USA Junior Hockey Magazine — January 2013
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Florida Jr. Blades/Suffolk Juniors/Palm Beach Hawks
Joshua Boyd

Jr. Blades send five to All-Star Weekend

Five Florida Jr. Blades players, along with head coach tad o’had, will represent the Southern Conference at this year’s Empire Junior League All-Star weekend.

The EmJHL All-Star game will take place in Hooksett, N.H., over the Jan. 20- 21 weekend. The weekend will feature talent from across the Empire League combining to showcase the top athletes.

Junior Blades head coach and general manager tad o’had was selected to coach the Southern Conference team. This is the second consecutive year that O’Had has had the honor.

“It’s very special to me to be selected to coach the South team,” said O’Had. “I take great pride in hockey in the South. I get to share [this honor] with five deserving players.”

Representing the Jr. Blades will be forwards Joshua Koerner, troy degler and Chaise howard. Koerner is having a standout season, leading the Empire League in goals (33) and total points (52). He was an All-Star last season, as well.

“Koerner is a tremendous captain and shoulders the responsibility for much of the Jr. Blades,” said O’Had. “In my opinion, he is not only the best player in the league, he is one of the finest young men I will ever coach.

“I’ve watched [first-time All-Stars] Degler and Howard develop over the last three seasons and I like what I see,” said O’Had. “Troy is a player that makes you get out of your seat. He possesses the puck better then any single player in the league.”

A linemate of Koerner and Degler, Howard has had his own standout season.

“Howard has really taken off this year,” said O’Had. “His speed, strength and power have allowed him to open up his scoring touch and be one of the best in the league.”

On defense, the Jr. Blades will send Matt Benolkin. A true two-way defenseman, Benolkin has been a staple of the Jr. Blades defense this season.

“[Benolkin]’s professionalism and ability to make a smart play has elevated his own game and that of his teammates,” said assistant coach todd Pococke. “Benolkin is one of the finest defensemen in the league. I look forward to seeing his success at the collegiate level.”

Rookie sensation Jake Carter will man the pipes for the South team. Carter is ranked in the top 10 for goaltenders in the Empire League, allowing only 34 goals on 443 shots.

“Carter’s size, athleticism and ability to stop pucks is unmatched,” said O’Had. “He has incredible talent and brings a great deal of levity to the dressing room.”

Jr. Blades alternate captains dan thompson and Jon davidson were selected as alternates for the competition.

Tough month of conference play for Juniors By Charles natalello

The Suffolk Juniors had a chance to make moves in the Western Conference standings in the month of December but could not take advantage of their easiest stretch of games against conference opponents.

Suffolk was only able to grab six out of a potential 14 points going 3-4-0 and getting shut out twice during that span of games.

The month of December did not start as planned for the Juniors. They went through their longest losing streak of the season at three games. However, they rebounded to finish the stretch on a high note, defeating the Jersey Wildcats, 6-5.

It wasn’t pretty as they let a four-goal lead slip away but survived for what could be their biggest win of the season. The team lacked consistency through December both offensively and defensively, despite outshooting the opposition 323-248. The Juniors could only find the back of the net 19 times while surrendering 33 goals against their opponents.

The Juniors need to learn how to play a complete 60-minute hockey game if they want to compete with some of the best teams in the league. The coaching staff has done a solid job through the first half of the season as the team continues to find the recipe to success.

Suffolk has the toughest schedule in the league and currently ranks eighth in the KRACH rankings system with their 14-10-0-1 record for a total of 29 points in 25 games.

The youngest team in the league has lived up to the expectations thus far in its first season in the Empire Junior Hockey League with captain Mike Leone and winger Chris seeback leading the way offensively.

Defenseman Michael gilroy and goaltender daniel Potter will have the honor of representing the Suffolk Juniors on team Western Conference in the 2013 All-Star Game.

The emergence of nicholas Mangone has been a breath of fresh air to the team as he has eight goals in 17 games and has not relinquished his spot in the line-up.

His biggest moment of the season was his game-winning goal against the Philadelphia Revolution to snap Philly’s six-game winning streak at the time. Suffolk has 15 games remaining in the season, each game being very important for them.

The Juniors have to gain at least 20 out of the 30 points up for grabs to clinch their first ever trip to the Empire playoffs.

Hawks get in front of scouts at showcase

It’s not too hard to convince people – even college hockey coaches – to come down to Florida as fall is turning to winter.

No less than a dozen NCAA Division 3 and American College Hockey Association (ACHA) coaches were on site at the Saveology Ice Plex in Coral Springs, Fla., for the EJHL South’s Holiday Showcase.

The Hawks went 2-1-0-1, defeating the Atlanta Jr. Knights and Hampton Roads Whalers, losing to the Potomac Patriots in a shootout and finished with a one-goal loss to the East Coast Eagles.

“We had a pretty solid EJHL South showcase weekend. We beat the top two teams,” said Hawks head coach tim Kyrkostas. “We have a number of players that are being recruited to the NCAA Division 3 ranks. The league did a great job bringing in Division 3 and ACHA coaches to watch and evaluate our players.”

The Division 3 schools represented in Coral Springs were Buffalo State, Franklin Pierce, Nichols, Southern New Hampshire, St. Mary’s, St. Michael’s, SUNY-Canton, Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Western New England College, Westfield State and Worcester State. Long Island University (ACHA) was also in attendance.

“We have a number of players on all of our teams that are going to be solid collegiate hockey players,” said Kyrkostas. “Once these players start to commit, I believe our league is going to gain some legitimate credibility within the game in regards its being a legitimate league that does a great job of promoting and developing their players for the NCAA game.”

The centers have all had standout performances for the Hawks. C.J. hoy, dennis allingmon, Bryan Kubota and Joe douba combined for 35 points (30 by Hoy and Allingmon) this season.

They’ll get more good looks from scouts at the EJHL Winter Showcase in Marlboro, Mass., from Jan. 4-6. In that showcase, they’ll face the New Jersey Hitmen (Eastern Junior League), Washington Jr. Nationals (Atlantic Junior League) and Bridgton Academy (New England prep school).

“The Hawks’ Empire team is making some solid gains,” added Kyrkostas. “They are getting solid leadership from Joey Lambert and Marshall Edmundson. They are doing a great job battling and leading by example game after game.”

The Empire team will also be in Marlboro, playing Eastern Conference teams Springfield and Bay State and Western Conference teams Frederick and Suffolk.