The New Jersey 87's recently finished its second showcase event in West Chester, Penn. The EHL team fell in both games, now dropping three of their last four contests, while the Premier team won two of its three games in the showcase as part of a five-game point streak.
EHL squad stumbles in showcase
Five days after defeating the Connecticut RoughRiders, the 87's faced their Mid-Atlantic Conference foe. The Monday matinee marked the third time the two teams have faced each other in the young season. The RoughRiders scored a minute and 40 seconds into the contest, and the 87's fought an uphill battle the rest of the way. They were able to overcome a 4-2 deficit when Johnny Jackson scored the tying goal at 3:01 into the third period, but Tao Ishizuka completed a hat trick to pull Connecticut ahead one final time. Things fell apart as the 87's gave up two more goals late in the game, en route to a 7-5 defeat.
Two days later, New Jersey rebounded with a strong home game against New York Apple Core. Zach Tarantino and Andrew Maynard each recorded a goal and two assists while Daniels Leja scored twice. Near the end of the game, Leja threw a hit on Apple Core forward Toivo Kramer that caused tempers to flare. Leja, who reluctantly dropped the gloves when Kramer was already engaged in the scrap, was given a four-minute double minor for roughing as opposed to Kramer's major penalty for fighting. The next day, the league assessed the Latvian forward with a two-game suspension, forcing him to miss the West Chester showcase.
On Sunday, the 87's faced the Boston Jr. Rangers in the first day of the EHL West Chester showcase. The Jr. Rangers opened the scoring at 3:28 of the first half, but Matt Bielinski responded 44 seconds later with his fourth goal of the year. Boston stormed back with four unanswered goals, however, and walked away with a 5-2 victory.
The 87's played the New England Wolves the following day, and this time it was Johnny Jackson who opened the scoring, slamming in a one-timer off a three-on-two rush. The Wolves gained momentum when they started the second half on the power play, scoring just 41 seconds into the man-advantage. It was the first of three-unanswered goals, and the 87's found themselves down by two goals with 14 minutes remaining in regulation. Dante Terramani cut the deficit to one with 1:56 left in the game, but New Jersey was unable to score the tying goal.
Premier team surges after long hiatus
The 87's Premier team played the New York Bridgemen on Sept. 15, and would not play another regular season game until Oct. 11. That Friday, they also hosted the Bridgemen and were able to cruise to an 8-3 victory. Anthony Mule recorded a hat trick while Dante Balsamo notched a goal and three assists in the win.
Unlike their EHL counterparts, the Premier team played three games in the West Chester showcase that included a double-header on Sunday. The first game was a 3 p.m. contest against Walpole Express, and the 87's managed to overcome a 2-1 deficit in the second half. Zach Goldenberg picked up a pair of power-play goals, including the game-winner with 24 seconds remaining in regulation to cap off the 3-2 win. At 8:45 p.m., they kicked off their second game against the New England Wolves, which proved to be a back-and-forth affair. The Wolves took a 4-3 lead at 10:19 of the second half, but Ivan Borisov tied the game with 3:55 remaining by scoring his second goal of the night. New England would ultimately prevail as Richards Jelenskis scored the overtime winner on the power play. Despite the 5-4 loss, the 87's managed to earn five out of six points in the double header.
The next day, New Jersey played the Valley Jr. Warriors and jumped to a 4-0 lead in the first 15 minutes. Ivan Borisov recorded four points (3g, 1a) and scored the team's third hat trick of the season, while Anthony Mule, Dante Balsamo and Brendan Reed scored two goals each in the 11-4 victory. Cameron Carmen made 20 saves as the 87's improved to 4-1-1.
One of the more remarkable aspects of the 87's five-game point streak is that they're doing it without Thomas Swartwout, a veteran who led the team with 32 goals and 53 points in the 2018-19 season. He was sidelined with a lower-body injury before their game against the Bridgemen, and his timetable to return is unclear.
Friday Oct 18: vs. Philadelphia Revolution - 12:30 p.m.
Saturday Oct 19: at New York Bridgemen - 5:00 p.m.
The New Jersey 87's suffered a setback in Connecticut when the EHL team fell to the RoughRiders by a score of 5-2. Since then, the team has won three straight including a 2-1 victory over the two-time defending EHL Champion New Hampshire Avalanche. They went on to defeat the Seacoast Spartans 6-1 and the RoughRiders 5-1, improving to a record of 4-1-0.
Last Sunday marked the 87's first showcase game of the season, playing against the Avalanche in Walpole, Mass. New Hampshire struck first on the power play at 6:03 of the first half, but Daniels Leja responded by scoring on a 5-on-3 power play. The Latvian native controlled the puck in the low slot, and waited for a lane to open before firing in his second goal of the season and tying game at one with 4:32 left in the second half.
New Jersey took the lead with 12:28 left in the 2nd half when Andrew Maynard scored the go-ahead goal. A loose puck slipped right to the front of the net where Maynard chipped it with his backhand past Avalanche goaltender Matt Lane. It stood as the game-winner, and Tanner Beals finished the game with 26 saves.
On Monday, the 87's had no difficulty finding the back of the net as they scored six times in a win over the expansion-team Seacost Spartans. George Weiner opened things up with a power-play goal at 4:56. Michael Hertzberg made it a 2-0 game, then Andrew Maynard scored a pair of goals in under four minutes, capping off a four-goal first half. Justin Vickers and Bryan Van Ness added tallies in the second half while Beals finished the game with 18 saves.
