Regardless of the sport and regardless of the level, every season always has a “feature” event that takes place in the middle of the year.
Whether it’s an All-Star Game, a Skills Competition, or both, all leagues add the event or events to their schedule at the start of each season.
For the Eastern Hockey League, our feature events have changed from year to year.
In the history of the league, we’ve had a non-commit game, a true All-Star Game, and a matchup against all of the top club hockey players from across the country.
This season we did something totally different, and we checked it off the list very early on. A total of 20 EHL All-Stars hit the ice with the NCAA Division 3 UMass-Boston Beacons on Oct. 21.
“This was an excellent opportunity for our league,” said Mark Kumpel, the EHL’s Director of Hockey Operations.
“The Beacons have always recruited strongly from the EHL, so this gave our players a great chance to see where they need to get to in order to play at the next level.”
While the Beacons undoubtedly controlled the play at moments in the game, the EHL All-Stars hung tough throughout the entire contest. Led by Nolan Egbert (Boston Jr. Rangers) and Mike Paglucca (New Hampshire Avalanche) between the pipes, Team EHL lost by the score of 3-2, despite getting outshot 59-14.
Egbert and Paglucca stood on their heads as they combined for 56 saves, keeping their team in the hockey game.
On offense, Jake Fuss (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights) and Nick Grinvalds (Boston Jr. Rangers) tallied the goals for Team EHL.
In meeting with the team after, they all felt very proud of the way they played, especially the goaltenders. The goals and aspirations of all of our players are centered towards reaching the other side of the ice, which is college hockey.
To play a team like UMass-Boston, the EHL All-Stars got a great taste of what the next level feels like. Whether it was the speed or the physicality, all the players got to see where they have to get to if they want to achieve their goals.
For the EHL, the matchup and the result was a huge step towards potentially establishing something bigger next season. This was the first time that an EHL team has ever taken on an NCAA program. Hopefully, it is not the last.
The plan now is to present our case to more schools. We do this in the hopes of establishing an “All-Star Series” next season.
Ideally, we can then pick a larger number of players. That will allow more guys to get the experience of facing a college team.
The opponents are far from determined at this time. However, the idea of a weekend against two or three different NCAA programs would be great for the Eastern Hockey League.
With the All-Star Game now done and in the rearview mirror, the focus shifts back to the remaining five months in the EHL season. For some teams, it may only be four months, but the push for the playoffs has officially started.
Every point is crucial the rest of the way.
As always, stay up to date with all things EHL at easternhockeyleague.org, or by searching the #EShow on social media.
Top photo caption: The Eastern Hockey League All-Stars line up for the National Anthem before their game against UMass-Boston on Oct. 21. Photo by Snapshot Photography
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