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87’s EHLP team falls short in Frozen Finals

By Anthony DiPaolo , 04/03/24, 4:30PM EDT


87's have reached Frozen Finals for the fourth straight season

The New Jersey 87’s EHLP team advanced to the Frozen Finals but fell short in the round robin games, losing to the Boston Jr. Rangers, Railers Jr. Hockey Club and New England Wolves.

It was the second straight year the 87’s Premier team advanced to Providence, and fourth consecutive season where either team made it to the Frozen Finals.

EHLP Recap

Coming into the postseason the defending champions, the 87’s Premier team set the tone early with a 2-0 sweep over the Philadelphia Little Flyers in the first round. Gabriel Santamaria led the offense with two goals and two assists in a 9-0 win in Game 1, then seven different skaters scored in Game 2 as the 87’s completed the sweep with a 7-2 victory. Michael Green and Karel Radkovsky scored their first goals with the team in that Game 2 win.

For the Mid-Atlantic Division Final, the 87’s faced the Pennsylvania Huntsmen for a second straight year. Game 1 took place at Jersey Shore Arena, and the Huntsmen scored the first two goals of the game, leading 2-0 midway through the third period.

The 87’s stormed back with two goals in the final five minutes of regulation, as Logan Behrje deflected a point shot from Matt Duffy to make it 2-1, then Santamaria buried a rebound 1:26 later to even the score. Santamaria came up big in overtime, driving to the goal and netting the overtime winner just 51 seconds into the extra session, giving the 87’s a 1-0 lead in the series.

In Game 2, New Jersey cruised to a 5-0 win with goals from Ayden Georgiano, Robert Calice, Behrje, Thomas Pearsall and Dylan Cornatzer. Frankie Smith finished the game with a 30-save shutout, with 17 of those shots coming in the first period.

Unfortunately for New Jersey, it would be their last win of the postseason as the team went 0-2-1 in the round robin. The 87’s fell to the Boston Jr. Rangers 3-1 on the first night as Nikita Sobolev scored the lone tally.

On Thursday, the 87’s had a rematch from last year’s championship game against the Railers but dropped that game 6-4. Ivan Borisov and Nik Shoats had two goals each, but the Railers would go on to score three goals in the third period for the victory. Then on Friday, the 87’s fell to the New England Wolves 4-3 in overtime. Chris Erasmus, Santamaria and Osher all scored to erase a 3-0 deficit to force the game into overtime.

Head coach Adam Houli spoke about the effort from his team, as they managed to outshoot all three opponents in the round robin.

“We did a lot of the little things right. I think we froze a little bit for the middle part of that game (against the Railers), but we got ourselves going and the bounces didn’t go our way. When they took a lead, we had our chances to tie it back up, but that’s the game of hockey and the way it goes sometimes,” Houli said. “Happy with the effort, happy with everything else, just not happy with the result.”

He also reflected on veterans such as Borisov—who finishes an illustrious career with the organization—and Shoats, who returned to the Premier team after winning a championship with them last year.

“It’s tough in the moment right now in a loss, but to see those guys step up as the game got tight, that shows the character behind them and them believing in being an 87. It was good to see those guys contribute and be impactful every time they step on the ice,” Houli said.

EHL Recap

The 87’s EHL team finished the regular season in second place, earning a first-round matchup against Team Maryland.

In Game 1, New Jersey jumped up to a 2-0 lead with goals from Ryan Karbach and John Foote, but Maryland bounced back with two goals of their own. In the third period, shortly after Maryland’s tying goal, Lucas Salas flung a shot from the half-wall that bounced off a Maryland defender and into the net, giving the team a 3-2 lead that would hold for the rest of the game.

Traveling down to Piney Orchard Arena, the 87’s found themselves in another tight game, going blow-for-blow against Maryland. Zach Garnsey, Mikhail Kukareka and Alex Haar were the goal scorers while Kyle Spann made 38 saves in Game 2 to complete the sweep. Kukareka’s goal was shorthanded and Haar scored the go-ahead tally with 4:18 left in regulation.

For a fourth consecutive season, the 87’s EHL team faced the Philadelphia Little Flyers with a trip to the Frozen Finals on the line. In Game 1, Philadelphia jumped out to a 2-0 lead with a pair of power-play goals in the first period, and Eric Vivinetto got one back to cut the deficit in half. The score held for the remainder of the game, however, as the 87’s peppered the Little Flyers with 45 shots on goal but were unable to get another goal.

Game 2 in Philadelphia proved to be another goaltending duel as the game remained scoreless through 80 minutes. Spann and Flyers’ goaltender Ronnie Petrucci were trading saves throughout the game, and Philadelphia finally broke through in double overtime with a goal from Jakub Uhlir, ending the 87’s season. New Jersey outshot Philadelphia 43-23, but much like Game 1, the 87’s could not convert on their scoring chances.


·        Finishing the 2023-24 season at 25-16-5, the 87’s EHL team has recorded 25 or more wins in each of its six seasons.

·        Defense proved to be a strength once again this year. The 87’s had the sixth-best goals against in the EHL (110) and gave up two fewer goals than the team’s championship season in 2022.

·        Landon Adams led the scoring this year with 43 points (20g, 23a). He currently sits 11th all-time for 87’s skaters with 56 points (25g, 26a) through two seasons.

Photo Credit: Pauls Pics (Twitter: @Paulspicsnj)