EXETER, NH -- It seemed like yesterday when the Eastern Hockey League (EHL) was gearing up for the return of showcases for the 2021-22 season, and now they have completed the fifth and final leg of the showcase series in New Hampshire.
The action did not disappoint; there were plenty of great games that went down to the wire, plus the first-ever EHLP All-Star Game nearly saw an amazing five-goal comeback. So, for the final time this season, here is a breakdown of all the action from the latest EHL showcase.
For the second showcase in a row, the spotlight shined on the New Jersey 87's, who managed to extend its winning streak to 14 games. They won all three of their games; a 3-0 win over the New England Wolves, a 5-2 victory against the Railers Jr. Hockey Club and a 4-3 come-from-behind win over the Seacoast Spartans. In the final win over Seacoast, Jason Atkinson and Devlin O'Kane scored goals 19 seconds apart, giving New Jersey the lead with just over a minute left in regulation.
Sticking with the South Division, the Protec Jr. Ducks also swept their schedule in Exeter with a 5-3 win over the Seahawks Hockey Club and 4-3 win against the Vermont Lumberjacks. One of their newest forwards, Rhett Evjen, excelled in the showcase by recording a goal and an assist in each of the Ducks' two wins.
Team Maryland and the Philadelphia Little Flyers both won a game on the final day of the showcase. Maryland defeated the East Coast Wizards 1-0 on a goal by Jacob Kosinski and a 26-save shutout from Collin Berke in his season debut. The Philadelphia Little Flyers beat the Railers 5-2, and forward Harrison Dumas recorded three primary assists in the victory.
Up in the North Division, the New Hampshire Avalanche extended their winning streak to nine games with a pair of wins in Exeter, including a commanding 8-1 victory over the New York Apple Core and a 5-1 win against the Connecticut Chiefs. Joe Santoro recorded five points (2g, 3a) in the showcase while goaltender Ronan Mobley won both of his starts.
The New England Wolves bounced back from their loss to the 87's with a 5-2 win over the Little Flyers, including a two-goal game from AJ Lackas. On the final day of the showcase, they played against the Vermont Lumberjacks at their home rink in Merrill Fay Arena and walked away with another 5-2 win. Latvian forward Edijs Grigorjevs scored twice in the victory.
Hosting the final showcase of the season, the Seacoast Spartans went 1-1 on home ice, including a commanding 7-0 victory over the Connecticut RoughRiders. Carson Whitman (2g, 1a) and Cooper Board (1g, 2a) had three points each while Colin Marks recorded four assists. John Profaci was in goal for the victory and pitched a 19-save shutout.
In the East Division there were a few intra-divisional matchups, but of the five teams the Valley Jr. Warriors stood out in Exeter. Their first game was a 3-2 victory over Team Maryland, and Jonathan Lapsa picked up the hat trick. His third goal came with 2:08 left in regulation to pull the Warriors ahead. The following day he recorded a goal and an assist in the Warriors' 3-1 win over the Walpole Express. By the end of the showcase, the Warriors improved their record to 5-1-1 since the start of 2022.
The Boston Jr. Rangers, Walpole Express and East Coast Wizards all picked up one win apiece in the Exeter showcase. On the first day, Boston fell behind the Connecticut RoughRiders 1-0, but scored six unanswered goals to secure the victory. Julian Boisclair led the offense with two goals plus an assist.
Walpole defeated the East Coast Wizards 3-2, though the Wizards made the game interesting by pulling to within one goal with 1:04 left in regulation. Express goaltender Scott Bird prevailed, however, by making 22 saves on 24 shots. The following day, the Wizards bounced back with a 4-2 win over the Seahawks Hockey Club and a two-goal game from Jules Donovan.
Only one team in the Central Division picked up a win in the Exeter showcase, but it was a thrilling 4-3 overtime win for the Connecticut Chiefs over the Boston Jr. Rangers. Trailing 3-1 late in the second half, Boston managed to score twice in final five minutes of regulation to even the score. However, a late penalty by the Jr. Rangers gave the Chiefs a 4-on-3 power play in overtime, and Dominic Chirico slammed home a one-timer to give the Chiefs the victory.
Saturday night, the best players in the EHLP competed in its first-ever All-Star Game, featuring Team Gray and Team White.
For the first 40 minutes, it appeared that Team Gray was going to run away with the victory as they jumped to a 5-0 lead. Phillip Parker of the Walpole Express, Luc Denney of the Valley Jr. Warriors, and Logan Downs of the Philadelphia Little Flyers all had multiple points by the end of the second period, and the shots were 34-19 in their favor by the second intermission.
Team White did manage to score a goal at the end of the second period, coming from Boston Jr. Rangers forward Max Morris. In the third period, he managed to score two more goals while Express defenseman Aidan Parker and 87's forward Will O'Brien also found the back of the net and cut the deficit to 6-5. Team Gray, however, managed to weather the storm with an empty-net goal from RJ Sember of the New England Wolves, and secured the 7-5 victory.
While on the losing team, Max Morris was named MVP for leading Team White's comeback effort with a hat-trick.
Even with the All-Star Game, the EHLP still had plenty of games to go around in the Exeter/Hooksett Showcase. The North Division proved why it's one of the stronger divisions in the Premier, as three of its four teams picked up at least two wins. The New Hampshire Avalanche went 2-0-1 over the weekend with a 6-1 win over the Valley Jr. Warriors and a 5-1 victory against the New Jersey 87's.
The Vermont Lumberjacks had two games against the New Jersey Renegades and won both of them, the first game ending 6-1 and the second game ending with a 3-2 result. Bobby Voss recorded four points (1g, 3a) between the two games, and newcomer Arhip Sidarovich scored the game-winning goal in the 3-2 victory with 51 seconds left in regulation.
Similar to the Lumberjacks, the Valley Jr. Warriors defeated the Renegades 6-1 in the showcase. The following day the Warriors went up against the Connecticut Chiefs, and it turned out to be the most eventful game in the showcase. It appeared the Jr. Warriors were going to win on a go-ahead goal from Andrew McGaffigan with 18.6 seconds left in regulation. Connecticut, however, responded just 11 seconds later on a goal by Dylan Schiavo to force overtime. After a scoreless overtime, Jr. Warriors forward Patrick Roach scored the only goal in the shootout to secure a 5-4 win for his team.
In the East Division, the Boston Jr. Rangers went a perfect 2-0-0 with a 4-2 victory over the Connecticut Chiefs and a 5-2 win against the Seahawks. In addition to the three goals he scored in the All-Star Game, Max Morris notched four points (3g, 1a) in the two wins for Boston.
The Philadelphia Little Flyers' Premier team only played one game in Exeter, but it was a statement win as they snapped the New Hampshire Avalanche's eight-game winning streak. Down 2-1 in the second half, the Little Flyers tied the game on a goal by Johnny Lee with under 10 minutes left in regulation. Colin Berry scored a power-play goal just 38 seconds into the overtime session, and the win put the Little Flyers in 1st place in the South Division.
After a going a full season without showcases, it's still hard to believe the EHL has already completed its showcase series for the 2021-22 season. The next league event will be the Frozen Finals in Providence, RI, but there will be plenty of action in between as teams make a final push for the postseason.
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.