The New Jersey 87's EHL and Premier teams are preparing for the final stretch of the 2019-20 regular season after playing their final showcases of the year.
Last week the EHL team played a pair of games in Exeter, N.H. They opened up with a Sunday night contest against the Worcester Railers Junior Hockey Club and jumped to an early 2-0 lead in the first half. Francis Kienzle opened the scoring at 2:40, and Dante Terramani scored a highlight-reel goal just 38 seconds later to double the lead. The Railers got on the board early in the second half, but Kei Yasuda extended the lead at 11:06. Andrew Maynard took the initial shot, and Yasuda got a piece of it for his first goal since joining the 87's. Tanner Beals finished the night with 15 saves as the team secured its 25th win of the season.
Monday's contest against the Vermont Lumberjacks was billed as the EHL game of the week on Hockey TV, and it certainly lived up to the expectations. Daniels Leja opened the scoring at 5:12 of the first half, tapping in a beautiful feed from Andrew Maynard for his 20th goal of the season. Vermont evened the score at 10:05 when defenseman Evan Beers pinched into the offensive zone and fired a quick shot over the blocker of 87's goaltender Ian Graiff. It remained 1-1 for the rest of regulation, sending the game into overtime. An errant high stick from Justin Vickers sent the Lumberjacks onto the power play, as their captain Logan Discanio wired a wrist shot past Graiff for the game-winning goal.
Head coach Adam Houli spoke about his team's performance in the showcase, noting he was pleased with everything that happened both on and off the ice.
"We did our job in getting three out of four points, it's ultimately what we wanted to do. Additionally we had a lot of guys get talked to (by college coaches) which is the goal of these showcases," Houli said. "Obviously you want to come out on the right end against Vermont, it was a marquee matchup, we knew and they knew it. You want to win those games but we came up on the short end there in overtime. Overall it was a good weekend for the EHL and hopefully we'll have a couple of commitments announced in the coming weeks."
The Premier team played their final showcase last weekend in Worcester, MA. They opened up against the Vermont Lumberjacks, as Payton Jones and Ryan Crane each scored in a back-and-forth affair that saw both teams knotted at two with 7:23 left in the second half. Vermont scored twice in the final five minutes of regulation to secure the 4-2 victory.
A few hours later, the 87's played again and faced the Connecticut Chiefs. New Jersey gave up two goals in the first 2:49 of the game, but Anthony Mule and Luke Satkowski scored as the team trailed in the intermission 3-2. Joe Minio scored in the second half, but Connecticut scored two goals and walked away with a 5-3 win over the 87's.
Houli spoke about the two losses, and noted that it's something the Premier team could use as a positive moving forward in the season.
"I honestly think this weekend was needed for our Premier guys. We needed to come back down a little bit to reality. We've been skirting it a little bit, our play was not as consistent as it needed to be but we'd find ways to win. Now that's a good thing, but at the end of the day you need to realize that if you're not ready to play the game for a full 60 minutes, you're not going to win late here," Houli said. "The bus ride isn't easy either, up at 5 a.m., on the bus by six and right off onto a game at 11 a.m., it's not easy but that's what junior hockey is."
The following day appeared to be more of the same against the Walpole Express. The 87's fell behind 2-0 in the first half, but Payton Jones and Luke Satkowski provided another one-two punch to erase the deficit. After a scoreless second half and overtime, the game went into a shootout.
Jeremy Connor stopped the first shooter while Ryan Crane put the 87's ahead early. He went to the backhand, faked a move to the forehand and let the puck slide between the legs of Walpole goaltender Hogan Nelson. The goal is known as the "Kucherov" after Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov, as the 87's bench was sent into a frenzy after Crane's nifty move. Connor stopped the second shooter, and Luke Satkowski snapped a shot blocker-side to clinch the 3-2 shootout win.
Following both showcases, Houli spoke about the EHL events where the South Conference has an opportunity to go up against teams in the New England Conference. He also pointed out the differences in the showcase games with the two 50-minute halves as opposed to the normal 60-minute format.
