As the calendar year of 2021 draws to a close, so does the first half of the New Jersey 87's season. It was marked by a series of ups and downs, including a seven-game winning streak for the EHL team, the EHLP squad battling it out in the South Division and a strong showing from the organization's 18u team.
The month of November was one to forget for the 87's EHL team, as they lost five of their six games that month in the midst of an eight-game losing streak. Things finally took a turn for the better on Nov 23 when they defeated the Connecticut Chiefs by a score of 3-2.
Coming out of the Thanksgiving break, the EHL team continued their momentum all throughout December by winning six more games, including one win against every other team in the South Division. Their biggest challenge came in the Newington, CT showcase against the defending EHL champion Boston Jr. Rangers.
After falling behind 1-0, the 87's scored two unanswered goals from Matt Anastasio and Matt Herrick. Newly acquired defenseman Tobin Winslow scored in the second half and it stood as the game-winner, while Jeremy Connor stopped 29 of the 31 shots he faced.
The following day, the 87's EHL team closed out the calendar year with a 3-1 victory over the East Coast Wizards. Matt Anastasio and Robbie Seewagen, two players who have stepped up offensively during the team's winning streak, each picked up a goal and an assist. Coming into the new year, Seewagen has six goals over his last six games, while Anastasio is working on a 10-game point streak (6g, 8a).
As the 87's entered the holiday break with a 15-9-3 record, head coach Adam Houli discussed the significance of his team ending the calendar year on a high note, and the bounce back following the losing streak in November.
"It was super important to end on the note that we ended heading into 2022. Especially for older guys who are now trying to get to the next level it was really good to see them compete and really show that they are able and ready to get to that next level.
I think anytime you go on a losing streak it is always helpful to look yourself in the mirror and see what you need to improve on and what is not working. I felt like we did a really good job as a group to recognize what we need to do to be successful and knew it was a matter of time before the coin flipped the other way," Houli said.
He also spoke about the youth on the EHL roster and their ability to compete with the best teams in the league.
"We had multiple games where we had over 14 players that are eligible to return to us next year, and that was really exciting to see from my standpoint. Anytime you’re able to beat a very good team such as the Jr. Rangers, it is just a good indicator of where your team is trending, but I do stand behind thinking that the division we play in currently is one of the top divisions in the EHL."
Similar to their EHL counterparts, the 87's Premier team suffered an eight-game losing streak throughout most of November. They were able to snap their slide with a 4-2 victory over the New Jersey Renegades on Dec 11. Going into the third period down 2-1, the 87's responded with three goals in the final 20 minutes, off the sticks of Caden Miller, Will O'Brien and Michael Botti.
Heading into the break, the Premier team has a record of 10-17-3 and are third in the South Division. Out of the 12 games remaining in the 87's regular season, 12 will be against teams within the division.
The 18u team has made a strong impression for the first half of its inaugural season, posting a record of 18-14-0-6 (fourth column being ties). Brock Forrest leads the team in goals (17) and points (28), while Patrick DeMarinis (8g, 13a, 21pts) and Ryan Karbach (8g, 16a, 24pts) have also contributed to the 87's offense.
Spanning from Oct 16 to Nov 13, the 87's enjoyed a seven game unbeaten streak and won five of those contests. On Oct 30 in a 5-0 win against the New Hampshire Avalanche, 87's goaltender Aiden Weller scored a goal when he blocked a centering pass and steered it towards an empty net. He became the second goaltender in 87's history to score a goal.
The EHL and u18 teams will resume play on Jan 7 while the Premier team returns to action on Jan 8. Coming out of the holiday break, the two junior teams will enter the home stretch of the regular season and gear up for another potential trip to the Frozen Finals, while the u18 squad will try to improve their record with 22 games left in the regular season.
Tag(s): In the News