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EHL team clinches Mid-Atlantic Conference

By Anthony Di Paolo 02/20/2020, 1:45pm EST

EHL team clinches division while Premier team is closing in on first place

The New Jersey 87's EHL team swept the North Carolina Golden Bears last weekend, clinching the number one seed in the Mid-Atlantic Conference.

It's the second straight year the 87's have clinched first place in the Eastern Hockey League, thus earning a bye week in the first round of the playoffs. In the 2018-19 season, New Jersey went 33-11-1 for 67 points. In 43 games so far this year, the 87's have a record of 33-8-2 for 68 points. The team will play three more games to close out the regular season before gearing up for the playoffs in March.

Last weekend the 87's swept the North Carolina Golden Bears, winning their games by scores of 9-1 and 12-1 respectively. The team will have two road games this weekend against the Philadelphia Jr. Flyers and Connecticut RoughRiders, then a home game next week against the Philadelphia Revolution. 87's head coach Adam Houli spoke about his team's accomplishment and what it means for this year's upcoming postseason.

"It was great to solidify our position for the upcoming playoffs, anytime you can clinch early it is a tremendous job. Being able to clinch a first round bye and 1st place in the Mid-Atlantic was our goal from the start of the season and being able to do it shows the sacrifices made by our players to reach their goal," Houli said. "They are excited but remain poised and understand that playoff hockey is unlike any other type of hockey. I’m excited to see us finish the year out and then being our Providence Hunt in playoffs."  

 

Premier team fighting for first down the stretch

The 87's Premier team is riding a three-game winning streak and is sitting in second place in the Mid-Atlantic Conference. The team has a record of 28-6-3 and is one point behind the first-place Philadelphia Little Flyers while having two games in hand. 

Houli spoke about the Premier team's recent success, as the 87's have outscored their opponents 24-7 over the last three games. "This team has battled tremendously hard all year and its fitting that we can control our destiny to reaching first," Houli said. "We know it won't be easy and we need to be consistent in our effort, but if we are, I think we will be successful. There is nothing more exciting then trying to make a run for first. I cant wait to see how this plays out."

New Jersey has four games left on the schedule, including a home-and-home series against the Revolution to close out the regular season. Like the EHL team, the 87's Premier squad will look to punch its first-ever ticket to Providence, Rhode Island for a shot at the EHLP championship.

 

Upcoming games:

EHL

Friday Feb 21: at Philadelphia Jr. Flyers - 12:00 p.m.

Saturday Feb 22: at Connecticut RoughRiders - 8:00 p.m.

 

EHLP

Saturday Feb 22: at New York Bridgemen - 5:00 p.m.

Sunday Feb 23: vs. New Jersey Renegades - 6:45 p.m.

Graiff commits to Western New England University

By Anthony Di Paolo 02/06/2020, 11:00am EST

Graiff becomes the third 87's player to make an NCAA commitment this season

The New Jersey 87's are proud to announce that Ian Graiff has committed to play Division III hockey at Western New England University for the 2020-2021 season.

Graiff is a 19-year-old goaltender from Newfield, NJ. He started the 2019-2020 campaign with the New Hampshire Avalanche but was later acquired by the 87's. Since coming back to the Garden State, Graiff has emerged as one of the top goaltenders in the league, posting a 9-1-0 record with a 1.19 goals against average, a .948 save percentage and four shutouts.

87's head coach Adam Houli spoke about Graiff's stellar play and what it means for him to be the team's third NCAA commitment of the season.

"Ian was a goaltender we identified as someone that could solidify our presence in net. He's been terrific from the get-go, and it's always nice to have a goaltender that can steal us some wins, which is what Ian has done," Houli said. "He's put in the work since arriving in New Jersey and now he's been rewarded with an NCAA commitment. We couldn't be more proud of Ian for this accomplishment."

Western New England University is a Division III program located in Springfield, Mass. and competes in the Commonwealth Coast Conference. The Golden Bears are led by head coach Greg Heffernan. 

Graiff, who started his tenure with the 87's on a shutout streak that lasted 188:13 across four games, spoke about joining the team mid-season and how it helped him land an NCAA commitment.

"Joining the 87s was a blessing from God. Once I met my new teammates I knew these guys were my new brothers. They brought me in right away and treated me like I was there since the beginning," Graiff said. "Coach (Adam) Houli and Coach Matty (Kiernan) are two of the best coaches I’ve ever played for and I can’t thank them enough for bringing me in. Between my teammates and coaches, I feel we have a good chance at winning the championship."

The New Jersey 87's organization would like to congratulate Ian and his family as he prepares to advance his hockey career to the collegiate level.

87's complete final showcases of the season

By Anthony Di Paolo 01/24/2020, 12:45pm EST

EHL team gets 3 of 4 points while Premier team snaps winning streak in showcase

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."

 

Upcoming games

EHL

Friday Jan. 24: at Team Maryland - 12:15 p.m.

Sunday Jan. 26: at Philadelphia Revolution - 10:15 a.m.

 

Premier

Saturday Jan. 25: at Philadelphia Little Flyers - 6:45 p.m.

Sunday Jan. 26: vs. New Jersey Renegades - 6:45 p.m.

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