Eastern Hockey League Frozen Finals Preview: Philadelphia Hosts Lumberjacks, Jr. Rangers, 87’s, Avalanche
Greetings from West Chester, PA, just outside of Philadelphia.
The Eastern Hockey League (EHL) third annual Frozen Final will officially begin on Wednesday March 24th at the Ice Line Quad Rinks. This year’s event is home to the Lumberjacks Hockey Club, Boston Jr. Rangers, New Jersey 87, and New Hampshire Avalanche.
The moment we’ve all been waiting for has arrived and we’re previewing all four teams.
# 3 Lumberjack Hockey Club
The Lumberjacks were arguably this year’s Cinderella tale for the latest version of March Madness in the league. Head coach Jim Mosso and Company defeated the New England Wolves in Round 2 and then defeated the Seacoast Spartans in the North Division Finals.
The Lumberjacks will face the Boston Jr. Rangers on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m., which is also the first time the two opponents meet this season. Jimmy and the ‘Jacks Offense’ were certainly not frozen this postseason either. The Lumberjacks reach the final and lead all four teams with 23 goals. This postseason the Jr. Rangers and 87 compete with 4-0 records.
The strikers Paul Fine-Lease (3g-8a) and Egan Schmitt (6g-5a) lead the woodcutters with 11 points in the postseason.
# 2 Boston Jr. Rangers
After defeating the Walpole Express in the Central Division Finals, the Jr. Rangers are aiming for their first EHL championship. Boston reaches the Frozen Final with the best goal differential for the postseason (+12) and the lowest number of goals (6) for the 2020-21 EHL playoffs.
Red, white and blue are led by striker Connor Bizal, who scored two goals and used three helpers for five points in four postseason games. Let’s not forget the Jr. Rangers’ X-Factor in Johnny Malandruccolo, who also scored five points this postseason (1g-4a).
But between the pipes it was Nathan Mueller who stood tall. The native Rogers, MN, has blocked 91 of 97 shots in four competitions, scoring 1.60 goals against the average (GAA).
# 1 New Jersey 87s
The regular season EHL champion reached the finals after defeating both Team Maryland and the Philadelphia Little Flyers. There’s no question that head coach Adam Houli and the company are ready to attack teams from the north and quit the job – but only time will tell.
New Jersey is set for a 7:15 p.m. puck drop on Wednesday, hitting the ice against the defending EHL champions in the Avs. The competition marks New Jersey’s first appearance in the league’s Frozen Final, and the Garden State received a down rating on both the offensive and defensive sides of the puck during the postseason.
While striker Dante Terramani leads the 87s with seven points (3g-4a), the skaters Matthew Bielinski (1g-4a-5PTS) and Dylan Gutierrez (1g-3a-4PTS) were no strangers either. Maybe the backend for gold and blue is the deciding factor in the finale, or is it between the pipes?
But let’s not forget the EHL’s leading scorer from this season in Kei Yasuda. Yes, the teams will aim and try to take time and space away from # 9 – but the native Japanese knows a thing or two about performing and experiencing the big stage.
# 4 New Hampshire avalanche
Let’s get the elephant out of the room …
Yes, the Avalanche was swept by the Spartans and kicked out of the playoffs in Round 2, but the reality is – New Hampshire is still alive. It’s arguably a whole new season for head coach Chris Cerrella and his Avs in south Philadelphia.
This hockey enthusiast said endlessly throughout the 2020-21 campaign, “Expect the unexpected” – just ask the e-crew.
The Avalanche received the league’s “overall bid” after winning the North Division for the regular season and is the only Frozen Finals team to enter the event without winning a postseason game. Captain Chris Aarons and his Avs showed under-scoring and defensive play all season in addition to their greatest strength on the net – why should they be counted? Remember that Aarons is a two-time champion in New Hampshire and that exposure and experience are vital at this time of year.
The old adage “Defense wins championships” could repeat itself to the EHL family at Ice Line. It is possible that a goalkeeper can promote teams in the postseason and look no further than George McMichael for the Avs. The New York native Goldens Bridge not only scored 16 wins this season, but also recorded 0.930% savings and three shutouts per year.
Anyway, see you at Ice Line …
(Kyle McKenna covers EHL for HNIB and can be followed on Twitter @KMcKenna_EHL)
Kyle McKenna worked for four years in various communications roles at the professional hockey level from 2015 to 2019. McKenna was Communications Assistant to the New Jersey Devils for the 2015/16 season from 2016 to 2018, and Community Hockey Assistant and Beat Writer of the Lightning High School Hockey League for the Tampa Bay Lightning from 2016 to 2018. Born in New Jersey, he also worked as a media relations assistant at the 2018 Junior World Championships in Buffalo and was also communications assistant for the ECHL’s Adirondack Thunder from 2018-19. Since graduating from Monmouth University with a bachelor’s degree in communications (2015), the former junior hockey player has also covered the NHL for various blogs in a freelance capacity. McKenna’s familiarity with the EHL dates back to last season (2019-20) when he was an organization’s communications manager, creating written and digital content on a daily basis.
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