March 1, 2013

MVP Felteau, Cyclones enter AJHL playoffs as team to beat

By Shawn Hutcheon

The Atlantic Junior Hockey League season has come to an end, and it was one that will not soon be forgotten.

It will be remembered for Hurricane Sandy ravaging New York and New Jersey and a blizzard named Nemo that rocked the entire Northeast by dumping between upwards of three feet of snow on the region. The two weather-related catastrophes wreaked havoc on players and coaches both on and off the ice, as a high number of games in the affected areas were postponed. Nevertheless, all canceled contests were made up, as the league managed to ride out the storm.

The eight teams that qualified for this year’s playoffs did so with two weeks remaining in the season. The teams and matchups are as follows, with all series being best of three and beginning play on March 1:

- No. 1 Northern Cyclones vs. No. 8 Philadelphia Jr. Flyers  

- No. 2 Walpole Express vs. No. 7 New Jersey Rockets

- No. 3 Connecticut Wolfpack vs. No. 6 New York Bobcats

- No. 4 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights vs. No. 5 Boston Jr. Rangers

Have we thought about which team will be going for a skate with the President’s Cup Trophy when all is said and done? Of course, we have.

All top four seeds will emerge victorious from the quarterfinals. The semifinals will appear as such:

No. 1 Northern Cyclones vs. No. 4 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights

#2 Walpole Express vs. #3 Connecticut Wolfpack

The expectation is Northern and the three time defending champion Walpole Express will meet for the league title and so it will be. The top two clubs will battle it out and should need all three games. When the final horn sounds on the last game of the season, it will be the Northern Cyclones claiming supremacy of the Atlantic Junior Hockey League. Their speed and physical style of play will be the difference versus Walpole.

AJHL Postseason Awards

On the eve of the AJHL playoffs, the circuit announced its award winners.

New Jersey Rocket and Harvard University recruit Jeremy Bracco (Freeport, NY) is this year’s Rookie of the Year. The 15-year-old Bracco played just 29 games but compiled 48 points.

J. J. Solloway (Derry, N.H.) of the Northern Cyclones was awarded Goaltender of the Year for his stingy 2.09 goals-against average and .926 save percentage. He led all AJHL puck stoppers with 22 wins which included five shutouts.

The league’s Defenseman of the Year is Wilke-Barre/Scranton Knight Tommy Dowell. The Kansas City, Missouri native led all defensemen with 37 points in 43 contests.

The circuit’s prestigious Coach of the Year Award goes to Justin Lyles of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. The coach was at the helm of a Knights team that finished with a 26-14-4 record and 56 points which was good enough for a fourth place finish in the final standings.

Last but certainly not least, Northern Cyclones forward Jonathan Felteau was named the league’s MVP. The Peabody, Mass., native led the AJHL with 80 points (24 goals, 56 assists), 13 ahead the league’s second-leading scorer, Wilkes-Barre’s Jack Ceglarski (Byfield, Mass.), a fellow member of the All-AJHL First Team.

Twitter: @ShawnHutcheon