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Zdanowicz and Mettler commit to UMass Dartmouth

By Anthony Di Paolo 05/25/2022, 2:00pm EDT

Two more 87's set to join the Corsairs this Fall

The New Jersey 87’s are proud to announce that Matt Zdanowicz and Jimmy Mettler have committed to play Division III hockey at UMass Dartmouth for the 2022-2023 season. 

Zdanowicz, a 20-year-old forward from Lyndhurst New Jersey, played two seasons with the 87’s EHL team. He was a mid-season acquisition in the 2020-21 campaign where he notched five goals and four assists in 13 regular-season games. In the 2021-22 season, he recorded 41 points (18g, 23a) in 39 regular-season games.  

Mettler, a 20-year-old defenseman from Bronx, New York, joined the 87’s EHL team midway through the 2021-22 season and recorded two goals and eight assists in 18 regular-season games. He also notched seven assists in eight postseason games. 

Head coach Adam Houli spoke about Zdanowicz and Mettler’s tenure with the team and their commitment to UMass Dartmouth. 

“Zdanowicz came to us last year in a crazy year, a Covid year, where there was a lot of trickle down. He acclimated pretty quickly and we knew he was going to be in for a strong year. It was a matter of him being excited to be back in New Jersey, and then he really took the ball and ran with it,” he said.  

He continued, “Jimmy is a player, from our standpoint, we were frankly growing tired of playing against. He did a lot of the things that we love with our defense, so he was a player we had always wanted to see in the blue and gold. When we had the opportunity to make it happen, there was no hesitation. Overall, he and Matt were both vital to our championship run this year and now they take that experience to an excellent program in UMass Dartmouth.” 

UMass Dartmouth is a Division III program located in Dartmouth, Mass. Competing in the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference, the Corsairs are led by head coach Erik Noack. 

Zdanowicz and Mettler both spoke about their commitment and what it means to join a program like Umass Dartmouth. 

“To secure a commitment to UMD means a lot to me and my family,” Zdanowicz said. “It's a great school with great opportunities and not just academically but with the next chapter of my hockey career; it will be an experience and a lot of fun to look forward to.” 

Mettler added, “It means a lot to me to commit to such a good program as UMD, obviously that's the goal the whole year trying to get to that next level and I'm excited for the next four years.” 

Following his impressive showing in the 2020-21 season, Zdanowicz followed up with an even better 2021-22 season, proving to be one of the top offensive players for the 87’s while averaging just over a point per game. He is also the team’s all-time leader in postseason points with 17, and 15 of those came in the 2022 playoffs. 

Houli added about Zdanowicz, “He did everything that we had asked of him, and when he was on, he was honestly one of the best players out there on the ice no matter who we were playing. He was just so dominant in his skating that I think he will flourish in the college game, and wouldn’t be surprised if we see him go on past that.” 

The Lyndhurst native reflected on his time with the 87’s, including their bounce-back this season, turning an eight-game losing streak into a championship run. 

“At the 87s we had a bumpy road at one point even though we struggled together we found a way to change a terrible outcome into something I will never forget. This is just one example of the many this program will teach you: that if you put in the time as we all did, we will deserve what was ahead,” Zdanowicz said. 

Prior to joining the 87’s, Mettler played three full seasons for New York Apple Core as a top defenseman. He played 101 games in New York while recording 44 points before he was traded to the 87’s. He was mainly paired with the team captain, Matt Herrick, and quickly established themselves as one of the more dominant defensive pairings in the EHL.  

“When he joined us, I think that’s when we all realized as a group, we now have a championship-level team and that we could make a run for the EHL title,” Houli said. 

Mettler spoke about his time with the 87’s and the seamless transition he made after being traded from New York. 
“I couldn't have asked for a better time with the 87's. Playing against them you don't really know what to expect when you join them, but every guy took me in this year and I can't thank my teammates enough for that for making me feel so welcome even on day one,” Mettler said. “To have a coaching staff like the 87's this year was incredible; very supportive, very helpful and really tried to develop your game every day.” 

