February 16, 2013

Juniors Journal: Nemo throws wrench in playoff pushes

By Shawn Hutcheon

Nemo came, Nemo saw, Nemo conquered. 

Obviously we're not talking about the cute, orange fish known for its timid demeanor in the 2003 animated Disney movie. No one had to search for this Nemo, a wintery blizzard that dumped over two feet of snow on a fair amount of New England cities and towns.

The Eastern Junior Hockey League heeded the forecasts and postponed its weekend schedule. Safety, of course, is the top priority of the league on and off the ice. With teams such as the Jersey Hitmen scheduled to travel to Bridgewater, Mass. to take on the Boston Bandits and a number of other clubs scheduled to travel long distances, general managers, coaches and rink managers scrambled to arrange for venues, dates and times to reschedule the contests.

EJHL Director of Hockey Operations Jack Sweeney explained the process of getting the games played before the season ends.

“We had to cancel all of Fridays and Saturdays games,” Sweeney said.” It wasn’t just because of the storm. Some rinks lost power. We had players, coaches and referees who couldn’t get to the rinks.”

“All games need to be made up.” Sweeney continued, “It’s up to the teams and the rinks to arrange the dates and times but the games need to be played before the season ends.” The Atlantic Junior Hockey League featured six games in Pennsylvania. The Northern Cyclones and the Boston Jr. Rangers left a day ahead of schedule from their home bases in Hudson, N.H. and Tewksbury, Mass., respectively.

The Cyclones made the trek to Philadelphia to face off against the Junior Flyers before taking on the Little Flyers. The Jr. Rangers also went to the City of Brotherly Love and visited the same teams but in reverse order of the Cyclones. The AJHL also saw the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights host the Washington Jr. Nationals.

The Cyclones returned home with a win and a tie and maintained their hold onto first place. The Jr. Rangers picked up a win against the Jr. Flyers before dropping its tilt versus the Little Flyers and came home in a second place tie with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, who swept the Jr. Nats.

New England eventually dug it’s way out of the snow and back to everyday life. Junior hockey followed suit. Now that the clouds have cleared, each league can see the playoffs on the horizon. 

Game of the Week

College coaches and National Hockey League scouts alike have had the date of February 16, 2013 circled in their calendar books for quite some time. They will flock to the Foxboro Sports Center to witness the possible preview of the Eastern Junior Hockey League’s finals when the Southern Division and overall league leader Jersey Hitmen face off against the Northern Division’s top club, the Boston Jr. Bruins.

When compared, it is easy to see there are very few difference between the two squads. The Jr. Bruins have won 28 of 40 league games. The Hitmen have been victorious in 34 of 39 tilts. BJB has scored 135 goals and allowed 99. Jersey has scored 216 and have been scored upon 85 times. Boston’s Sean Lawrence has the fifth best save percentage among the circuit’s goaltenders. Jersey’s netminder, Kollyn Jones is No. 1 in that category. The Hitmen also boasts the EJHL’s top scorer in Brendan Bradley.

The very impressive statistical comparisons could go on and on but it will be much more fun to watch these two clubs go head to head. Do yourself a favor and get there early. NE Junior

Power Rankings

1) Boston Jr. Bruins (28-10-0-2-0) - Back in the top spot after a win over the previous number one Islanders Hockey Club and loss to Rochester. The Eastern Junior Hockey League’s Northern Division leaders are five points ahead of the Valley Jr. Warriors and Islanders Hockey Club who are tied for second place in the division.

2) Valley Jr. Warriors (26-14-0-0-1) - Winners of six consecutive contests, the Warriors are the EJHL’s hottest team with the playoffs just around the corner.

3) Northern Cyclones (27-7-3-2) - In their last ten matches, Northern has been victorious in eight. The first place club in the Atlantic Junior Hockey League has five games remaining before the playoffs begin. They just might run the table.

4) Islanders Hockey Club (25-11-0-1-2) - In the midst of a three game losing streak, which includes a loss to the Boston Jr. Bruins, IHC lost a chance to overtake the Jr. Bruins in the EJHL’s Northern Division standings.

5) Springfield Jr. Pics (23-16-0-1-2) - A win over the Islanders kept the Pics two points ahead of the Bay State Breakers.

6) Boston Jr. Rangers (20-8-8-2) - Picked up two of four possible points in Pennsylvania and moved into a second place tie in the Atlantic Junior Hockey League.

7) Walpole Express (23-9-2-0) - The AJHL’s defending champions did not play last week. They will finish the season by playing eight games in eleven days.

8) South Shore Kings (21-14-0-3-0) -  Like the Walpole Express, South Shore did not play last weekend. Their EJHL tilts versus the Connecticut Oilers were postponed due to the blizzard.

9) Bay State Breakers (22-16-0-1-2) - The Breakers hosted the Philadelphia Revolution and scored a total of 17 goals in two games and moved into third place in the EJHL’s Southern Division. Bay State is two points ahead of South Shore in the standings.

10) Connecticut Wolfpack (23-10-2-1) - Their only contest resulted in a win. The ‘Pack reside in fourth place in the AJHL. With eight tilts remaining on the schedule, Connecticut, which is ten points out of first in the standings, could finish the season in second place.

11) New Hampshire Junior Monarchs (20-18-0-0-2) - Picked up two wins early this week. They are six points out of a playoff spot in the EJHL’s Northern Division with five games remaining on the schedule.

12)Boston Bandits (16-17-0-1-3) - Did not play last weekend (thank you, Nemo). The Bandits will play eight games in the next ten days.

13) Laconia Leafs (8-25-6-0) - After dropping a pair of games to the Connecticut Wolfpack, the Leafs have five AJHL  matches to play before heading home for the summer.

14) Portland Jr. Pirates (10-28-0-1-0) - The Pirates are in last place in the Northern Division and have six games to play in their inaugural EJHL season before packing up until next season.

15) Connecticut Oilers (10-23-0-3-1) - Although there were high hopes for their initial EJHL season, the Oilers will finish out of the playoffs. They are in fifth place in the Southern Division, eleven points ahead of last place Philadelphia Revolution.  

Twitter: @ShawnHutcheon
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