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.
Tag(s): In the News