November 28, 2012

Juniors Journal: Four EJHL squads form USPHL

By Shawn Hutcheon

Junior hockey in New England took on a new look on Nov. 19 when four Eastern Junior Hockey League organizations announced the formation of the United States Premier Hockey League (USPHL). The league was founded by the Boston Jr. Bruins, Islanders Hockey Club, Jersey Hitmen and South Shore Kings and will drop the puck in September of the 2013-2014 season.   

The new league is actively seeking members. Applications can be found on the Jr. Bruins, Islanders, Hitmen and Kings’ websites. Sources, speaking on the condition of anonymity, have revealed that the Buffalo Jr. Sabres, Team Comcast (Philadelphia), Northern Cyclones, a handful of unnamed Atlantic Junior Hockey League franchises plus one additional EJHL club have expressed interest in becoming members of the USPHL. 

The organizations will also maintain youth teams from mites to Under-18, which will play in leagues under the USPHL umbrella. The leagues will follow USA Hockey’s American Development Model (ADM) and its Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) program. All players and teams will be registered with USA Hockey.

The EJHL will not lose member organizations. The Jr. Bruins, Islanders, Hitmen and Kings will continue to maintain franchises in the league, although they will not be the same junior squads that will play in the USPHL.

It will be interesting to see how the USPHL will ultimately affect the Eastern, Atlantic and the Empire Junior Hockey Leagues.

“There are only so many good players out there,” one NHL scout said last weekend. “This won’t affect the USHL (United States Hockey League) because almost all of the best players in the country go to that league, but the leagues here in the east could be watered down dramatically.”

Time will tell beginning in September.      

Game of the Week

This week’s game that should not be missed is the tilt scheduled for Thursday evening at 8:00 p.m. in Haverhill, Massachusetts between the Valley Jr. Warriors and the Islanders Hockey Club.

Valley has been at, or near, the top of the Eastern Junior Hockey League’s Northern Division standings throughout the season and currently sits in second place just two points out of first. The Warriors have a three-point lead over the third place Islanders.

While both teams have balanced offensive attacks, the signs point to this game being all about the goaltenders.

All three of Valley’s goaltenders – Brendan Leahy, Marcus Born and Evan Eitel – are in the top five among EJHL save percentage leaders. Look for Leahy to get the nod between the pipes for the Jr. Warriors. The Reading, Mass., native is third in the league with a .932 save percentage and in wins with nine. He will bring a goals-against average of 2.23 into the game.

At the other end of the rink, Islanders puck stopper Colton Phinney is fourth in the EJHL in minutes played with 810. He also ranks sixth in wins (8) and owns a 2.37 goals-against average, along with a .916 save percentage.

Valley defeated the Islanders 6-3 in the only meeting between the two clubs this season.  

NE Junior Power Rankings

1) Boston Jr. Bruins (15-5-0-0-0)
2) Valley Jr. Warriors (14-6-0-0-0) 
3) Islanders Hockey Club (12-5-0-0-1) 
4) Springfield Jr. Pics (12-8-0-0-0) 
5) Bay State Breakers (12-8-0-0-1) 

6) Walpole Express (15-4-2-0) 
7) Northern Cyclones (14-5-1-0)
8) Boston Jr. Rangers (10-3-7-2)
9) Connecticut Wolfpack (11-4-2-1)
10) South Shore Kings (10-8-0-3)

11) New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs (10-7-0-0-1) 
12) Boston Bandits (9-12-0-0-0) 
13) Laconia Leafs (6-14-4-0)
14) Connecticut Oilers (5-11-0-2-0) 
15) Portland Jr. Pirates (5-16-0-1-0)

Twitter: @ShawnHutcheon