PROVIDENCE, RI -- The Frozen Finals kicked off today for the EHLP with two games on the slate from Schneider Arena. Both games would feature a hat-trick as there was plenty of goals to go around between the Rangers, Avalanche, and Lumberjacks.
The Boston Jr Rangers and New Hampshire Avalanche took to the ice in the first game in what was an eight-goal affair. The scoring was started early by Boston, who jumped out to a 1-0 lead 4:45 into the game thanks to Max Morris who would go on to have himself quite a night.
After the Rangers jumped out to a 2-0 lead the Avalanche began to get their chances. Ryder Kunin would break through off a nice face-off win by Dante Massaro. The quick trigger pull from Kunin would give New Hampshire some life, but it was short lived, as Morris would pick up his second of the period just three minutes later off a scramble in front. Despite the chances and shots on goal it was a frustrating start for the Avalanche who trailed for the entire game.
“We didn’t get going early in the first, we were battling back from there,” said Avalanche head coach Vinny Caliguiri. The Avs outshot the Rangers 15-9 in the first, but could only manage one goal on Taylor.
Morris, along with teammate Anthony Viola, would finish the 1st period with two points apiece. Morris scoring twice with Viola assisting on both, pair that with 14 Mitch Taylor saves, and the Rangers would skate into the 2nd period ahead 3-1.
Morris would complete the hat-trick late in the 2nd period giving him eight goals on the post season. That mark sets a new EHLP record for most goals in a single postseason.
The Avalanche weren’t just going to roll over however, and made the game closer after Caleb Amidon’s power play goal cut it to 4-2 before the intermission. Early in the 3rd New Hampshire scored 1:56 in and just like that it was back to a one-goal game. While Morris and Viola each finished with three points it was Taylor who really helped secure the victory by stopping 15 of 16 shots in the 3rd period. Chris Merryman’s empty-net goal would give the Rangers their fourth two-goal lead.
Taylor frustrated the Avalanche all throughout the game and while his style of goaltending might be a little unorthodox for Rangers head coach Michael Grace, it’s all about results.
“He battles hard, not everything’s the prettiest, but as long as you stop the puck, I'm good with it” said Grace.
Taylor stopped 40 of 43 shots for the win, while Nick Maringola stopped 20 of 24 in the loss for the Avalanche.
While the first game was a back-and-forth contest, game two was far more one-sided. The North and South division winners went head-to-head as the Vermont Lumberjacks took on the Philadelphia Little Flyers.
The Lumberjacks controlled the Little Flyers to the tune of six goals and 53 shots. The experience-heavy Lumberjacks, fresh off a series sweep of the Avalanche, wasted no time against the Flyers piling up 19 1st period shots and taking a 1-0 lead.
The flood gates opened from there however, with three goals in the opening 3:02 of the 2nd period to balloon a 1-0 lead to 4-0. Philadelphia goaltender Ronnie Petrucci, despite his best efforts (34 saves), did everything he could to keep his team in it.
“That’s what happens when we play the way we want to,” said Lumberjacks head coach Seth Gustin. “We talk about Lumberjack hockey and playing our way and when we play that way, we get results like tonight.”
Forward Bobby Voss was a big part of the 2nd period scoring party. Voss scored twice in the 2nd, once in the 3rd, to complete the hat-trick. The Lumberjacks also got goals from Sam Solod, Arhip Sidarovich and Nick Purdy.
Joshua Kotai, while not tested as much as Petrucci, still turned aside all 28 shots he faced as the Lumberjacks got off to a convincing start in Providence, winning the game by a 6-0 final.