Even a road trip, for an early-afternoon game, on the last day before the holiday break, with the second-leading scorer resting an injury, a point-per-game defenseman away from the team and the top goalie getting a needed breather could not derail the New Hampshire Avalanche.
Playing the Eastern Hockey League’s only game of the week Wednesday afternoon in Vermont, the Avalanche rallied from three deficits, then ultimately pulled out a 5-4 overtime win over the Lumberjacks.
“It was a day before Thanksgiving; the day before a four-day break,” Avalanche coach Chris Cerrella said. “I don’t think we were as mentally sharp as we needed to be. The boys knew that right away.
“We had some key guys missing. That may have been part of it, but we just weren’t as prepared as a team.”
Still, Matt Emster forced overtime on a power-play goal with 1:51 left.
“As all good teams do, they found ways to win,” Cerrella said.
Captain Matt Kassab provided the game-winner at 3:38 of overtime.
“Big player making good things happen,” Cerrella said. “That’s how your team continues to build chemistry. When you get into that adversity part of a game or period or shift, you find ways to battle.”
Cole Archambeault had a goal and two assists in the latest win.
Emster, Michael “Wiggle” Kerbrat and Conor Leach all had a goal and an assist. Kyle Konin made 39 saves.
It was a different formula, but one that kept New Hampshire adding to its North Division lead.
The Avalanche has won 16 straight to improve to 18-2-0-0. Only the Philadelphia Little Flyers have a better record in the EHL at 18-1-1-0.
It was only the second time in the winning streak that the Avalanche allowed four goals in a game. There was one shootout to get through and another overtime win in the streak, but New Hampshire had also had some comfortable wins, including beating its previous three opponents by a total of 28-3.
Forward Jake Adkins, goalie Nathan Pickett and defenseman Niks Krollis missed the Vermont game, but have otherwise been prominent in the streak.
Adkins is a 19-year-old from Centennial, Colorado, who played four games in the North American Hockey League with the Fairbanks Ice Dogs last season. He recently committed to play next season at nationally ranked NCAA Division III program UMass-Boston where he plans to enter the pre-med program.
“The biggest thing with Jake is that he’s not only a great young man, but he’s very dedicated to his teammates,” Cerrella said. “His self-management is fantastic. Even though he’s 19, it’s like he’s 25.
“He takes care of himself off the ice and he works very hard, not only in our strength and conditioning sessions, but in our practices and our skills days. He’s always competing to get better.”
In 19 games, Adkins has 15 goals and 10 assists, leaving him second on the team in scoring behind Kerbrat.
Kerbrat, 19, from Laguna Niguel, California, has 30 points in 20 games.
Krollis, a defenseman, just left to temporarily join the Latvian Under-20 team for world competition.
Kassab, 19, from Stafford, Virginia, is tied with Adkins for second on the team in scoring.
Pickett, a 19-year-old from Auburn, Massachusetts, has been one of the league’s top goalies. He is 9-0 with a league-leading .949 save percentage while ranking second in the EHL in goals-against average.
“He’s got a great compete level,” Cerrella said of Pickett, who has handled most of the team’s action in goal since missing three weeks with a groin injury. “He’s a big kid. He stays square to the puck.
“He’s been nothing but fantastic every time he’s been in the net for us. He’s played all the big games against the top teams. Having a great goaltender is like having a very good starting pitcher or quarterback. It can make you that much better.”
The team statistical leaders have plenty of support as Wednesday’s result proved.
“Everybody’s buying in,” Cerrella said. “We care about the little things, the things that matter that create the big picture.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.