By Neil Ravin
EHL Director of Public Relations and Social Media
As we move our way through the fifth season of the Eastern Hockey League (EHL), the data has once again been collected for this year’s freshmen class at the NCAA Division 2 and 3 collegiate levels.
For the third season in a row, the EHL continues to lead the way in Division 2 and 3 placements among USA Hockey-sanctioned junior leagues.
Nearly one in every five NCAA Division 2 and 3 freshmen this season previously played in the EHL’s 2016-17 season.
The EHL alone had 148 alumni making their NCAA Division 2 and Division 3 debuts this season, which equals out to 19.60 percent. When you include the four alumni from the Eastern Hockey League Premier (EHLP), the developmental division of the EHL, that percentage rises above 20 percent.
The EHL’s percentage was over 6 percent higher than its nearest junior hockey competitors (99, 13.11 percent), as well as more than eight percent higher than U.S. prep and high schools (85, 11.26 percent). The EHL’s percentage is also much higher than any Canadian league.
“I give a lot of the credit to our coaches,” said Mark Kumpel, the EHL’s Director of Hockey Operations, and a former NHL player. “They’ve built a very strong network amongst the Division 2 and 3 schools, and it shows in our commitment numbers every season.
“It’s also important to note that our players aren’t just filling these rosters, but rather, they’re having strong impacts on the success in these programs,” Kumpel added. “We’ve had over 25 alumni compete in the previous two Division 3 Frozen Fours, and we even had one alumni score the game-winning goal in the National Championship game.”
The Main Goal
While the junior hockey landscape is ever changing, it appears that the relationships amongst the EHL teams and the college programs are only getting stronger.
Combined between this year’s EHL showcases, the league has seen over 60 different programs and organizations in attendance, all with the hopes of landing an EHL player.
Every program is different from the rest, but they all have a similar outlook on the EHL.
“The EHL has done a tremendous job in preparing their players for the next level,” said Plymouth State head coach Craig Russell. “The league is competitive and provides a strong development model with the quality coaching throughout the EHL. All of the players that have come to PSU from the EHL have been ready to compete the first day they set foot on campus.”
“We’ve been recruiting players from the EHL ever since the league formed,” said Utica head coach Gary Heenan. “From All-Americans, to the Player of the Year and the Rookie of the Year, we’ve found them all in the EHL.”
“College hockey is a highly competitive environment with very small margins,” said Colby College assistant coach Chris Hall. “College coaches are looking for players who can contribute to their lineups with good skating ability, hockey sense, and work ethic.
“The EHL prepares its players for college with great coaching and player development as well as a competitive, hard-working style of play,” Hall added. “As a recruiter, you know an EHL alum is going to bring a competitiveness and love for hockey to your locker room.”
UMass-Boston head coach Peter Belisle is certainly happy with the productivity of recruiting from the EHL.
“Looking at our 100-point banner, two of those players came from the EHL family,” said Belisle. “Eric Tufman from the Philadelphia Little Flyers and Travis Daniel from the New Jersey Rockets – both players were huge for us. Also, Tim Richter, who played for [New Hampshire Avalanche head coach Chris] Cerrella, showed the most perseverance I have ever coached. The EHL is a very good college development league and their coaches do a great job promoting their players.”
Team EHL vs. UMass-Boston
Looking closer at the UMass-Boston program, and the EHL is still very thankful of the opportunity the Beacons presented them with earlier this season. On Oct. 21,Team EHL took on the Beacons in the first ever exhibition matchup between the league and an NCAA program.
Led in large part by a stellar goaltending performance from the duo of Nolan Egbert (Boston Jr. Rangers) and Mike Paglucca (New Hampshire Avalanche), the EHL lost that afternoon by the score of 3-2.
The tandem however, combined for 56 saves, and paved the way to truly show the readiness of the EHL players. We would also be remiss to not mention the point totals for the Beacons, as six different players tallied nine total points for UMass-Boston, with EHL alums accounting for five of those points.
It was a great day for the EHL.
“The experience of playing UMass-Boston was second to none,” said Mark Kumpel. “Coach Belisle and Coach Schneider were so gracious in the opportunity, and I know our players took full advantage of it. It wasn’t about whether we won or how much we lost by that afternoon. It was all about skating with them. Our group of young men did just that, and have helped us gain interest from other NCAA programs to schedule similar exhibition games in the future.”
With this year’s NCAA commitments beginning to pile up, the EHL continues to provide a path to a whole list of different programs across the country.
Each season, the players make decisions on over 50 different schools across the country, ensuring that each player finds the perfect fit for themselves.
“There’s a lot to like about the league and the collective commitment to developing players for bigger and better things,” said Mike Santos, the EHL’s Executive Director. “Having my first full off-season under my belt helped to allow me to really evaluate all of the different programs in our league. From Pennsylvania to New Hampshire, and the EHL Premier up to the EHL, we are led strongly by the dedicated coaches and owners that make this league truly special.
“It’s my plan to continue to accentuate all that’s great about the league, as we grow our brand within USA Hockey.”
The EHL welcomed in a handful of new programs at both the top level and the EHL Premier level this season. From the New Hampshire Avalanche to the Total Athletics Seahawks in the EHL, to the New Jersey 87s and New Jersey Renegades in the EHLP, the league has taken these programs and five others under its wings.
Of the nine new organizations (combined between the EHL and EHLP), five of them are in line for playoff berths.
That’s not the most important piece though, as each of these programs has truly helped in the development of its players. From player call-ups, to early NCAA commitments, this group has blended in nicely with the strong core that the EHL already had in place.
The plan now is to simply continue to build, and continue to see the numbers rise, as the EHL closes in on NCAA commitment number 700.
It’s another year with the EHL on top, and we know that every story is different, but we’re more than ready to help you write the next chapter in yours.