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87's drop three out of four home games over weekend

By Anthony Di Paolo, 02/26/19, 10:30AM EST


Leja shines in first game against former team while Premier team drops third straight game

The New Jersey 87's had a combined four home games over the weekend, with the only win coming from the EHL team on Saturday night when they defeated the New England Wolves, 5-3.


Late comeback on Sunday earns EHL team 3 out of 4 points

The EHL team started its weekend with a contest against the New England Wolves, making it the first time Daniels Leja faced his former team. He opened the scoring at 10:05 when he deflected a shot past Wolves' goaltender Kristofer Muhr. The Latvian-born forward added an assist on a shorthanded goal by Zach Egber in the second period, and would tack on a power-play goal in the third period. He and Egber each finished the night with two goals and an assist in a 5-3 victory, while Jon Kopack made 24 saves.

Head coach Adam Houli spoke about Leja's performance against his old team and how he has continued to improve since joining the 87's.

"Whenever you have those games against a former team you never know what kind of effort you're going to get," Houli said. "His effort was spectacular and played extremely well. Daniel possessed the puck, found the score sheet and became a better player that game and hopefully he can use that to make a run for us here late."

The following day, the 87's jumped to a 1-0 lead against the Valley Jr. Warriors when EJ Miller scored his first goal with the 87's at 16:20. Brad Estrada responded with a goal in the second period, and Luke Wright scored at 15:02 of the third period to give the Warriors a 2-1 lead. 

New Jersey went on the power play with a minute to go in the third, prompting Houli to pull Dalton Jerzak for the extra attacker. Leja circled around the net, found Tim DeBord wide open in the slot as he flung a wrist shot high-stick side to knot the score with 28 seconds remaining. One minute and 38 seconds into overtime, Jack MacLaughlin rang a shot off the post and in to give the Warriors the 3-2 victory.

The game snapped a nine-game winning streak for the 87's, but Houli praised his team for battling back late in the game and salvaging three out of four points over the weekend.

"It showed that we can bear down and get a goal late if we need it. I think it should give the guy some confidence. Obviously we don't want to be in those situations and want the games to be handled earlier. We weren't able to overcome it in overtime, but just to get a point and show some urgency in the last three minutes of our game was very good."


Premier team drops games against Jr. and Little Flyers

The Premier team kicked off the four-game weekend with a contest against the Philadelphia Junior Flyers on Saturday afternoon, and Logan Buch opened the scoring at 9:50 of the first period. Anthony Tavares responded with five minutes left in the period to make it a 1-1 game. 

Tim Marsico scored the only goal in the second period, and the Junior Flyers would go on to score three more in the third period. The 87's outshot the Flyers by a margin of 61-19, but AJ Colella made 60 saves to lead his team to a 5-1 victory.

On Sunday, the Premier team closed out the evening by facing the Little Flyers for the second time in a three-game span. Payton Jones scored 14 seconds into the contest after he received a pass from Tom Swartwout and beat Flyers' goaltender Graham Burke short side. Philadelphia responded at 17:02 when Nick Bouchard collected a loose puck and slipped a backhander past Jeremy Connor.

Ryan Clear scored a power-play goal one minute and three seconds into the middle period when his wrister through traffic found a way past Burke, though Steve Rubillo answered back for the Flyers just 44 seconds later. The back-and-forth affair continued when Luke Satkowski deflected Sean Carver's shot for another power-play goal at 10:29 and gave the 87's a 3-2 lead.

The Junior Flyers would go on to score two unanswered goals in the second period, and it came with some controversy. Austin Mazzulo intercepted a pass in the 87's zone and had a mini breakaway. Connor got a piece of his shot, and the puck appeared to hit the left post while staying out of the net. The referee, who was at center-ice when the shot was taken, signaled a goal. An irate Connor plead his case to the officials, but the effort was unsuccessful and the goal stood. Three minutes later, Johnny Scarduzio scored on another breakaway to give the Little Flyers a 4-3 lead.

New Jersey pushed for the tying goal in the third period and controlled most of the play. Burke was able to shut the door and finished the night with nearly 40 saves, giving the Little Flyers its 11th straight win. 

Houli spoke about the Premier team's offensive performance over the weekend, as the team generated nearly 100 shots on goal but produced only four goals in the two games.

"You have to put pucks in the back of the net. Credit to the goaltending on both teams, but we've got to bury our chances and we've been working on it in practice but we have to do it," Houli said. "If we're going to have a dry stretch, I'd rather have it now than in the playoffs, but we need to get back on the drawing board and get pucks in the net."

He also spoke about the absences of Simon Fitzgerald and leading scorer Brad Heuer, who were both serving suspensions throughout the weekend. 

"Tuesday night will be big for them to return to the lineup, and it's something we need. Heuer's got a lot of goals for this team and he produces, so hopefully having him in the lineup will give us a little shot in the arm to do better."



Look ahead:



Tuesday Feb 26: vs. Philadelphia Revolution - 12:15 p.m.

Thursday Feb 28: vs. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights - 12:15 p.m.



Tuesday Feb 26: @ New Jersey Renegades - 8:15 p.m.

Saturday Mar 2: @ New Jersey Renegades - 7:15 p.m.

Sunday Mar 3: vs. Philadelphia Revolution - 6:30 p.m.


Photo Credit: Circling the Wagon (Twitter: @circlingthwagon)