The New Jersey 87's have a chance to vault themselves into sole possession of first place in the South Conference this weekend as they face the Philadelphia Jr. Flyers and New Jersey Renegades this weekend.
Last weekend, the team kept its winning streak alive with a 6-2 victory over New York Applecore and a 4-3 shootout win over the Jersey Wildcats.
On Saturday's win in Brewster, Louie Kuka and Brad Heuer had two goals each. Heuer, who added an assist that game, joined Jack Lane (1g, 2a) and Leo Ukhlmylov (0g, 3a) as players who notched three points in the 87's dominating performance. Kyle DePalma added two assists while Tristen Gillispie made 15 saves on 17 shots to earn the victory.
Sunday's match against the Wildcats proved to be a bit more of a nail biter going into a shootout. Lane opened the scoring 54 seconds into the game, making it 17 consecutive games in which he has recorded a point. However, the Wildcats responded with two goals, as they rode into the first intermission with a 2-1 lead.
Heuer picked up his third goal in two games at the midway point of the second period, tying the game. The score held for about 20 minutes, when Eric Honold scored his second of the game for the Wildcats at 9:40 of the third period. The 87's eventually pulled Alex Neverve for the extra attacker, and with 55 seconds left in regulation, Trevor Cear got the tying goal.
In overtime, the 87's had to kill a penalty in the final 1:29 of the session, but they managed to take it to a shootout. From there, Ukhmylov, Braxton Kilgore and Cear all scored in the tie-breaker, while Neverve made a save in the third round to set up the captain's winner. They salvaged the extra point and extended the winning streak to 10 games.
Today they will face the Philadelphia Jr. Flyers, who are equal in the standings through 35 games each but have one less win than the 87's. If New Jersey wins today, they'll gain sole possession of first place. Puck drop is at 5 p.m. and will be streamed on hockeytv.com.
After the contest against the Little Flyers, the 87's will head back home for a Sunday tilt against the New Jersey Renegades in Middletown, with a 4:20 p.m. puck drop.
The New Jersey 87's, in more ways than one, earned two hard-fought victories this weekend by defeating the New Jersey Renegades 5-2 on Saturday and the Philadelphia Little Flyers 4-1 on Sunday.
Christian McCue lead the offense with a goal and an assist in each game, while Jon Szynalski earned both victories as the team extends its winning streak to eight games. On Saturday's win against the Renegades, he faced his old team and former 87's goaltender Jake Lakatos, making 18 saves on 20 shots. On Sunday, he stopped 30 of 31 shots against the Little Flyers.
The big story in Sunday's game, however, was a chaotic second period that saw two game misconducts, several majors, and nearly 40 minutes worth of penalties between the two teams.
"They're a lot of fun to be a part of," said DePalma, who had a goal in the game to record his 30th point of the season. "It's fun to see the guys get riled up and throw a couple big hits, it's just a lot of fun to be a part of."
In that second period, Jack Lane received a two minute minor for cross checking plus a ten minute misconduct for abuse of an official. Austin Mazzulo of the Little Flyers was assessed a five minute major for charging while Trevor Cear was given a five minute major and a game misconduct for cross checking. Joe Marcella was also given five minutes for cross checking, while Max McAllister and Leo Ukhmylov traded off two minute minors late in the middle frame.
Braxton Kilgore took a holding minor early that period and was a center piece in several of the skirmishes between the two teams. He spoke about the raucous middle period in Sunday's win.
"I was just trying to get the boys going a little bit. They (the Little Flyers) started the main part of the pushing and shoving, so I just tried to get back at it a little bit and get the game going on our side," he said.
In a brief span of five-on-five hockey, Brad Heuer gave the 87's a 1-0 lead with 28 seconds left in the period. He earned his eighth of the season with a tap-in at the top of the crease off a feed from Lane, who extended his point streak to 15 games.
DePalma, McCue and Austin Bell extended the lead with goals in the third period. Brett Turner broke Szynalski's shutout bid, but the 87's managed to cruise to its eighth straight win and fourth victory against the Little Flyers this season.
Head coach Adam Houli discussed the eventful second period and how it served as a gut-check for his team.
"The second period was a real test for us, from the staff to the players. I thought we came out in the third and it showed that we can put those kind of periods away and come out and do what we need to do to get two points," he said. "It definitely brought us closer together, the guys were rallied up in the third."
New Jersey (25-6-2) has now won 14 of its last 16 games dating back to November 15. They trail the first-place Jr. Flyers in the South Conference by only two points with 11 games remaining this season. Houli spoke about his team's success and what makes them such a dominating force out on the ice.
"It's our fundamentals and our systems. When we rely on our system, we're very effective. And when we don't, and we become individualized, we're just okay," he said. "When we trust ourselves and go back to our muscle memory, we've very good, and in this eight game span, we were able to do that."
The 87's next three games will be on the road, starting with a 5:15 p.m. contest this Saturday against New York Applecore. They head back to New Jersey the following day for a noon puck drop against the Jersey Wildcats.