The 2022 East Coast Elite League Fall Classic turned out to be a tale of two divisions as a pair of league newcomers dominated the 18U division while the usual suspects climbed to the top to the 16U pack during the Sept. 23-25 season-opening weekend showcase.
Two exceptional venues, the International Skating Center in Simsbury, Conn., as well as the Mullins Center at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, served as new host sites to kick off the ninth ECEL campaign. These first- class facilities combined to feature 20 games in each division highlighted by several impressive individual performances.
At the 18U level, new league members King’s-Edgehill School of Windsor, Nova Scotia, and the Philadelphia Blazers racked up perfect 4-0-0-0 records while surrendering a mere eight goals combined. The potent King’s-Edgehill offense didn’t net any less than six goals in its four victories, led by forward Kaden Smith’s eight goals and 13 points, which included a three-goal, three assist performance in a dominating win over the guest Islanders Hockey Club. Meanwhile, the Blazers concentrated on locking down the defensive end during its four contests, yielding only two goals against behind a pair of shutout victories by goalies Corey Humberger and Rocco Bruno.
League mainstay Mount Academy more than kept pace with the ECEL’s new 18U powers, posting an identical record while racking up a remarkable plus-25 goal differential. Forward Jesse Gauthier paced the Saints with 10 points, while netminders Adam Lecours and Ethan Clark each posted shutout wins for the Prince Edward Island prep school. Meanwhile, Ontario Hockey Academy’s lone loss during the opening weekend came at the hands of Philadelphia (3-1) on Sunday after tallying three straight victories in which OHA surrendered just a single goal in each.
In 16U action, the Atlanta Fire proved the lone club to emerge from the Fall Classic with an undefeated record. The highlight of the weekend for the Fire was Saturday’s thrilling 2-1 win over Bishop’s School thanks to Sawyer Howe’s game- winning goal late in the second half and a 31-save effort by goaltender Evan Pritchard. Featuring balanced scoring across its forward lines, the Fire were actually led offensively by defenseman Robbie Moddy’s seven points (1 goal, 6 assists).
Mount Academy’s lone 16U opening-weekend loss came against Atlanta (4-2), but Mount currently own the head-to-head tiebreaker for second place with the New York Saints thanks to a 3-0 victory Saturday in which goaltender Riley Brown turned aside all 17 shots he faced. New York also posted a 3-1-0-0 FallClassic record behind a pair of high-scoring 6-5 victories, the second coming in an overtime shootout on Sunday against the offensive-minded Bishop’s School, which posted a division-high 29 goals in four contests.
The 2022-23 ECEL season continues with the annual Holiday Classic showcase Nov. 4-6 in Massachusetts at the Canton Ice House and New England Sports Village in Attleboro. Following the penultimate Winter Classic weekend Jan. 6-8 in Hooksett, N.H., which will be highlighted by the prestigious ECEL All-Star Games at St. Anselm’s College, the league will return to the International Skating Center in Simsbury for its season-ending playoffs weekend on Feb. 10-12.