With a veteran scorer and young goalie leading the way, the Philadelphia Little Flyers have been steadily gaining on the Eastern Hockey League-leading Philadelphia Revolution.
Although catching up would be an impressive achievement, Little Flyers head coach/general manager George Lewis said it would not be the team’s biggest priority.
“We’re hoping to catch them, but we’re not putting all of our eggs in that basket,” Lewis said. “We just want to keep playing well, keep finding ways to win close games.”
League scoring leader Alex Ochterbeck and Alex Henson, who has won the last two EHL Goalie of the Month and the most recent Goalie of the Week awards, are helping make that possible.
“We just want to keep getting better,” Lewis said. “We want to be gaining as much steam as possible coming into March.
“We want to be ready for that.”
Ochterbeck, a 21-year-old who is the third-oldest player on the roster, was one of the team’s top performers in the playoffs a year ago. Henson, the youngest player on the team, who celebrated his 18th birthday earlier this month, was not even with the Little Flyers until mid-October.
Together, they helped lead the team to an 8-0 December record, a 10-2-1 mark in the last 13 games and a 27-8-1 record on the season. The December streak included handing the Mid-Atlantic Division and overall EHL-leading Revolution one of their three losses on the season, but the Little Flyers were unable to repeat that in their two January meetings.
The Little Flyers got within four points of first place before losing to the Revolution on Tuesday.
Ochterbeck had goals in all eight December games and assists in seven of them. He had 14 goals and 10 assists on the month and has a league record 37 goals and 32 assists in 32 games on the season. Those totals lead the league scoring race by four points over teammate Joey Saval, who has 21 goals and 44 assists.
“He produced last year, not nearly as much as this, but he really started to take off in the playoffs,” Lewis said of Ochterbeck, a Texan who played for the Dallas Stars 18U program before heading to Philadelphia last season. “All the ability was there and he adjusted to the junior game, found his scoring touch and he hasn’t let up this season.
“He does a really good job of catching pucks and getting them right in the top half of the net really quick.”
In addition to leading the EHL in points and total goals, Ochterbeck is also the clear leader in power-play goals (12) and short-handed goals (five).
“He does a great job of getting himself in the right spot,” Lewis said. “… He just has a knack for the net and he can score multiple ways.”
Henson struggled in the EHL before stringing together his award-winning efforts. He did not have a win until November, more than six weeks after the season started.
At the start of the season, Henson was playing for New York Applecore where he was 0-3 with a 5.00 goals against average and facing the possibility of playing time becoming scarcer.
Applecore GM/Head Coach Graham Johnson thought Henson could benefit from a chance to play more and worked out a trade with Lewis and the Little Flyers.
“He was right,” Lewis said.
Henson, from Des Moines, Iowa, dropped his first game with the new team, but has won all 10 starts since.
“Alex is our youngest guy, but you wouldn’t know it by the way he acts,” Lewis said. “He shows up to the rink and works hard every day and he’s been rewarded with some really good efforts.”
Henson is tied for fourth in the EHL with three shutouts and, using just his statistics in a Little Flyers uniform, he would rank second in the EHL in save percentage (.940) and third in goals against average (1.82).
“He just competes and he tracks pucks well,” Lewis said. “He’s a big guy, which obviously helps him, and he moves pucks well.
“For a guy his age, he’s doing a really good job at this level.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.