LACONIA, NH -- The New England Wolves are in their 5thseason in the Eastern Hockey League (EHL) and their 4thseason in the Eastern Hockey League Premier (EHLP). With each new campaign, the program has made forward strides from the previous year. The team now plays out of the Merrill Fay Arena in Laconia, New Hampshire, and the bond they’ve formed with their local community is unmatched across the league. This was proven true by the Wolves taking home the Humanitarians of the Year Award in both the EHL and the EHLP this past season, an honor voted on by the all the coaches in each division.
“We are the smallest organization and the most geographically remote program in the league,” said Andrew Trimble. “Our community opens its doors to our athletes, who come from all over the world. We pay it forward by having a dedicated community service program within our team culture. Our athletes coach our Learn to Skate program, help with community projects, and do huge fundraisers throughout the season, and it is all part of the Wolves identity.”
Trimble serves as the General Manager for the entire organization, and is also the Head Coach of the EHLP team. Trimble played in a big role in moving the team from Waterville Valley to Laconia, and his overall influence on the program has been beyond critical to the progress they’ve made.
At the top of the list of elements Trimble has brought to the program is a weekly structure that keeps the players focused and following a strong routine. The key cog behind this weekly structure is Tim Kunes, the Head Coach of the Wolves’ EHL team. The former National Champion at Boston College has pushed the Wolves to pride themselves on their ‘Den of Development’, which focuses on 2 ice sessions per day, and that includes specific practices for each respective position. Whether you’re a forward, defenseman, or goaltender, the program offers you a chance to develop all the different aspects of your game. Off the ice, the work doesn’t stop, as the Wolves stress finishing a different workout every day.
“Changing our development model has made a big impact, and it’s very different from more traditional junior programs,” said Trimble. “Moreover, it extends to our entire program from our youngest team (U14) to our oldest (U20). We take a quality over quantity approach, as we field 1 team at each respective level -- U14, U16 split-season, U18 split-season, U19 EHLP and U20 EHL. Our junior coaching staff, and especially Tim [Kunes], is active with each team at each level. The more ice time and the more video time we can provide, the better the workouts become off the ice as well. With each step we can, we continue to build and get better."
Of course when it comes to hockey, the work put in outside of games is critical, regardless of if it takes place on or off the ice. At the end of the day however, everyone knows that you are ultimately judged by your wins and losses, and this is another area where the Wolves continue to improve with each and every season.
Heading into the month December, the Wolves find themselves right in the thick of things in the New England Conference of the EHL division. On the flip side, the program is also ranked as 1 of the top 5 teams in the EHLP. It’s a marathon and not a sprint, and Trimble knows that there is still lots of work between now and March.
“The EHL team had an undefeated opening weekend (2-0-0), for the first time in the program’s history,” added Trimble. “The team is getting stronger as they approach the midpoint of the season, and it’s clear that the playoffs and Frozen Finals are on our mind. Ultimately our staff knows what the main focus is, and that’s getting these athletes to the next level in their careers and both Coach Kunes and I feel we have some players ready for Tier II junior hockey, and many ready to make an immediate impact in NCAA hockey. On the other end, we had a lot of turnover with just 1 player returning at the EHLP level. My goal for this team going into the season was to have a team similar to our group that we had in 2016-17 season. That team was only a period or two away from the EHLP Finals, and had players like Blake Harlow who are perfect examples of our ladder of development. Moving from our EHLP team, to EHL level, and onto NCAA hockey from there. That’s what it’s all about.”
As Trimble mentioned, the program has developed individuals like Blake Harlow that have stuck with, and believed in the process. Harlow spent 1 season in the EHLP, 1 season in the EHL, and now he’s in his freshmen season at UMass Dartmouth. The Wolves feel they have more players like Harlow in their organization right now, at both the EHL and EHLP levels.
“Our import crop this year is exceptional, without question,” concluded Trimble. “Sam Russell competed in the U18 World Championships for the United Kingdom last year, and Daniels Leja is gearing up to play for his native land of Latvia later this month. Dominiks Marcinkevics had a point in each All-Star Game for Team EHL, and Herberts Zeibots is turning heads at the EHLP level. I truly think our geographic location surrounded by lakes, mountains, and a small community, makes a big difference in attracting these athletes. Being a Wolves player is a complete and unique experience, and we strive to provide our players with a program unlike any other in junior hockey.”
Both junior teams have 5 games on their respective schedules during the month of December, as the organization looks to hit the holiday break with some momentum in each division. Learn more about what the Wolves have to offer at ne-wolveshockey.com.
Dominiks Marcinkevics ('01) is one of the youngest players in the EHL, but he's showing no signs of youth, with 30 points in his first 22 games.