The early part of the Eastern Hockey League season had a familiar feel to Jerry Domish.
That’s a good thing for the Philadelphia Junior Flyers head coach/general manager.
“I’m not saying it’s going to be the same success, but the makeup of this team is like the team I had that won the whole league two years ago,” Domish said. “The reason I say that is that two years ago, we didn’t have the best talent in the league; we had a team that played together and they were tight.
“That’s how this team is.”
That trait shows through and the similarities grow even stronger when the Junior Flyers appear to be in trouble.
“When we were playing the Connecticut RoughRiders [Saturday], we were losing, 4-2, with about eight minutes left and we tied the game and won it in a shootout,” Domish said.
Connor Leighton’s power-play goal with 7:16 remaining started the rally. His shootout goal eventually decided the 5-4 victory.
That was not the first time he had seen such a comeback.
The Vermont Lumberjacks carried a 3-1 lead into the final 13 minutes Oct. 1 only to lose to the Junior Flyers, 5-3, when team scoring leader Michael Houlihan had a goal and an assist in the comeback.
“When we won it two years ago, we were losing in every game of the series of five,” Domish said. “In Game 4, we scored with our goalie pulled and won it in the second overtime. Then, the next day, with 3:31 to go, we scored two goals to tie it.
“So, this team is a lot like that time. They’re pretty resilient. They’re never out of it. They’ll play to the final buzzer.”
The New England Wolves can attest.
New England carried a shutout of the Junior Flyers into the final 13 minutes Sept. 30 before falling 2-1 on an unassisted goal by Houlihan and the game-winner by Joe Platt.
The Wolves scored the game’s first three goals when the teams met again Oct. 15 and led 4-2 after one period. Houlihan had the first two goals of a five-goal second period that lifted the Junior Flyers to a 7-6 victory.
“He’s a very skilled player,” Domish said of Houlihan, who has 13 goals and 11 assists in 12 games after Sunday’s five-goal, one-assist effort in an 11-2 rout of the Lehigh Valley Junior Rebels.
When the Junior Flyers need to chase down an opponent from behind, the play of the solid one-two goaltending punch of Albin Mulic and Tim Carpenter leaves Domish confident that he can adjust his strategies.
“We have what we had that year in net, too,” Domish said. “The two goalies I have right now are very strong. I just alternate them.
“You can get away with making mistakes because they’re going to save you and, when you’re coming back, that’s key. All those comebacks come about because you can take gambles to get back in the game when you have someone who can save you.”
The Junior Flyers are 10-3 to tie for second place in the South Division, which has teams with three of the top five winning percentages in the entire 20-team EHL.
In order to contend for an EHL title, the Junior Flyers first would have to be the best in the Philadelphia area. The 2016-17 EHL Premier title was the result of back-to-back, come-from-behind overtime wins over the Philadelphia Little Flyers.
The Philadelphia Revolution currently lead the league with a 12-1-1 record. The Little Flyers match the Junior Flyers at 10-3.
The three teams are spread around the Philadelphia area, with the Junior Flyers playing out of West Chester, Pennsylvania.
Domish said the rivalry between the programs is not quite the same as on the youth level where players face the same opponent year after year.
The Little Flyers have the most local players on their junior roster, but when players come to the Junior Flyers and Revolution from out of the area, they do learn the Philadelphia games tend to have a little extra intensity.
“These teams are really good down here,” Domish said. “Everybody thinks it’s a Boston thing, but really, it’s going through Philly most of the time.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.