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Seven of eight favorites advance in Eastern Hockey League playoffs

03/06/2014, 4:15pm MST
By Tom Robinson - Special to

Matt Penta made 48 saves Sunday when the Valley Junior Warriors pulled off the only upset in the first round of Eastern Hockey League playoffs with a 5-2 victory over the Connecticut Oilers.

The higher-seeded team won seven of eight first-round series. Connecticut, the third seed, opened Friday with a 3-1 win at home over Valley, the 14th seed. But Penta made 34 saves in the loss and followed that up with 25 in Saturday’s 4-3 home win to even the series. The Warriors advanced by winning on the road in the deciding game.

Joseph Gilhooly led the New York Bobcats past the Boston Junior Rangers, getting a hat trick by scoring all three goals in Saturday’s 3-1 win, then providing the game-winning goal among his two goals in Sunday’s 5-4 win.

The New Hampshire Junior Monarchs, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights, Northern Cyclones, Hartford Junior Wolfpack, Philadelphia Little Flyers and Boston Bandits also advanced with two-game sweeps.

PLAYOFF ROUNDUP: Peter Mingus scored two special teams goals Tuesday when the West Sound Warriors opened the best-of-five Northern Pacific Hockey League Cascade Cup Finals with a 4-2 win over the Bellingham Blazers. Both teams had won their semifinal series with three-game sweeps.

Mingus opened the scoring 2:59 into the game with a short-handed goal and then put West Sound ahead 2-1 on a power-play goal at 3:43 of the second period. The Warriors held onto the lead after that. Forrest Savel made 42 saves in the win.

Sean Lawrence saved 48 of 49 shots as the Boston Junior Bruins swept the Portland Junior Pirates in two games in the first round of the United States Premier League Premier Division playoffs.

The Jersey Hitmen also advanced with a sweep while the South Shore Kings and Islanders Hockey Club won three-game series.

SCORING STARS: Matt Kroska of the North Iowa Bulls set a North American 3 Hockey League modern day (since 2006) scoring record by increasing his season total to 111 points. The 20-year-old from Elko, Minn. had four goals and three assists in three weekend wins.

“His production and the production of his line is something that I have never seen at this level,” Bulls coach Todd Sanden said in a story on the league website. “He shows so much leadership on a daily basis and, despite all his success and points, Matt still remains hungry and trying to become a better player each day in hopes of earning an NCAA commitment.”

Lane King of the Marquette Royales averaged three points per game on the season to win the Minnesota Junior Hockey League scoring title with 25 goals and 98 assists in 41 games.

MINNESOTA WRAP-UP: The Hudson Crusaders secured the third seed in the Minnesota Division when the Minnesota League wrapped up its season.

The Crusaders had climbed from fourth to third when they beat the Rochester Ice Hawks 7-1 Friday and the second-place Maple Grove Energy 3-2 Saturday. On Sunday the Crusaders became the only team to shut out the division champion Dells Ducks this season when Matt Goedeke made 32 saves in a 3-0 win.

Dells won the Minnesota Division with a 38-6-2-0 record. Marquette went 37-9-0-0 to win the Great Lakes Division.

BOUNCING BACK: Fargo not only broke a 10-game United States Hockey League winless streak, but the Force won three games in a row for its longest winning streak of the season.

Fargo piled up 51 shots in a 4-3 overtime win over the Sioux City Musketeers on Feb. 26. Andrew Zerban scored the overtime game-winning goal and had goals in each of the other wins, giving him a four-game, goal-scoring streak.

COLLEGE COMMITMENT: Mitch Maloney, a forward with the USHL’s Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, has committed to play at Ferris State University. The 19-year-old from Macomb, Mich. has seven goals and seven assists in 20 games since joining the RoughRiders in late December.

ONE-TIMERS: Aberdeen goalie Henry Dill has allowed two goals or fewer in nine straight North American Hockey League games, including stopping 68 of 70 shots in a pair of weekend wins that put the Wings in the Central Division lead. … Hayden Stewart is 7-0 with a 0.72 goals-against average and a .968 save percentage since joining the USHL's Indiana Ice. ... Vince Bartkowiak had two goals and five assists when the Chicago Junior Bulldogs won a pair of games to remain alive in the NA3HL playoff race. … The NA3HL announced the format for its playoffs and Silver Cup Championship, which will bring the four survivors of two rounds of divisional playoffs to Geneva, Ill. March 27-30 for a three-game, round-robin followed by a championship game. … The St. Louis Junior Blues clinched an NA3HL playoff berth with Sunday’s 6-3 win over the Wisconsin Whalers.

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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Sept. 1, 2015 | More than 40,000 spectators, plus a national television audience, watched the Little League World Series this past Sunday on a glorious afternoon in Pennsylvania. There were smiles, cheers, entertainment and the noticeable absence of demand for those 12- and 13-year-olds to pitch from 60 feet, six inches or run 90 feet between the bases like their professional baseball heroes.

Right-sized baseball and softball fields, along with age-appropriate rule modifications, have been accepted wisdom in youth baseball for more than 50 years.

Coincidentally, while Little League was paring to its finalists, U.S. Soccer announced a nationwide initiative to improve youth skill development. The centerpiece was a shift to small-sided game formats and field sizes to be phased in across the country by August 2017. As part of the new plan, American soccer at U6, U7 and U8 will be played 4v4 on a pitch approximately one-eighth the size of an adult soccer field. Nine- and 10-year-olds will play 7v7 on a one-quarter-scale pitch. Not until age 13 will players begin competing 11v11 on a regulation adult-sized pitch.

“Our number one goal is to improve our players down the road, and these initiatives will help us do that,” said Tab Ramos, U.S. Soccer’s youth technical director. “In general, we would like for players to be able to process information faster, and when they are in this (new) environment, they are going to learn to do that. Fast forward 10 years, and there are thousands of game situations added to a player’s development.”

With this change, American soccer will join sports like baseball, basketball, hockey and tennis, all of which have embraced the skill-development benefits of age-appropriate playing dimensions and competition formats (see chart below).

Those benefits are at the core of USA Hockey’s American Development Model, which was recently praised by the Sports Business Journal as a “trailblazing program.”

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