The team returned home for a rematch against the RoughRiders on Wednesday afternoon. Tim DeBord opened the scoring at 17:58 of the first period for his second goal of the year. Andrew Maynard scored at 7:49 of the second, recording his fourth goal in three games. Zach Tarantino and Johnny Jackson each scored power-play goals in the third, and Francis Kienzele converted on a two-on-one for his first goal with the 87's. Beals, playing in his fifth consecutive start, stopped 30 of 31 shots to help New Jersey improve to a 4-1-0 record.
"It was a great (week) for the guys," said 87's head coach Adam Houli. "After a tough loss in the division, we had the showcase, and it's really about the players. We played well and I'm happy for the wins, and that's all going to go to their credit. With Wednesday's win we bounce back in the division, and overall taking six points in three games is never easy, so to get six under our belt is good."
Beals, who has a record of 4-1-0 with a .933 save percentage and 1.71 goals against average, spoke about the confidence he and his team has after stringing together three consecutive wins.
"The boys are buzzing and we're playing really well, we're playing our game and we're just looking forward to what's in store next for the team," Beals said.
Maynard, who has four goals plus an assist in his last three games, discussed some of the factors leading to his stellar week while crediting his linemates.
"I just try to follow the systems and keep my feet moving when I'm out there. I'm at the right place at the right time and manage to get a few garbage goals," Maynard said. "We're really bonding as a group with (Tim) DeBord and (Zach) Tarantino, and we just need to stick to the basics which is where we found our success."
Seven of the next nine games for the EHL team will be played at Middletown Sports Complex. Meanwhile the Premier team will return from a lengthy hiatus with another home game against the New York Bridgemen, and will then head to Ice Line Quad Rinks in West Chester, PA for a showcase event. Here are the upcoming games for both teams:
Monday Oct 7: vs. RoughRiders - 12:30 p.m.
Wednesday Oct 9: vs. New York Apple Core - 12:30 p.m.
Friday Oct 11: vs. New York Bridgemen - 8:00 p.m.
Sunday Oct 13: vs. Walpole Express - 3:00 p.m.
Sunday Oct 13: vs. New England Wolves - 8:45 p.m.
Monday Oct 14: vs. Valley Jr. Warriors - 2:15 p.m.
Photo Credit: Richard O'Donnell
The New Jersey 87's started the 2019-20 season, its third as an organization, and won three out of five games between the EHL and Premier teams.
EHL team sweeps first weekend before falling to RoughRiders
The EHL team opened the season on Sept. 14 in a road game against New York Applecore. Matthew Bielinski, who was acquired in the offseason from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights, netted a pair of goals in the second period to give the 87's a 2-0 lead. Applecore scored early in the third period to cut the deficit, but Dante Terramani scored his first goal as an 87 to replenish the two-goal lead. New York scored again to make it 3-2, but Bielinski responded by completing the hat trick at 14:21 of the third period. Brad Heuer scored an empty-net goal with two seconds left in the game to seal the 5-2 win. Jon Kopack made 16 saves in the team's first win of the season.
The following day the 87's returned to Middletown Sports Complex for its home opener against the North Carolina Golden Bears. Johnny Jackson scored two of the team's first three goals as the 87's cruised to a 9-1 victory. Defensemen George Weiner (1g, 2a) and Justin Vickers (3a) each recorded three points in the victory while Tanner Beals made 11 saves to earn the win.
"It was a good start to the year, obviously we had a long training camp and to come out of the weekend with four points is exactly what we wanted to do," said head coach Adam Houli.
He also spoke about Bielinski, who notched three goals and two assists in his first two games with the team. He played the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights last year, as a part of the team that defeated New Jersey en route to the EHL Frozen Finals in Providence, Rhode Island.
"Bielinski played really well, he was a guy that beat us last year so we got him to come join us this year, so it was good to see those guys play well," Houli added.
The following week, the 87's hit the road to Connecticut and faced the RoughRiders in their home-opener. Justin Vickers opened the scoring early in the first period, but Connecticut responded with three unanswered goals. Johnny Jackson had a goal taken away for leaving the penalty box too early, and a third-period goal by Tim DeBord was quickly answered with two more goals by the RoughRiders. With a 5-2 defeat, the 87's suffered its first loss of the season.
Premier falls just short of comeback vs. Little Flyers, defeats Bridgemen
The Premier team opened their season against the squad that eliminated them in the 2019 playoffs, the Philadelphia Little Flyers. New Jersey fell behind 3-0 midway through the second period, but last year's leading scorer Tom Swartwout struck late in the second period to put the 87's on the board. Philadelphia scored again to make it 4-1 early in the third period, but Swartwout scored two more goals to complete the hat trick and cut the deficit to one. It was as close the 87's would get to comeback, however, as the Flyers held onto the lead and walked away with a 4-3 win.
On Sunday, the Premier team followed the EHL squad with their home opener against the New York Bridgemen, an expansion team playing in its first-ever game. George Fomin recorded the first goal in the team's history at 2:50 of the first period, but the 87's stormed back and came out on top. Ryan Crane netted two goals while Dante Balsamo recorded a goal and an assist. Swartwout completed his stellar weekend with his fourth goal of the season, and Jeremy Connor earned the win as he came in relief during the second period.
"Those guys have been battling for two weeks. The Little Flyers are always good, it's been a really good rivalry with them, and for us it's just about battling and getting better, and I thought we did that," Houli said about the Premier team. "We grew a lot, we came back and showed that we have resiliency and then we get two points against the Bridgemen."
Anthony Mule puts his 👐 on display for a beautiful goal, giving the 87's an 11-4 lead.
Ivan Borisov scores his third goal of the game and picks up the 🎩 trick! We now have a 10-4 lead.
Bad guys score again, it's now 9-4.
The Warriors score, but we still hold a 9-3 lead in the 2nd half.
🚨Dante Balsamo scores, giving the 87's a 9-2 lead.