Last season, the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs put on a push in the final two weeks to qualify for postseason play in the Eastern Junior Hockey League. They pulled off an upset by defeating a higher seeded Springfield Jr. Pics in the quarterfinals but it all came to an end in the next round versus a powerful Jersey Hitmen squad. It was disappointing but the seeds had been planted for future success for the Jr. Monarchs.
Turn the page and after a major reshuffle of all things junior hockey in the northeast, the Hooksett, N.H.-based club finds itself atop the Eastern Hockey League North Division as well as the entire EHL with a 6-2-0-0 record.
Head Coach Ryan Frew is very happy with the new league and his team’s start to 2013-2014.
“Well, concerning the league, we can’t say enough about (EHL Director of Hockey Operations) Mark Kumpel and (Director of Administration) Jeff Nygaard,” Frew said. “They put the kids first and with their connections to all the colleges around the country and even with pro teams, it’s all about developing the kids for that next level and because that’s their focus, all the teams are on the same page with them.”
Frew continued and explained what has brought such early season success to New Hampshire.
“We had a strong group of recruits and returning players,” Frew said. “We have three players back from last season, Shawn Nelson (right), Joey Yeadon (Burlington, Mass.), and Kyle Lajeunesse (South Berwick, Maine), who know the culture and how we do things. They’ve made sure that the new guys understand what that culture is and because of that, we haven’t missed a beat.”
That culture is one where winning is not the most important thing and everyone knows it from day one.
“We’re a family,” said Frew. “That’s the first thing they (players) need to understand. It’s the most important thing. We (coaching staff) build a good structure and tell them that hockey is secondary to their families (at home) and academics. We want them to be productive in the classroom and the community. If they are, everything will fall into place and it will show on the ice.”
The coach is satisfied that his newcomers have bought into the program and because of that are contributing in a big way on the frozen sheet.
“We’re very happy with guys like (Texas native) Payton Baldillez, Hunter Laslo (Florida), and Eric Berglund, who’s from Sweden, and Cameron Spicer is a solid defenseman (from Colorado),” Frew said. “All of them are getting Division I (college) attention already.”
Baldillez, Nelson and Berglund are players who are showing what a family atmosphere can do for them as they are one, two and three in league scoring.
While praising certain players, Frew was also quick to point out that this is a true team in every sense of the word.
“We have a team motto: ‘I’m all in.’” the coach said. “And that means every player gives one hundred percent academically, in the weight room and on the ice. If everyone is ‘all in,’ then they’re working together for a common goal.”
It is a motto that explains it all when one asks about the Jr. Monarchs.
“We’re about developing guys to move on to that next level, “ Frew explained. “It’s all about the kids. We’re excited about the season and giving the players the chance to showcase their talents and abilities. They know we’re all here for the same reason and because they know that, they give one hundred percent effort every time they step on the ice.”
The efforts of the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs have them leading the EHL. If they continue to give one hundred percent, there is a very good chance the club may not relinquish that lead all season.
Game of the Week
This early in the season, It is rare to see more than one game being deemed worthy of being the Game of the Week but that is exactly what we have this week.
In the USPHL, the first place Boston Jr. Bruins will try to fend off a challenge to its hold on the top spot in the standings by second place Bay State Breakers, who trail BJB by just two points. The clubs will meet in a home and home series this weekend.
The EHL will see a battle for first place also. The New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs and the Boston Jr. Bandits will go head to head on Friday in the Monarchs home arena in Hooksett, N.H. New Hampshire is two points ahead of the Boston.
NE Junior Power Rankings
1) New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs (6-2-0-0) The Monarchs make a big jump from fifth to first in the rankings due to an undefeated weekend in which they scored 16 goals in two games and rose to first place overall in the Eastern Hockey League. Payton Baldillez, Shawn Nelson and Eric Berglund have moved into the top three spots in league scoring and not coincidentally, NHJM have won six of their last seven contests.
2) Boston Jr. Bruins (7-2-0-0) BJB reeled off three consecutive wins last week and took over first place in the United States Premier Hockey League. Goaltender Sean Lawrence leads the league with a 1.55 goals against average. He has played in all nine games for his club.
3) Islanders Hockey Club (5-3-1-0) IHC played once last week and gained a big USPHL win over South Shore to move up to third in the rankings. The Islanders began the season shorthanded due injuries. Those injured players are returning to the lineup and making solid contributions.
4) Boston Jr. Bandits (5-1-0-0) The five-game win streak was broken last week at the hands of the Connecticut Oilers. Look for Boston to bounce back this weekend as it has three EHL tilts scheduled including a rematch with the Oilers.
5) Bay State Breakers (5-1-1-1) The Breakers lost both of their contests over the weekend to the Connecticut Yankees but they were nail biters with one game going to overtime and the other being decided in the shootout. Bay State resides in second place in the USPHL.
6) Connecticut Oilers (5-1-0-1) What a difference a year makes. After finishing near the bottom of the rankings last season, the Oilers have a revamped roster and are in first place in the EHL’s Central Division. Last week, Connecticut ended the Bandits five game win streak.
7) South Shore Kings (5-5-1-1) Last week’s number one team has hit a rough patch. The Kings lost all four games last week. They will look to right the ship this weekend against Long Island’s P.A.L. Islanders. On a bright note, South Shore’s Nolan Vesey continues to lead the USPHL in scoring with 12 points in 12 games.
8) Portland Jr. Pirates (3-5-0-1) PJP broke a six game losing skein Sunday by splitting a weekend series with the Jersey Hitmen. Portland hopes to pick up its second consecutive win Thursday versus the Islanders Hockey Club and will face off in a weekend series with the Connecticut Yankees in the Nutmeg State. The Pirates are currently in seventh place in the USPHL.
9) Connecticut Yankees (3-2-0-0) All three victories have come against Bay State proving this expansion USPHL team can play with the big boys. Twelve players have registered at least one point on the season.
10) Northern Cyclones (2-1-0-0) Year in and year out, the Cyclones have been one of top teams in eastern junior hockey. This season will be no different. This is a club to keep an eye on. It will rise in the EHL standings quickly.
11) Valley Jr. Warriors (3-3-0-0) After being on the wrong side of the score for two consecutive EHL tilts, the Warriors visited the nation’s capital and Pennsylvania and returned home to Massachusetts with two wins. The Warriors look to continue their winning ways this weekend at the Cyclones Showcase in Hudson, New Hampshire.
12) Walpole Express (2-2-1-0) The Express did not play over the weekend and will return to EHL action Friday in the first of three games in three days at the Cyclones Showcase.
13) Hartford Jr. Wolfpack (2-2-0-0) The ‘Pack split a weekend series with the New York Bobcats last week. Hartford is looking to string two wins together soon. Like their EHL Brethren, they will participate in the Cyclones Showcase this weekend.
14) Boston Jr. Rangers (0-4-0-0) The Rangers are an enigma. They have been outscored 22-7 and the goaltenders have seen 180 shots. This team has the skill and talent to have a good season but that will not happen until the compete level rises drastically.