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87's take sole possession of first place

By Anthony DiPaolo, 02/15/18, 11:30AM EST


New Jersey continues to roll with victories over the Jr. Flyers and Renegades

The New Jersey 87's had its biggest weekend yet by defeating the Philadelphia Jr. Flyers in a 3-2 overtime win to vault into sole possession of first place in the EHL Premier Division. They followed up that performance with a 5-2 home win over the New Jersey Renegades on Sunday.

Brad Heuer finished the weekend with three points (1 goal, 2 assists) including the OT winner against the Flyers. Having extended its winning streak to 12 games, the 87's improve its record to 29-6-2 and are now three points ahead of the Jr. Flyers in the South Conference. Here's a rundown of the two games that took place last weekend:

Heuer's goal caps off OT triumph in Philadelphia

Billed as the EHLP game of the week, the 87's went down to Philadelphia to face the Jr. Flyers on Saturday afternoon. Both teams had 56 points through 35 games, but New Jersey held the tiebreaker with one more win. 

Neither team broke through in the first period, and the 87's held a 15-11 shot advantage. Flyers' goaltender AJ Collela made a few quality saves, but the best chance of the period came when Leo Ukhmylov fired a rocked from the slot but slammed off the crossbar. 

Nick Pacitti opened the scoring for the Flyers at 3:24 of the second period. Philadelphia seemed to pick up the pace in the middle frame, but the 87's still generated scoring chances in search of the tying goal. Braxton Kilgore thought he evened the score later in the period, but his goal was waved off because the referee had ruled he was in the process of blowing the whistle to stop play. 

The 87's finally broke through when Louie Kuka picked the top left corner on a breakaway at 5:40 of the third period. Michael Termine scored 13 seconds later and gave the 87's a 2-1 lead. However, at 7:07 of the period, Joseph Anton beat 87's goaltender Jon Szynalski and tied the score once again. New Jersey even had to kill a penalty within the final four minutes of regulation, but they held down the fort and forced overtime.

In the extra session, Heuer chased down a loose puck in the corner and spun around a Philadelphia defenseman. With no other skaters around him, Heuer took the puck to the net and ripped a shot high-blocker side for the game-winner, making it the second time this season the 87's defeated the Jr. Flyers in overtime. 

"I didn't really play the way I wanted to that whole game, and then I got that one chance in OT, so it was a fun game," said Heuer, who had scored his eighth goal in his last seven games in the win against the Flyers. 

Szynalski finished the game with 33 saves on 35 shots, leading the 87's to its 11th consecutive victory. Head coach Adam Houli spoke about his team's performance and the bounce-back effort after a rough second period.

"It was a real gut check. We had a really poor second period where we didn't play 87 hockey. We got into the guys between the second and third and we held ourselves accountable in that intermission and we called each other out," Houli said. "To come out in the third and produce like we did was a very good win against a very good team." 

87's chase starting goaltender in 5-2 win over Renegades

In a span of 4:55 in the second period, the 87's turned a 1-0 contest into a 5-0 rout. It was all they needed to defeat the Renegades and earn its 12th straight win.

The team initially struggled to get anything past former Applecore goaltender Justin Padilla, but captain Trevor Cear finally broke through at 17:54 of the first period. He took a long wrist shot that seemed to elude Padilla, giving Cear his ninth goal of the season.

Jack Lane was assessed a five minute major three minutes into the second period, giving the Renegades an opportunity to tie it. Not only did the 87's kill it off, but they scored right after Lane got out of the box, as Heuer set up Austin Bell for an easy tap-in to make it a 2-0 game. 

Lane would go on to score a power-play goal at at 10:17 of the period, with Kuka following up 13 seconds later with a goal of his own to make it 4-0. Ukhmylov capped off the scoring barrage with a bank-shot from the goal line for a power-play goal, which also marked the end of Padilla's night. 

Former 87 Jake Lakatos went in goal for the Renegades, and to his credit, did not let in any goals for the remainder of the game. Alec Dugan scored twice for the Renegades, but could not generate any additional offense as the 87's cruised to a 5-2 victory.

"The first 40 minutes we were very focused, there was a stretch there in the second period where we put a lot of goals and really took to the net and buried our chances," said Houli. He also commented that the team slowed down in the final period. "In that type of game to come off an emotional Saturday and a long day on Sunday, those things are going to happen. We need to stay focused the entire game but didn't, though hopefully it's a learning experience, and we got the win plus the four points."

Szynalski, who was traded to the 87's in exchange for Lakatos, spoke about what it was like to beat his former team for the fourth time this season.

"It gets me going. I want to beat those guys really bad. It probably leaves a sour taste in their mouth when I beat them, every single time it gets them a little mad, but it leaves a big smile on my face," Szynalski said. "To be honest, I kind of wish I started the season here, but that's now how things work. I'm glad I'm here now, but it's nothing against (the Renegades), they're a good team, but it wasn't a perfect fit for me and I'm happy to be here now."

The 87's will have a chance to further extend its winning streak with two games coming up this weekend. On Saturday, they'll have a rematch against the Renegades at Flemington Ice Arena with a 5:15 p.m. puck drop. The following day, they will face New York Applecore at the Middletown Sports Complex at 7 p.m.