Both the Vermont Lumberjacks and the New Hampshire Avalanche knew that this time around, one of them was going home.
The Lumberjacks had swept the North Division Finals over the top-seeded Avalanche, but despite the series loss, the Avs would find their way to Providence thanks to the at-large bid. Being the Regular Season Champions ultimately saved them from elimination, and after two days in Providence, the stage was set for one final clash. The winner of this contest would secure the final spot on Championship Sunday.
For the seventh straight game this post season, it’d be the Lumberjacks striking first as Arhip Sidarovich scored his 7th goal of the postseason. The Lumberjacks continued applying pressure, firing 19 total shots in the period, keeping Avs’ goaltender Jared Packman busy.
To his credit, Packman kept things in control as the Avalance tried to get their legs. A power-play opportunity would see Layne Brubaker-Egner score as he put a shot over Lumberjacks’ starter Vincent Parent's shoulder. The teams would then trade off goals 11 seconds apart. First with Bobby Voss who dusted a shot past the glove of Packman, it was Voss’ 8th goal of the postseason. The Avs would march back up the ice and it was Brubaker-Egner who drove to the net as the puck glanced off his legs and in past Parent. Despite the 19-9 edge in shots, the Lumberjacks and Avalanche would head into the break tied 2-2.
The deadlock was broken early into the 2nd period. Brubaker-Egner started the rush as he carried it down the far wing, his pass then hit off the skate of Ryan Dempster who jumped into the rush and kicked right over to Kunin who managed to slide it underneath a sprawled-out Parent. Kunin’s goal, his 5th of the postseason, gave the Avs a 3-2 lead 1:47 into the period. There’d be a lull in goal scoring before Trent King managed to squeak one through Packman, tying the game up at 3-3 with his 8th goal of the playoffs and 15th overall point. This tie would only last for 55 seconds however, as Brubaker-Egner was once again in the middle of the play. The Avalanche winger worked down the near boards and into the corner, buying time he centered the puck out in front where Connor McCowell was able to one time it past the stick side of Parent. It was only the 14th shot of the game for the Avs, who now led 4-3.
For Avalanche head coach Vinny Caligiuri, managing the ebbs and flows of the game was key.
“Just keeping calm, keeping things within our grasp, and sticking with our process,” said Caligiuri. Not getting too high or too low as both teams turned to the 3rd and final period.
The Lumberjacks would turn to Joshua Kotai for the 3rd, he stopped all 13 shots he faced as both teams took turns taking cracks at each other’s goal. Although no one officially found the back of the net, two goals were called back, one apiece on each side. Kotai was pulled for the final 1:23 seconds, but the Lumberjacks just couldn’t solve Packman in goal. Packman’s glove save on Vermont defender Kurtis Morin was arguably his best as he managed to track it into his glove despite moving towards his right. The save came with just 16.8 seconds left in the game, the Avs then managed to melt down the time, and just like that, they were off to the Finals.
“I just let him do his thing, he’s a gamer,” said Caligiuri when asked if there’s anything he told his goaltender prior to the game. Packman improved to 2-0 in the Frozen Finals (3-1 overall) allowing only five goals on 70 shots (.928 sv%) in wins against the Little Flyers and Lumberjacks. On the other side, backup Vincent Parent took the loss in goal stopping 12-16 shots across 40 minutes of action. Kotai held the fort in relief and finished the post season with a 4-1 record, a 1.69 GAA, a .954 save percentage, and one shutout. The scene is now set for the Avalanche who’ll take on the Boston Jr. Rangers for the 2022 EHLP Championship.
With the stage for Championship Sunday set, the second game between the Little Flyers (0-2) and Jr. Rangers (2-0) didn’t mean anything for either team in terms of Round Robin play. Aware this would be their final game of the season, motivation for Philly lied with the fact they have two age-out players on their roster. Both Tyler Ruppert and Steven Griffin are '01 birthdays, meaning this is their final season of eligibility. Griffin had 28 points in 33 regular season games, while Ruppert put up 15 goals and 19 points in 40 games during the regular season. Ronan Marley would start opposite of David Myers, who gave the red-hot Mitch Taylor a breather.
After a scoreless 1st period the Rangers would be the ones to open the scoring in the 2nd. 2:09 into the period Anthony Viola would break the ice as his torrid run in Providence continued. Viola’s put up 2-5-7 in three games at the Frozen Finals, along with Max Morris the duo has posted: 6-8-14 in three games. The Rangers searched for their second goal while on a power-play, but it was the Flyers who’d end up burying a short-handed tally. Logan Downs, their leading scorer during the regular season, broke in and made a nifty move to the backhand, beating Myers for his 6th of the postseason. After that game-tying goal, things began to shift for the Flyers who found themselves outshooting and pacing the Rangers. Just two minutes after Downs’ goal the Flyers would get a fortuitous bounce as Tyler Page’s shot rattled around in front of Myers before being put accidentally put into the goal by a Rangers' forward.
With their first lead of the Frozen Finals the Flyers would get even more chances to expand their lead as the Rangers got themselves into penalty trouble. The dam would break on the tail end of a lengthy five on three advantage. Aidan Danese managed to pinch a puck between Myers and the post giving the Flyers a 3-1 lead late in the 2nd. Philly piled up a 16-5 shots advantage.
The 3rd period would see the Rangers rally from a two-goal deficit with Morris and Viola teaming up once more. Prior to that it was Mike Boschetto who struck 4:50 into the 3rd, for Boschetto it was a convenient time to score his first of the postseason, he had 29 during the regular season. Much later in the period is when Morris would strike with a rifling shot. His 9th goal of the postseason, assisted by Viola, and a new EHLP single postseason record.
The game would wind up in sudden death overtime. Neither side however could punch home the OT winner although they both had chances, including a late power-play for the Flyers. Myers turned aside 28-31 while Marley handled 23-26 shots.
Rangers vs. Avalanche, 11:00 AM, from Schneider Arena.
It all comes down to one more game.