September 12, 2012

EJHL drops puck on new season

By Shawn Hutcheon

The individual summer training programs have been completed. The X’s and O’s have been studied and countless drills have been conducted. It’s time to drop the puck and begin what promises to be an exciting year for the Eastern Junior Hockey League. 

Chris Calnan, selected by Chicago at this year's NHL Draft, will suit up for the South Shore Kings this season. (Dave Arnold Photography)

The second weekend of September ushers in the start of the 2012-2013 EJHL campaign. It’s a season that will see new franchises in Portland, Maine (Jr. Pirates) and Norwalk, Connecticut (Oilers), and a revamped organization, the Islanders Hockey Club (formerly New England Huskies) compete with the established teams for the Dineen Cup. 

The first game of the season will take place on Friday. Sept. 14. The Portland Jr. Pirates travel to Wayne, N.J., where they’ll play their inaugural Eastern Junior League game against the Philadelphia Revolution.

The following day, the league has two contests on the docket with last season’s South Division champion South Shore Kings traveling to the Bog in Kingston, Mass. for a meeting with the Bay State Breakers. The other match, later in the evening, has the Valley Jr. Warriors hosting the Boston Bandits in Haverhill, MA at 8:15.

On Sunday afternoon, the Bandits will play their home opener at the Bridgewater Ice Arena versus the Springfield Pics at 12:30 p.m. Later in the day, the Kings head north to Haverhill for a match against the Jr. Warriors.

The duel between South Shore and Valley should prove to be the game of the week. Both clubs have been built by their respective coaches, Scott Harlow (Kings) and 2011-2012 EJHL Coach of the Year, Andy Heinze (Jr. Warriors), to contend for the league championship.

While the Kings graduated last season’s top two EJHL leading scorers in Nashville Predators draft pick Jimmy Vesey (North Reading, Mass.) to Harvard University and Nick Bligh (Milton, Mass.) to Dartmouth College, they have added UConn recruit Robby Davis (Canton, Mass.) and Chicago Blackhawks draft selection Chris Calnan (Norwell, Mass.), who will report to Boston College for the 2013-2014 season.

On the other side of the rink, the blue and gold of the Jr. Warriors added Carolina Hurricanes draft pick Brendan Collier (Charlestown, Mass.) After playing this coming season with Valley, Collier will head off to Boston University. Boston College recruit Ryan Fitzgerald (North Reading, Mass.) has been added to the fold and big things are also expected of Devin Tringale (Medford, Mass.), who will join Vesey and Fitzgerald in Buffalo on September 29th to participate in the CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game. Tringale will take his talents to Harvard University next season.

Collier, Fitzgerald and Tringale are proven winners. Collier and Fitzgerald led Malden Catholic High School to the 2011-2012 Division 1A championship, while Tringale starred in Lawrence Academy’s march to the New England Prep School Ice Hockey Association’s Stuart/Corkery Division championship.  

South Shore has a total of four players who have made their college selections in Davis, Calnan, Andrew Doane (Brown University) and Jake Kulevich (Colgate University). Valley also enters the season with four college commits. Forward Julian Fialkow (Newton, Mass.), who will attend Colgate University, joins Collier, Fitzgerald and Tringale as those who have decided where they will matriculate in the fall of 2013.  

The South Shore vs. Valley tilt will be the first of many must-see Eastern Junior Hockey League games this season. Every team has an abundance of talent and skill that will attract scouts from throughout the college ranks and the National Hockey League.

Shawn Hutcheon can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @ShawnHutcheon.