HAVERHILL, MA -- The Eastern Hockey League showcase series continues this weekend as the teams will play at Paul T. Gilmartin Arena in Haverhill, Massachusetts as well as Valley Forum Ice Arena in Lawrence.
A total of 43 games will be played throughout the weekend, with 27 EHL games and 16 EHLP contests. Here are some storylines and matchups to watch as the league gets ready to play at the Valley Jr. Warriors’ home rink.
The New Hampshire Avalanche is the hottest team in the EHL right now, riding a five-game winning streak and a nine-game point streak. They lead the league with 69 goals as a team, and the offense is led by veteran forward Aden Hotchkiss with 24 points (6g, 18a) in 15 games. Rory Andriole is also red-hot for New Hampshire with four goals and six points over his last three games.
This weekend the Avs will face New York Apple Core, who have won three straight, as well as two opponents from the gauntlet of the South Division in the Philadelphia Little Flyers and the first-place Protec Jr. Ducks.
Speaking of offense in the North Division, three of the four teams have reached the 60-goal plateau including the Vermont Lumberjacks (65) and the New England Wolves (64). The Seacoast Spartans ‘only’ have 48 goals so far, but their 39 goals against is tied for 4th lowest in the EHL.
After a tumultuous 0-4 start to their season, the Boston Jr. Rangers went on a 9-3-0 stretch to overtake the top spot in the East Division. Much of that can be attributed to their new starting goalie, David Filak. The Michigan native has a 6-3-0 record with a 1.47 goals against average and a .951 save percentage. As a team, the Jr. Rangers have held their opponents to two goals or less in seven of their last eight games.
That defense will be put to the test as they go up against offensively talented teams in the Vermont Lumberjacks and the Philadelphia Hockey Club.
Another team to watch in the East Division is the Seahawks Hockey Club. While they lost their last two games, they did take three out of four points in a back-to-back against the red-hot Jr. Rangers. They also have a new forward in Cade Herrera, who has eight goals in his first five games with the Seahawks. It may not be a sustainable pace, but it nevertheless makes Herrera a player to watch out for this weekend.
The Protec Jr. Ducks are still flying high in the South Division with a 12-6-1 record. While they have played the most games of any team in the South, the Ducks still lead the division with a .658 points percentage, plus they are 5-0-1 in their last six games while taking five out of six points in three straight road games against Team Maryland.
Protec has three players who have already eclipsed the 20-point mark, including forwards Nick Hebert (10g, 13a) and Graham Broadfoot (10g, 11a) as well as defenseman Jacob Gates (7g, 13a). They also have a solid goaltending tandem in Alexis Giroux, who has a 2.70 goals against average and .920 save percentage, and Adam Casper who has a 2.76 goals against average and .913 save percentage. This weekend, the Ducks will face HC Rhode Island, the Railers Hockey Club and the Avalanche.
Philadelphia Hockey Club may be third in their division, but they have the best goal differential in the South at +19, and they are coming off a shootout victory over the defending EHL champion New Jersey 87’s. On Friday they will go up against the Rangers, and will close out their weekend against the Spartans. A good weekend for the expansion team could put some real pressure on the other South Division teams.
Another team that is gaining momentum after a slow start is the Railers. They have won three straight and are now three points behind the first-place Connecticut Chiefs. Jack Wineman leads the Railers with nine goals and 19 points through 16 games, and defenseman Tristan Boyer has been terrific offensively with four goals and 12 points. They open the showcase against the hosting Valley Jr. Warriors and will then face the Ducks and Team Maryland.
It should also be mentioned that New York Apple Core is riding a three-game winning streak heading into the showcase. They are tied with the Railers with 16 points in the Central, and their offense is being led by veteran Joe Lachase (7g, 9a) and first-year player Nick Sweet (8g, 9a). Max Banoun has been excellent between the pipes, sporting a 7-3-0 record with a 2.46 goals against average and .938 save percentage.
Apple Core will have a tough showcase with games against the Avalanche, Wolves and Seahawks, but a strong weekend here could vault them over the Railers and Chiefs for the top spot in the Central.
Back in Worcester, the Pennsylvania Huntsmen earned their first win as a franchise in their first-ever EHLP game. Now they lead the Mid-Atlantic Division with a 12-3-1 record and are second in the league with 72 goals scored. Ryan Arendes has been an enormous part of that offense, leading the EHLP with 34 points (19g, 15a) through 16 games. If they continue that dominance against teams outside the Mid-Atlantic, they could be looked upon as serious contenders for Providence.
Meanwhile, the defending EHLP champion Boston Jr. Rangers are determined in their quest for a repeat by starting out with a 13-1-1 record. Akezhan Melis and Drake Tomak are both scoring in bunches with 20-plus points each while Nicholas Mutschler is rocking a .940 save percentage in goal, as the Jr. Rangers have a league best +41 goal differential. They’ll play two games this weekend by facing the Philadelphia Little Flyers and the Adirondack Jr. Thunder.
The Vermont Lumberjacks have a 12-3-0 record and lead the New England Division by five points. Three of the top six scorers in the EHLP are Lumberjacks, including Brendan Manning (9g, 19a, 28pts), Peppi Delliquadri (13g, 11a, 24pts) and Justin Prim (4g, 19a, 23pts). Their biggest matchup will be on Saturday when they face the Railers, a team with a 12-4-1 record and only trails the Jr. Rangers by two points in the Boston Division.
Anthony Di Paolo covers the EHL for HNIB and can be followed on Twitter @DiPaolo_016
Anthony Di Paolo has spent the last five 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 2022-23 season.
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