The New Jersey 87's won all four games last week, including a thrilling 2-1 victory over the first-place Philadelphia Little Flyers, two wins over the North Carolina Golden Bears and a 9-3 win against New York Applecore.
Going into Friday's matchup against the Little Flyers, the 87's were shut out in three of its previous four games, and lost four of its previous five contests. But they showed up to play against the top team in the EHL, and jumped to a 1-0 lead in the first period with a deflection goal from Zach Egber at 11:04.
Philadelphia responded 55 seconds into the second period with a goal from Kyle Browder. He was knocked down to the ice in front of the 87's goal, but he found a loose puck and swept it around 87's goaltender Dalton Jerzak. At 13:27, Andrew Maynard controlled a rolling puck and fired a wrist shot past Little Flyers goaltender Brendahn Brawley for his fourth goal of the season. It stood as the game-winner while Jerzak made 22 saves to pick up the win.
"It was a huge win to get us back on the right track. Our play was starting to trend up and we had a really good week of practice where the guys started holding each other accountable," said 87's head coach Adam Houli. "It certainly showed on Friday, I thought we were the better team and we came out on top."
The team traveled to North Carolina early on Sunday for a double-header against the North Carolina Golden Bears. Later that night, Austin Bell scored two goals while Jack Lane (4a) and Zach Tarantino (1g, 3a) recorded four points each in a 6-1 victory. The following day, Daniels Leja and Zach Egber scored three goals each in a decisive 15-3 win. Sean Carver and Joe Guercio recorded their first EHL points in the win, and Jon Kopack won both of his starts as the team improves its record to 26-9-0.
Houli spoke about the team's high-scoring victories and their ability to stick with the game plan.
"They know that as a staff, we won't let them develop bad habits. When the game is in hand and you have it, you do take a step back and let them play a little bit and understand you can correct it once you get to practice. But the guys were able to see the bigger picture and realize the more wins we get, the closer we are to closing out our division."
New Jersey closed out the week with another Friday matinee, this time against New York Applecore. Logan Scarlotta opened the scoring late in the first period, and Kyle Warren scored a shorthanded goal early in the second to put Applecore ahead 2-0. Instead of going into panic mode, the 87's responded with four goals in the middle frame and five more in the third period. Leja finished the game with a hat trick, giving him six goals in his last two games. The former New England Wolves player spoke about his rising level of confidence as the 87's approach the home stretch of the season.
"This team is playing much faster hockey, and now I'm feeling more comfortable at this pace and playing with the puck," Leja said. "I'm getting more passes and shooting the puck more, and they're finally going in, which is good now that we only have nine games left."
Premier team gearing up after extended hiatus
The Premier Division had a showcase scheduled for January 19-20, but was cancelled when Pennsylvania declared a state of emergency due to inclement weather. The 87's were off the following week, meaning they have not played a game since January 12. They return to action with a home-and-home against the Philadelphia Jr. Flyers this weekend.
Saturday Feb. 2: @ Philadelphia Jr. Flyers - 8:00 p.m.
Sunday Feb. 3: vs. Philadelphia Jr. Flyers - 2:00 p.m.
Saturday Feb. 2: @ Philadelphia Jr. Flyers - 5:00 p.m.
Sunday Feb. 3: vs. Philadelphia Jr. Flyers - 11:00 a.m.
Photo Credit: Circling The Wagon (@circlingthwagon)
Tag(s): In the News