March 6, 2013

Juniors Journal: No four-peat for Walpole Express

By Shawn Hutcheon

The postseason is in full swing for the Eastern Junior Hockey League and the Atlantic Junior Hockey League. The EJHL has completed two rounds (play-in and quarterfinals) while the AJHL, which has a different format, has seen its quarterfinal round come to a close.

What does it all mean? Each circuit’s field has been whittled down to its own version of the Final Four. As in any postseason, each league saw unexpected upsets, which makes the playoffs worth the price of admission.

In the EJHL, the play-in round saw the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs defeat the favored Springfield Jr. Pics in two games to move on to the quarterfinals where NHJM met up with the South Division regular season champion Jersey Hitmen.

In other EJHL first round action, the fourth-seeded Valley Jr. Warriors dispatched the Connecticut Oilers in two games. Rochester defeated New York Apple Core to advance and the Bay State Breakers eliminated the Boston Bandits from the postseason.

The quarterfinals saw the circuit’s four squads that received play-in byes join the playoff party.

Valley took on the fifth-seeded South Shore Kings and advanced to the semifinals with a two-tilt sweep. The number three seed Islanders Hockey Club faced off against Rochester and sent the Jr. Stars back to New York after a two game sweep. The Jr. Monarchs could not repeat their upset over Jersey and bowed out of the playoffs after losing two straight to the league’s top seed.

The last round of the elite eight featured the second seeded and Northern Division regular season champion Boston Jr. Bruins versus the Bay State Breakers with the Breakers manufacturing the biggest upset of the postseason thus far sending the heavily favored Jr. Bruins home for the summer.

The EJHL semifinals will take place this weekend with the Hitmen hosting Bay State and the Islanders at home to face off against the Valley Jr. Warriors.

The Atlantic Junior Hockey League’s first round saw regular-season champion Northern Cyclones eliminate the Philadelphia Jr. Flyers in two games. Second-seeded Connecticut Wolfpack sent last year’s playoff finalists New York Bobcats home after two tilts and No. 4 Wilkes/Barre-Scranton Knights dispatched the Boston Jr. Rangers in two straight.

Just as the EJHL had a major upset, the AJHL had one of its own when the seventh-seeded New Jersey Rockets defeated the league’s three-time defending champion and No. 2 seed Walpole Express in two straight contests.

This weekend, the Cyclones will host the Rockets while Wilkes/Barre-Scranton will make the trip from Pennsylvania to Connecticut to take on the Wolfpack.

Game of the Week

Once again, our game of the week will be supplanted by the series of the week. This week, the series that will have the bleachers full will take place at Skate 3 Arena, also known as, the Lighthouse in Tyngsboro, Massachusetts between the EJHL’s Islanders Hockey Club and the Valley Jr. Warriors. The Islanders finished in second place in the Northern Division with 65 points on the season while the Warriors ended the campaign in third place with 59 points.

In two playoff games this season, IHC is enjoying the leadership from Garret Cox (3 goals, 1 assist), Ian McGilvrey (3 goals, 1 assist), Michael Jamieson (4 assists) and goaltender Colton Phinney, who has a 2-0-0 record, 1.50 goals against average and .935 save percentage.

Valley has played in both rounds of the playoffs and has a four game win streak in tact. Devin Tringale (2 goals, 4 assists) and John Needham (three goals, three assists) have paved the way for their club’s postseason success. Goaltender Brendan Leahy has a 4-0-0 playoff record. He owns a 1.98 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage.

The teams faced off four times during the regular season with Valley winning twice (6-3, 4-3) and the Islanders also victorious in two of the matches (4-2, 2-1).

Head to our Junior Power Rankings page to see how Shawn's ranked the 15 AJHL and EJHL teams in the region this week.