"You get a chance to see those teams, but it is a different format with two 25-minute halves instead of a full 60. So in one sense you do get to see where you stand with the New England conference," Houli said. "There's also the eye test where you say if that's a regular game we might be better off, but at the same time we've been on the good side of that. We'll play against a team that's getting hot, but before you know it the game ends. It's always fun to get up in the north and hope the south will do well, so you find yourself rooting for your south comrades to do well at these showcases."
Friday Jan. 24: at Team Maryland - 12:15 p.m.
Sunday Jan. 26: at Philadelphia Revolution - 10:15 a.m.
Saturday Jan. 25: at Philadelphia Little Flyers - 6:45 p.m.
Sunday Jan. 26: vs. New Jersey Renegades - 6:45 p.m.
The New Jersey 87's EHL and Premier teams went a combined 5-0-0 in their first week back from the holiday break, including a pair of victories against New York Apple Core and the Philadelphia Little Flyers. The EHL team won three of those games as they prepare for their final showcase of the season in Exeter, N.H., while the Premier team takes sole possession of first place.
EHL team goes 3-0-0 before showcase
The 87's EHL team started off the new decade in Brewster, N.Y. to face Apple Core. After Michael Hertzberg opened the scoring late in the first period, Apple Core responded early in the middle period with two unanswered goals. Dante Terramani scored twice in a span of 56 seconds to regain the lead, and Zach Tarantino made it 4-2 at the midway point of the second period.
Apple Core managed to erase the deficit, however, including the game-tying goal by Otto Thiele with 35 seconds left in regulation. Despite giving up the lead, the 87's would ultimately prevail as Terramani completed the hat trick with an overtime-winning goal.
Four days later, the 87's had a rematch against the Apple Core but on home ice. New Jersey broke a 1-1 tie with a pair of goals by Tim DeBord. Zach Tarantino added two goals in the third period, and defenseman Jack Oleson scored in his debut with the team, capping off a commanding 6-1 victory.
"Last year we started off the break 0-2, and this year we were able to go 2-0. We'll look at it as a positive there, we're still trying to find our true identity as a group and every game we get a chance to see where we're at," said head coach Adam Houli. "I was happy with the four points as we try to lock in our playoff position, but I'm excited to keep going in the second half of the season with these guys."
On Friday the 87's traveled to Philadelphia to face the Jr. Flyers. It only took two minutes and 59 seconds for Francis Kienzle to open the scoring, and the team never looked back as they cruised to a 6-0 victory. Five different players recorded two points, and Ian Graiff made 23 saves for his fourth shutout in only his sixth start since joining the 87's.
Oleson and Yasuda join the team
Two new players joined the 87's EHL team, including defenseman Jackson Oleson and forward Kei Yasuda. Oleson, a 19-year-old from Stateline, Nevada, played eight games in the North American Hockey League under the Minnesota Wilderness and Maryland Black Bears. Before coming to New Jersey, Oleson played for the Waywayseecappo Wolverines of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.
"(Oleson) moves the puck well, he's gritty in the d-zone, he can bury the puck like he did today. I think he's been a welcome addition to the team and makes us stronger, and I think that will carry on to the rest of our guys.
Yasuda is a 19-year-old forward from Japan and played for the P.A.L. Junior Islanders of the NCDC. Last year he played for the Connecticut Chiefs and recorded 37 points (19g, 18a) in 32 games. He made his 87's debut in the team's 6-0 win over the Jr. Flyers.
Premier team passes Little Flyers for first place
The Premier team started off the second half of their season with a pair of home games against the Philadelphia Little Flyers. Last Sunday, Anthony Tavares scored twice while Christian Cabal added a power-play goal in a 3-1 victory. The win put the 87's even with the Flyers in points (40) while having three games in hand.
"We seem to battle each other quite a bit, we've done well in our last four games against them, but every game is a toss up," Houli said of the Premier team. "Every game you have to bring your A-game and it's going to go to the team playing better. The Premier group has done a great job, riding a nine-game win streak."
