BOSTON, MA -- After a string of 45 games during a three-day span in Exeter and Hooksett, NH, the Eastern Hockey League showcase series has come to a close for the 2022-23 regular season.
The final showcase of the season did not disappoint; so many games went down to the wire including the second annual EHLP All-Star Game. So without further ado, here are the top takeaways from the showcase weekend in New Hampshire.
If the EHL handed out an award for the best showcase team, it would undoubtedly go to the Railers Jr. Hockey Club this season. The program had a combined 19-3-0 record with all of the showcases and mini showcases, as the EHL team went 12-1-0 while the Premier team went 7-2-0 in league-wide events.
Up in New Hampshire, the EHL team earned another showcase sweep, starting with a 2-1 overtime victory over the Philadelphia Little Flyers. Jack Wineman scored the game-winning goal while Thor Hansen notched a pair of assists. The next day, they beat a Central Division foe in the Connecticut RoughRiders by a score of 3-1.
The Railers EHL team finished their showcase with a matchup against the New Jersey 87’s, a battle featuring the league’s best power play (Railers) and best penalty kill (87’s). The best power play prevailed as Anthony Marchant and Nate Palumbo—who both scored against the RoughRiders—found the scoresheet again with power-play goals in a 2-1 win over New Jersey. Railers goaltender Stefan Kulhanek stopped 23 of the 24 shots he faced to earn the victory, as his team left Exeter with a 17-point lead in the Central Division standings.
There are several teams fighting for that top spot in the East Division, and the Express Hockey Club currently sits in first place after winning all three of its games in New Hampshire.
The Express defeated the Protec Jr. Ducks 4-1, Philadelphia Hockey Club 2-0 and the RoughRiders 4-0. Ben Saurbaugh scored in all three games including a two-goal performance against the Ducks; he now has seven points (5g, 2a) in five games since the holiday break. Goaltending was excellent for the Express, as Jack Boschert earned two wins along with a 42-save shutout against Philadelphia. Josh Girard picked up a 29-save shutout in the win over the RoughRiders.
Phillip Parker had a goal and assist against Connecticut; his first two points since rejoining the Express. The team has a one-point lead over the Seahawks with five games in hand, and if Parker and the rest of the team can keep up the goal scoring like they did in New Hampshire, the Express could very easily make another run to Providence.
Back in the Haverhill showcase, the North Division dominated by going a combined 11-1-0. The other divisions flipped the script in Exeter as several teams managed to knock off the giants in the North.
The New Jersey 87’s earned a pair of wins against the North, starting with a 2-1 victory over the Vermont Lumberjacks. Jake Rock and Charles Lavoie scored goals just 15 seconds apart, and it was all they needed for the victory. The following day, Alex Legkov was the hero in New Jersey’s 3-2 win over the New Hampshire Avalanche. The Russian forward scored a pair of goals including the overtime winner; he now has three goals in four games since joining the team.
Team Maryland earned five out of six points in Exeter and managed to defeat the hosting Seacoast Spartans by a score of 4-1. Max Morris scored in all three games and is now on a four-game point streak. Alex Erlain netted the game-winning goals in their win over the Spartans as well as their 6-3 victory over the Valley Junior Warriors. Maryland has won three of its last four games and only trails the second-place Ducks by four points.
The East Coast Wizards shocked the Lumberjacks with a 6-4 victory on Sunday. Down 3-1 in the second half, the Wizards’ offense erupted with four unanswered goals. George Kolovos, Connor Roach, Aaron O’Connor and Charles Lowndes all had multi-point nights, and Wizards goaltender Matt Gover earned an assist to go along with his 27 saves for the victory.
First things first, the New England Division in the EHLP is stacked. The Adirondack Jr. Thunder, New Hampshire Avalanche, New England Wolves and Vermont Lumberjacks all have points percentages well over .600 and won all of their games in Exeter and Hooksett.
If any team from that division deserves the spotlight, it’s the Jr. Thunder. They steamrolled their way through New Hampshire by outscoring opponents 25-5, including an 8-3 win against the Philadelphia Little Flyers, an 8-1 victory over the Railers Hockey Club and a 9-1 win against the Connecticut Chiefs.
Multiple players for the Thunder exploded offensively over the weekend. Jack Merkosky racked up 10 points (2g, 8a), Zack Geitner scored five goals including a hat trick against the Little Flyers and Dupree Harris had four points (2g, 2a).
But there’s one player who stood out and had the most impressive performance out of any showcase this year, and that’s Andrew Blanchard. The Wilton, NY native notched seven goals and three assists over the weekend, including a five-point night (3g, 2a) in the Jr. Thunder’s win over the Railers. He also represented Team White in the second annual EHLP All-Star Game and scored the game-winning goal in overtime on a penalty shot. Blanchard has 42 points (27g, 15a) through 30 games so far this season.
It’s hard to believe the showcase series has already ended, and now teams are in the final stretch of the regular season. As teams continue to jockey for a favorable playoff seed, all eyes are on the road to Providence. We’re only two months away from the EHL and EHLP Frozen Finals, and based on what has transpired in the 2022-23 season, this year’s race to the finish should be the most memorable one yet.
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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