By Joshua Boyd
The Connecticut Oilers 18U team faced its toughest test of the season over the Oct. 4-5 weekend.
The Oilers took a lot away from the two loses that weekend against CP Dynamo. Despite the defeats, the Oilers are still far and away the best performer in total points in the Eastern Junior Elite Prospects League 18U Division. They hold a record of 7-3 and were 7-1 in their Atlantic/South Division.
“We have beaten the teams we are supposed to beat, which says something, but we need to take it to the next level in terms of competing with some of the top under-18 teams in the country,” said Oilers head coach Chris Myhro. “The team has a lot of personality and a good mix of kids from different backgrounds. It’s a fun group to coach.”
The Oilers, who started their EJEPL season back on Aug. 23, went 5-1 before August even ended. Since then, they went 2-2, beating the Long Island Arrows twice before CP Dynamo spoiled the party.
“We’re focusing on being committed to the little things that might not be flashy but win hockey games,” said Myhro. “Handling a rimmed puck or a pass not so perfect on the wall, taking a hit to make the play, working without the puck to be available, taking smart routes and really taking care of the puck.”
He also stressed making several short passes for a scoring chance.
“Not that I don’t like a long stretch pass for a breakaway, but if you make a bunch of good little plays it adds up, and it’s fun,” said Myhro. “I like to see the puck move.”
And, boy, does Kevin Robinson make the puck move. The ’96 racked up 12 goals and nine assists in his 10 games to lead the Oilers and the EJEPL overall.
“He has a gift around the net. His spatial awareness in a 5-foot circle around him is exceptional,” said Myhro. “When you think he has no room cutting hard to the net, he finds some. When he gets his chances he makes the most of them.”
Myhro expects Robinson to see some time with the Oilers’ top team in the Eastern Hockey League this season. “Next year, I think he will be a steady top forward for [the EHL Oilers],” he added.
Robinson had a six-point lead in the league scoring race over teammate and fellow ’96 Jack Mendillo, who had 10 goals and 15 points in his 10 games.
“Jack has a wicked wrister. He can really zip it. It’s fun to watch him shoot, and he is strong on his skates and protects the puck well,” said Myhro.
He also praised team captain ’96 Justin Brown, who plays with “a big heart” and has six points in 10 games.
“The sacrifice he shows for the team on the ice has been tremendous and we really appreciate having him lead us in the right direction, by example,” said Myhro.
Myhro was also very impressed with his defensive corps and what they each bring to the table.
Giancarlo Pochintesta’s off-season work has especially paid off, while Brian Taccone’s puck control is a telltale sign of his roots as a forward, making the transition to D.
Kevin Love is back to full stride after battling back from a lower body injury, Craig Hessenius has a strong shot, Ryan Palmers has a “huge” physical presence, and Eamman McMillon stands at 6-feet-4-inches and has good size and puck control.
Adam Karashik, a ’98, is also turning heads early on.
“He has excellent vision, very good lateral, forward, and backward skating and he protects the puck well,” said Myhro. “He is a young prospect in the area that has great potential.”
In goal, Justin Lampert (’98) put up four shutouts and was “a huge reason” that the Oilers tied Team Illinois.
“He’s the type that can rise to the occasion – what you’d call a ‘gamer,’” said Myhro.
The Oilers are back in EJEPL action next weekend at their home SoNo Ice House in Norwalk, Conn., against the Phantoms Youth squad of Bethlehem, Pa.
Read past Eastern Junior Elite Prospects League articles in our archives: