MIDDLETOWN, NJ -- The New Jersey 87’s know how teams coming up to soccer’s Premier League from the EFL Championship feel.
The 87’s, who played this year in the EHL Premier, the developmental tier of the Eastern Hockey League, have moved to the top tier for 2018-19. They will also maintain their developmental team within the EHL Premier for next season.
“It’s just another level of commitment and dedication to your craft,” said Adam Houli, owner and head coach of the 87’s, who operate out of Middletown, N.J. “We’re just really focusing on the hockey side. We believe doing the little things right will lead to success. From game day operations to the on-ice product, that focus has helped us to make the jump to the EHL.”
The 87’s had a fantastic first year of existence, going 33-9-2 overall, and making the EHLP playoffs. They fell to the Philadelphia Revolution in their one playoff game.
Five players from that team are expected to make the jump from last year’s EHL Premier team to the EHL squad this year.
“Those who believed in us and trusted the process, and who came and skated with our players and with the [North American League’s] New Jersey Titans, will now have the chance to be in main camp with the Titans,” added Houli.
The Titans don’t make any promises, but they certainly will be keeping an eye on 87’s players and the opportunity is there to earn a look.
“Players believe in our affiliation with the New Jersey Titans, and with the fact that I and my partners work as scouts for the Titans, the players are excited about being around those Tier-2 guys,” Houli added. “We believe there will be some players at camp for the Titans who can make that team out of the [2018-19] 87’s roster.”
He said that the team is down to looking for “one or two forwards and a defenseman,” but that they have the majority of their first EHL roster in place. They went to Minnesota twice, Missouri and Wisconsin once each and they scouted local Northeast Corridor events, as well.
Along with the EHL, the 87’s EHL Premier team is also essentially in place.
“It has become very contagious to become an 87. Hopefully, we’ll have a young team at the EHL Premier level with players that can move to the EHL in a year or two,” added Houli. “From there, after a full season of EHL, they can get their Tier-1 or Tier-2 junior or NCAA commitments.”