Both New Jersey 87's teams had plenty to be thankful for when heading into the Thanksgiving break, going a combined 5-0-0 in their final weekend in November. In addition to the wins, the Eastern Hockey League recognized six New Jersey skaters plus head coach Adam Houli as part of their selected All-Star teams.
Following a 5-4 overtime loss against Team Maryland, the 87's returned to action nine days later with a rematch at Jersey Shore Arena. Dante Terramani and Nick Swain scored two goals each en route to an 8-2 victory. Two days later, the team visited Protec Ponds for its second matchup against their new intra-state rival Protec Jr. Ducks. After falling behind 2-0, the 87's responded with five unanswered goals, including four in the third period. The following day, the 87's traveled back down to Maryland for its final game of the month. Payton Jones, Alex Raketich and Jason Atkinson scored in the first period, as New Jersey concluded November with a 5-1 victory.
"I loved how our EHL team competed. We knew this three-game stretch was going to be hard, especially with our first official break coming up. We battled some injuries but we had some players really step up," Houli said of the EHL team's performance. "We talk about our depth but I think you were able to really see it. It’s never easy playing with a big target on your back but you have to keep going and going."
That same weekend, the Eastern Hockey League announced its roster of 68 All-Stars who would have competed in the EHL All-Star Classic. Houli was listed as one of four head coaches, and the 87's had a league-leading six skaters recognized by the league. Those players include forwards Tim DeBord, Nick Swain, Dante Terramani and Kei Yasuda, as well as defensemen George Weiner and Dylan Gutierrez. Assistant coach Matt Kiernan spoke about the All-Star selections and how it reflects on the players and the organization.
"We couldn't be more proud of our players and our organization to have the most players selected this season," Kiernan said. "It's a testament to the players that were selected on our team. They're all returners and were players that had their season cut short last year. They put all the work into the offseason to come prepared and have a great start to the season this year, and obviously it's paying off for them with the recognition they received."
The Premier team finished November with a home-and-home against the New Jersey Renegades. Their first game was a Saturday night tilt at Aspen Ice, and it was a back-and-forth affair. Ryan Miller scored twice for the 87's, but the team saw a third period 4-2 vanish as the Renegades scored twice in the final period. Undeterred by the setback, Ben Peiffer scored the overtime winner just 49 seconds in, ripping a sharp-angle shot top shelf to secure the 5-4 victory. Both teams returned the action the following afternoon, and after falling behind 1-0, the 87's scored four unanswered goals. The Premier team improved to 11-3-1 after picking up its fifth consecutive win.
"Very good, growing weekend from our Premier team," Houli said. "We played very well Saturday but let them back in the game slowly. We had to reset and make sure we were able to get the point in overtime. Then being able to come out the following day and secure the win in a good way is always relieving. We battled hard for 60 minutes which was good to see."
-In their win against the Protec Jr. Ducks, the 87's scored two shorthanded goals in the third period, doubling their season total to four.
-The Premier team's power play was firing on all cylinders against the Renegades, going a combined 4-for-8 in the home-and-home to close out November.
Friday Dec 4: vs. New York Apple Core - 1 p.m.
Friday Dec 4: vs. New Jersey Renegades - 7 p.m.
Photo Credit: Richard O'Donnell
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