Six days later, both teams faced off again in Middletown Sports Complex. Philadelphia dominated play for most of the first period and broke through on a shorthanded goal by Shane Green. The 87's stormed back with three goals in the second period from Ivan Borisov, Luke Satkowski and Hugh McGuigan. Borisov and Tom Swartwout tacked on two more goals early in the third period, and team staved off a late comeback effort by the Little Flyers in a 5-4 win. It was the team's 10th consecutive win as they improve to 20-3-2 on the season.
EHL (Exeter, N.H. Showcase)
Sunday Jan 12: vs. Railers Jr. Hockey Club - 8:20 p.m.
Sunday Jan 13 vs. Vermont Lumberjacks - 2:55 p.m.
Sunday Jan 12 vs. Philadelphia Revolution - 6:45 p.m.
Photo credit: Nina Weiss
Both New Jersey 87's teams ended the calendar year of 2019 with victories, as the EHL team swept a two-game series against Team Maryland while the Premier squad ended their first half of the season on an eight-game winning streak.
EHL team sweeps Maryland
The previous weekend saw two frustrating losses for the 87's. Last Saturday the team gave up two goals in the final minute of a 3-1 loss to the Philadelphia Revolution. The following day they gave up two shorthanded goals while going 1-for-7 on the power play. Wednesday's contest against Team Maryland appeared to be heading towards a similar direction when they fell behind 3-1 with 8:13 left in the third period.
New Jersey managed to storm back, however, with two goals in a span of two minutes and 32 seconds. Tim Lazouski tapped in a cross-crease feed from Matt Bielinski for his fourth goal of the year. Andrew Maynard followed up by tapping in a rebound for his team-leading 20th goal of the season. Nobody scored in overtime, and the 87's made quick work of the shootout. Maynard and Daniels Leja converted on their shots, while Ian Graiff made two saves to seal the 4-3 victory.
Off the heels of a comeback win, the 87's offense exploded for five goals in the first period of Thursday's game. Tim DeBord, Nick Swain, Dylan Gutierrez, Zach Tarantino and Daniels Leja all found the scoresheet in the opening period while the team went 3-for-3 on the power play. Maryland responded with three unanswered goals, but Dante Terramani and George Weiner scored in the third period to widen the gap once again. Graiff finished the afternoon with 30 saves, improving to a 5-0-0 record since joining the 87's.
Premier team extends streak to eight prior to break
Last weekend the 87's Premier team routed the Philadelphia Little Flyers by a score of 13-3. Ryan Crane recorded six points (3g, 3a) and was named an EHLP top performer of the week.
Their last two games proved to be more of a challenge, including a back-and-forth affair with the Philadelphia Revolution. Joe Minio and Anthony Tavares scored in the first 6:39 of the game to jump to a 2-0 lead. The Revolution responded with two goals in a span of 49 seconds to erase their deficit midway through the first. Ian Weiss, Anthony Mule and Ivan Borisov found the back of the net in the second period, but Philadelphia fought back with three unanswered of their own, including one late in the second and two more in the third period.
New Jersey caught a break in overtime when Philadelphia took a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. With a 4-on-3 power play, Crane took the puck to the top of the point and flung a wrister through traffic that found the back of the net, capping off a 6-5 win.
The following day the 87's hosted the New York Bridgemen for a Sunday evening matchup. Crane and Swartwout scored early in the first period as the team dominated in possession. Though the team generated numerous quality scoring chances, Bridgemen goaltender Colton Macaulay kept his team in the game by making numerous remarkable saves. Twice the Bridgemen managed to cut their deficit to one with goals from Jack Campbell and Bernard Vitale, but Logan Dineen scored late in the third period to seal a 4-2 victory for the 87's. Cameron Carmen made 25 saves on 27 shots to earn his 11th victory of the season.
Saturday Jan 4: at New York Apple Core - 7:00 p.m.
Sunday Jan 5: vs. Philadelphia Little Flyers - 6:45 p.m.
Photo credit: Nina Weiss
The 87's will head to the power play with 6:09 left in the third period, trailing 2-1 to Team Maryland.
Maryland takes a 2-1 lead with 14:40 left in the 3rd period.
Team Maryland scores, and it's 1-1 with 18:27 left in the 3rd period.