team Gray, and Connecticut RoughRiders forward Calyb Reeves scored twice for White as they jumped to an early 2-0 lead. Similar to their day one comeback, Team Gray would respond with five unanswered goals including three from New Hampshire Avalanche forward Aden Hotchkiss. Bella tacked on a goal and an assist in the 6-4 win, and he led the tournament in points with 9 (5g, 4a) in four games.
In the championship game, Team Blue once again came out strong and jumped to a 3-0 lead over Team Red. DiNapoli, Crowley and Spartans forward Cooper Board found the back of the net in the first half, while Johnston scored for Team Red to cut the deficit down to two.
Apple Core defenseman James Mettler reduced the deficit to one with a goal 38 seconds into the second half, but Team Blue managed to hang on with strong goaltending from Walpole Express netminder Jack Boschert. He made 29 saves on 31 shots as Team Blue--led by Wizards head coach Kory Falite and Jr. Warriors head coach Ryan McGrath--won the first annual EHL All-Star Classic.
EHL Associate Commissioner, Neil Ravin, spoke about the significance of holding an All-Star event for the league and took note of the talent from the players representing all 17 EHL teams.
"Adding this event to our calendar this season gave me a great feeling of pride knowing the opportunity that we were going to provide for 68 of the players across the EHL. The end result proved just how much parity exists in our league, as we continue along in our ninth season," Ravin said.
"With every passing year we devote more and more attention to our players, and this new event is just the latest example of that commitment. Soon to come will be NCAA commitments for a lot of the players that participated."
Anthony Di Paolo covers the EHL for HNIB and can be followed on Twitter @DiPaolo_016
Anthony Di Paolo has spent the last four seasons with the New Jersey 87's organization. Anthony's familiarity with the junior hockey landscape at the Tier II and Tier III levels will help him dive right into covering the EHL.
Anthony will cover our league showcases and events, as well as write weekly features and player spotlights throughout the 2021-22 season.
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