The 87’s organization would like to congratulate Matt and Jimmy as they get ready to advance their hockey careers to the NCAA Division III level.

Connor, Jones, McGuire commit to Franklin Pierce

By Anthony Di Paolo 05/18/2022, 8:30am EDT

Three players from championship team commit to play Division II hockey

The New Jersey 87’s are proud to announce that Jeremy Connor, Payton Jones and Douglas McGuire have all committed to play Division II hockey at Franklin Pierce University for the 2022-2023 season. 

Connor, a 21-year-old goaltender from Hazlet, New Jersey, along with Payton Jones, a 20-year-old forward from Cedar Park, Texas, spent four years with the 87’s organization. They each played two seasons with the EHLP team and two seasons with the EHL squad.  

Douglas McGuire, a 20-year-old defenseman from Elk Grove Village, Illinois, was a mid-season acquisition during the 2021-22 campaign and recorded 11 points (2g, 9a) in 35 regular-season and playoff games. 

87’s head coach Adam Houli spoke about all three of them committing to Franklin Pierce and the experience they bring to the collegiate level. “They are championship team members now, bringing not only their experience from the junior side but now being on a team who won a junior hockey championship, and that can’t be said lightly. I think it’s a tremendous get for Franklin Pierce to get each player,” he said. 

Franklin Pierce University is located in Rindge, New Hampshire and is a Division II program. Competing in the Northeast 10, the Ravens are led by head coach Shaun Millerick. 

Connor spoke about his commitment and what it means to join a program like Franklin Pierce. “It's a huge honor to commit to FPU,” he said. “When I visited, it had a great atmosphere on campus and I had a great conversation with coach Millerick who himself is a former goalie so it's a very unique situation that I'm super excited for. It's a program that has a chance to win every year and I'm excited to compete.” 

In his first two seasons with the 87’s, Connor set the EHLP record for most wins as a goaltender with 35. He went on to record a 24-9-1 record in his two seasons with the EHL team while posting a 2.07 goals against average and a .923 save percentage.  

Jones also dominated in his first two years with the Premier team, recording 69 points (34g, 35a) in 77 games. In the 2021-22 season, he recorded 26 points (7g, 19a) in 46 games that included an 11-game point streak to end the regular season, and was a big part of the 87’s championship run to secure its first EHL title. 

Houli spoke about Connor and Jones’ path of development, going from the EHLP team to the EHL squad and now to the NCAA. 

“Payton were two world-renowned 87’s for us during their four seasons here; two guys who believed in what we did, took the same path playing Premier for two years then the EHL for two years and get rewarded with a commitment. It’s exactly why we do this, those two really epitomized this year, of our players who deserved to get rewarded for their hard work,” he said.  

He also spoke about how the two commitments reflect on the EHLP program. “The proof is in the pudding, it’s something we always talk about when we recruit at the Premier level. We have shown that player can go from Premier to EHL and then a college commitment. When you have that continuing pattern, it really validates what we do at the EHLP level and really what we envision for players when we recruit them,” Houli said. 

When Connor reflected on his four years with the program, he spoke about some of his teammates and the coaching staff helping him get acclimated to junior hockey and succeeding at the Tier III level. 

“I came into the first year of EHLP not really knowing what to expect but came into a cool situation where it was the first year of the EHL team and I had some good friends in Jack Lane, Zach Tarantino, and Trevor Cear on the team so they took me under their wing and helped me understand the junior hockey layout. Coach Adam Houli and Matt Kieran really put me in a position to succeed and develop my game and my role in the organization through those first couple years. The EHLP really set me up to succeed at the EHL level.”  

McGuire started the 2021-22 season with the New Hampshire Avalanche before he was traded to the 87’s. Coming in midway through the season, he further solidified the 87’s blue line and was an integral part of turning the team’s eight-game losing streak into a 14-game winning streak. 

“Dougie was a guy who was tremendous for us; I thought he was a turning point in our season when we had traded for him to bring him down to New Jersey,” Houli said of McGuire. “He really just gave us some more life on the back end and it was really great to see him play. He was one of our top shut-down defensemen, and I think Franklin Pierce is going to get a really good trio of 87’s.” 

When McGuire spoke about his tenure with the 87’s, he said the most important thing was simply being in the lineup and given a chance to showcase his talents on the ice. 

“I've been working towards this goal for a long time, so to receive this commitment is huge for me,” McGuire said. “My time in New Jersey was awesome. Coach Houli gave me an opportunity to play game in and game out, which was exactly what I needed as an age out player.” 

Connor also spoke about the prospect of committing with two other teammates. “Me and Payton become pretty close right away our first year playing Premier and even more so the second year. Dougie joined our team this past year at our low point and played a huge roll in us turning this year around to a championship-level team. Really looking forward to the next four with those guys,” he said. 

The 87’s organization would like to congratulate Jeremy, Payton and Douglas as they get ready to advance their hockey careers to the NCAA Division II level. 

87's defeat Express to secure first EHL title

By Anthony Di Paolo 04/07/2022, 7:00pm EDT

Atkinson named MVP as EHL team wins 2022 Frozen Finals

The New Jersey 87’s won their first-ever Eastern Hockey League (EHL) Championship with a 2-0 victory over the Walpole Express. 
It only took 44 seconds for the 87’s to jump ahead in the 2nd period with goals from Jason Atkinson and Everest Schneider. The defense and goaltending took care of the rest, killing off a five-minute power play for the Express, while Owen Hains recorded a 25-save shutout. 
“They did so much this year and to be able to put it together this weekend was everything about it,” said 87’s head coach Adam Houli. “It hasn’t hit me yet, I’m sure when I get on the bus and relax it’s going to hit me and it’s going to be a wave of emotion because I know how hard we worked as a club to do this and for the guys to do it.” 
Jason Atkinson, who finished the tournament with five points (2g, 3a) and scored the game-winning goal in the Championship Game, was named Most Valuable Player of the Frozen Finals. His goal came on the power play at 5:21 of the 2nd period, when Matt Anastasio shot a puck that went off the blocker of Express goaltender Jack Boschert and down to the ice. Atkinson picked up the rebound and went to the far post for a wrap-around goal. 
For Atkinson, being named MVP of the Frozen Finals was a culmination of the 87’s top line between Robbie Seewagen, Matt Anastasio, and himself. 
“It’s huge, I’ll definitely appreciate it forever but I wouldn’t be able to do it without my teammates and my two linemates Robbie [Seewagen] and Matt [Anastasio]. They are two amazing hockey players and I was always able to rely on them,” Atkinson said. 
Just 44 seconds after Atkinson’s goal, Everest Schneider doubled the lead as Walpole turned the puck over in their own end, allowing Schneider to fire a shot under the blocker of Boschert for his 4th goal of the postseason. 
The Express had an opportunity to claw their way back in the game with a lengthy power play, as 87’s defenseman Jimmy Mettler was assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct. New Jersey’s penalty kill units rose to the task however, giving up only one shot on goal and keeping it a 2-0 game. 
“It defined our entire season,” Houli said of the penalty kill. “We take a penalty, we’re on the bad side of that, and now we go on to kill a five-minute power play and we blocked so many shots. We just played so well on that kill, once we got through it I knew it was going to be a really good thing for us, and honestly it was a testament of our season.” 
The Express had some close calls throughout the game, including a wrist shot from Alex Pratt on a two-on-one rush that slammed off the left post early in the 2nd period. Hains’ best save came in the 3rd period when he denied Anthony Persi, who was all alone and snapped a quick shot from between the hash marks. Moments later, the 87's were able to begin their celebration as time expired and they had won the championship. 


How they got there: 

The 87's trip to the Frozen Finals started with a wild card game against the Connecticut Chiefs. 

