With players ranging all eligible birth years for junior hockey this year – from 1997 on to 2001 – the 2017 New England Wolves are beginning to make noise in the Eastern Hockey League.
By Joshua Boyd
By mid-October, their record of 3-7-1 might not have scared too many opponents, but a step in the right direction was a win over the defending (albeit struggling) champion Philadelphia Junior Flyers.
This year’s Wolves team is almost completely different from the 2016-17 edition, with a whole new coaching staff. Last year’s 19U Elite Wolves head coach Andrew Trimble was promoted to become head coach of the top squad. He hired former Boston College and European pro player Tim Kunes as his assistant and the new EHL Premier head coach.
“We’ve had a lot of turnover, and we got a younger and more skilled team,” said Trimble.
The Wolves feature Declan House, a defenseman with a May 2001 birth date making him the youngest player in the EHL. House is joined by a pair of 2000s and four ’99’s helping to make up the Wolves roster. The Wolves’ roster has a majority of its players holding ’98 birth certificates.
“Being so young, we knew we’d get some growing pains,” said Trimble. “But we are really confident with this group.”
The Wolves sent D.J. Schwenke, a ’99 from Colorado Springs, Colo., to the EHL All-Stars vs. UMass-Boston exhibition game on Oct. 21. Schwenke, who played in the Tier-1 Elite Hockey League with the Colorado Rampage last year, led the Wolves at that point with 12 points in 11 games.
“He has a high skill threshold,” said Trimble. “He was the youngest person on that All-Star roster. That will really be an eye-opening experience for how physical that level can be. He’ll see how you need to combine skill with the grit he’ll need to excel at that level. He has top-line ability with fourth-line work ethic.”
Matt Needleman is another former 18U AAA level player who has been paired with Schwenke all year as his consistent center. Needleman was second in scoring with nine points.
On defense, the team is leaning on a pair of ’97’s in Roger Powers and Colton Egge, along with ’98 Aleck Forcier, last year’s EHL 19U Elite Defenseman of the Year.
“Coach Kunes and I divide our week with a progressive mentality. We start off with skills, and then moving on to battles and details,” said Trimble. “Given that the team is young, there’s nothing necessarily we want to change right now. We look to just keep building.”
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