The Northern Cyclones came back from a 2-0 series deficit and then came back from a 2-0 score deficit in the deciding fifth game to clinch the first championship in the reorganized Eastern Hockey League.
Jeremy Young’s unassisted goal with 8:48 remaining in Game 5 completed the pair of Cyclones comebacks by clinching a 3-2 victory over the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs. Both Northern and New Hampshire, the regular season champion, earned berths in the Toyota-USA Hockey Tier III Junior National Championships, which take place Thursday through Monday in Simsbury, Conn.
The 2012 national champion Monarchs landed a spot at nationals by winning a play-in game over the Boston Junior Rangers, the second-place team from the Metropolitan Junior Hockey League.
The Monarchs opened Game 5 with first-period goals from Eric Berglund and Hunter Laslo, but the Cyclones never slowed down, firing off 53 shots to eventually rally for the win.
Northern’s first goal came from Weston Moon, unassisted at 16:31 of the first period. Young assisted Daniil Kulikov’s game-tying goal at 7:24 of the first period before scoring the series-winner in the third.
SILVER CUP: Chris Amsden made 21 saves on Sunday as the North Iowa Bulls beat the Flint Junior Generals 3-0. The win allowed North Iowa to repeat as North American 3 Hockey League champions. Both teams clinched berths into the Tier III national championships.
North Iowa’s Tim Santopaolo scored the first goal and assisted on the second, scored by Rihards Marenis, in the championship game.
Amsden, forwards Marenis and Matt Kroska and defenseman Ron Lindgren all represented North Iowa on the all-tournament team.
Forward Austin Fletcher and defenseman Ryan Burr were the Flint selections to the all-tournament team.
NATIONAL PAIRINGS: The field is set for the Tier III Junior Nationals.
In Pool A, New Hampshire is joined by the Boston Junior Bruins of the United States Premier Hockey League Premier Division, the Helena Bighorns of the American West Hockey League, and the Marquette Royales of the Minnesota Junior Hockey League.
In Pool B, Flint and Northern join the Springfield Pics of the USPHL Elite Division and the Bellingham Blazers of the Northern Pacific Hockey League.
North Iowa is in Pool C with the USPHL Empire Division’s Florida Junior Blades, the Minnesota League’s Dells Ducks and the Metropolitan Junior Hockey League’s Boston Bandits.
Round-robin play is set for Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The three pool winners and one wild card will participate in Sunday’s semifinals to set up Monday’s final.
PLAYOFF PICTURE: The Amarillo Bulls and Austin Bruins clinched North American Hockey League division titles on the final weekend of the regular season.
Amarillo (40-14-6) won its third straight South Division title when it completed a weekend sweep of the Odessa Jackalopes.
Austin won its second straight Central Division title by taking two weekend games in Bismarck over the Bobcats. Austin’s Nick Lehr stopped 50 of 52 shots to finish as the league leader with 35 wins.
The Kenai River Brown Bears grabbed the last playoff berth in the NAHL’s final game Sunday when the Minnesota Magicians eliminated the Coulee Region Chill with a 7-3 victory.
The NAHL playoffs begin Thursday with Johnstown at the Port Huron Fighting Falcons. None of the other series opens before Friday.
COLLEGE COMMITMENTS: Two United States Hockey League goaltenders recently announced their college commitments.
Jordan Uhelski from the Muskegon Lumberjacks has committed to the University of Alabama-Huntsville for next season. The 20-year-old from Burton, Mich. went 10-8-4 with a 3.70 goals-against average and .890 save percentage.
Ryan Ruck of the Des Moines Buccaneers has committed to Northeastern University. The 19-year-old from Coto de Caza, Calif. is tied for third in the USHL with three shutouts and fifth in save percentage at .918.
Matt Perry, a forward from the NAHL's Bismarck Bobcats, has committed to the Air Force Academy. The 19-year-old from Lakeville, Minn. had seven points in 55 games this season. Perry had a hat trick in the Minnesota high school state championship game in 2013 while leading St. Thomas Academy to the title.
Aberdeen Wings forward Patrick Steinhauser has committed St. Lawrence University. Aberdeen is the third NAHL team for the 20-year-old from Plymouth, Minn., who has 21 points in 92 career games in the league.
Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees scoring leader Ben Greiner committed to Bowling Green University. The 20-year-old from Newport Beach, Calif. had 22 goals and 29 assists in 60 NAHL games.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.