Following a loss to the Philadelphia Little Flyers in the South Division Final, the 87's had one more shot at reaching Providence through a wild card game against the losing team of the Central Division Final, setting up a one-game playoff round at Jersey Shore Arena against the Chiefs.  

Ben Gibbons scored late in the first period on a deflected point shot from Tobin Winslow. The Chiefs responded 32 seconds later with a seeing-eye shot from Tim Duffy, and Connecticut pulled ahead early in the third period with a goal from Nathan Cote. 

As the 87's kept pushing for a tying goal, Kyle Folkerson prevailed with 2:31 left in regulation, slamming a rebound past Chiefs goaltender Adam Yost. Folkerson stepped up again in overtime, scoring a power-play goal off a give-and-go with Matt Zdanowicz, sending New Jersey to its second straight Frozen Finals. 

"Hands down it's the best hockey game I've ever played," Folkerson said after the 87's overtime win. "As soon as I got into the dressing room after a little celebration with the boys, I immediately texted my parents and I said 'I feel like I'm dreaming right now, I had the best game of my life.'"  

Coming into Providence, the 87's were placed in a three-team pool with the Little Flyers and Worcester Jr. Railers. Their first game was against the Little Flyers, who had lost the day before, meaning an 87's win would automatically send them to the semifinal. 

Patrick DeMarinis opened the scoring in the first period, and in the second period the Little Flyers and 87's each scored twice; Savva Smirnov and Vincent Nicosia scored for Philadelphia while Matt Anastasio and Everest Schneider found the back of the net for New Jersey. In the third period, the 87's pulled away with three unanswered goals from Anastasio, Robbie Seewagen and Atkinson while cruising to a 6-2 win. 

Anastasio spoke about the 87's special teams, who scored on the power play and in four-on-four situations against the Little Flyers. "We put a lot together this week over the power play, and as a unit we've been talking it over a lot, trying to figure out what we need, and we got what we needed today," he said. 

New Jersey lost its second round robin game against the Railers, but the team rebounded on Saturday in its semifinal matchup against the New England Wolves.  

Matt Zdanowicz opened the scoring in the second period as a blocked shot bounced right to him in the low-slot, scoring on the follow up. New England tied the game moments later, but Matt Herrick put the team back in front when a seeing-eye shot went past Wolves goaltender Liam Kilgallen for a power play goal. 

Kyle Folkerson added to the lead with a power-play goal in the third period, and Owen Hains finished the game with 18 saves on 19 shots to send the 87's to the championship game, where they eventually defeated the Express. 


The turnaround: 
Earlier this season the 87’s were in a tumultuous stretch, losing eight straight games and falling to 4th place in the South Division. Houli admitted that he tried to get creative in order to get his team out of that rough stretch. 
“We tried everything and pulled every trick out of the book, we had barbecues, we shared hugs, we did everything we possibly could to break out of it and when that happened it really changed me,” Houli said. “This group really showed me a lot as a coach and I grew a lot with them.” 
He continued, “It’s something where I just have to sit back and just really see the growth of this club, and growth as a coach. We knew we had the pieces in place, we knew it was there, it was just a matter of putting it all together. 
Atkinson said it was just a matter of sticking to the game plan and battling through the adversity. 
“We just knew we had to buy in,” he said. “We were always a goal off, losing one-goal games, and it was just a team effort. We knew we were a team that could compete in every game and we showed it in the 2nd half of the season and obviously now we’re EHL Champions.” 

Additional Notes:

-Four 87's players were named to the All Tournament team in the Frozen Finals: Jason Atkinson (F), Matt Zdanowicz (F), Matt Herrick (D) and Owen Hains (G)

-Everest Schneider is the current 87's leader in goals during the Frozen Finals with three. He scored twice in this year's Frozen Finals and once last year.

-Like the EHLP team last year, the 87's EHL team won its first championship in its fourth season.

Photo Credit: Dan Hickling


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