OHA secures both top playoff seeds
18U Mavericks complete perfect regular season; Elkin, White earn All-Star honors
By Kevin Conway
HUDSON, N.H. – The 2024 East Coast Elite League Winter Classic provided the setting for the completion of an historic regular-season run in the 18U division following the conclusion a pair of highly entertaining—yet played under completely different styles—annual league All-Star Games.
While Ontario Hockey Academy captured first place and the No. 1 overall seed for the Feb. 9-11 ECEL playoff tournament in the both the 18U and 16U divisions, the elder Mavericks capped off a rare, unblemished 12-0-0-0 season, posting four
more convincing victories during the Winter Classic.
OHA registered two more 18U shutout victories as well for an impressive total of seven during the regular season. A third Mavericks starting goaltender, Josh Aresenault (1.25 goals-against average, .946 save percentage), played every minute during the third showcase weekend of the year, blanking the guest New
Hampshire Monarchs (2-0) and league foe Tomorrow’s Ice (6-0) behind a combined 55 saves.
Meanwhile, at the opposite end, the Mavericks outscored their four Winter Classic opponents, 22-5, to extend their ECEL goal differential for the season to an eye-popping plus-54 (63 goals for, 9 goals against), giving them an average margin of victory of 4.5 goals. OHA forward Theo Abercrombie notched at least a point in each game over the weekend, including a hat trick and assist against the guest
Maine Hockey Academy, to raise his season totals to 9-8—17, equaling the points output of fellow OHA forward Thorvald Naess (7-10—17). The Mavericks duo is tied atop the division points rankings with New York Saints forward Nicholas Feeley, who also leads the entire league with 14 goals, and Cyclones forward Brady Stevens.
Prior to OHA’s final four regular-season contests, Abercrombie also netted a pair of goals to go along with an assist for the 18U ECEL White All-Star squad in its 9-4 victory over the 18U ECEL Navy club on Friday.
In the wide-open 16U division, despite a surprising 5-0 loss to the second-place Northern Cyclones on Saturday, Ontario Hockey Academy held on to the top spot in the standings with a 8-4-0-1 overall record, two points in front of the Cyclones, thanks to a pair of hard-fought victories. Meanwhile, the third-place Atlanta Fire built a 5-1 lead in their weekend finale against the Cyclones midway through Sunday’s second half and held off a late charge from the second-place club to let it be known they will be a force to be reckoned with come the playoffs. The same can be said about 16U fourth-place Tomorrow’s Ice, who posted three victories during the Winter Classic, including a 5-4 come-from-behind shootout win over Atlanta on Saturday. In the meantime, during the special 14U round-robin event, the Atlanta Fire registered three straight resounding victories after falling in their Winter Classic opener Friday to the New Hampshire Avalanche to earn first place with a 3-1-0-0 mark, outscoring their opponents by a staggering 23-6 margin.
With the 18U and 16U postseason seedings now set, the 2023-24 East Coast Elite League season will conclude in Simsbury, Conn., at the International Skating Center of Connecticut during the league’s 10 th annual playoff tournament weekend.
ALL-STARS SHINE BRIGHT IN HOOKSETT
The ECEL Winter Classic kicked off Friday morning when the puck dropped for the seventh annual 16U and 18U league All-Star Games at Tri-Town Arena. And the manner of play of the two contests couldn’t have been more different.
During the 16U opener, both the Navy and White squads squared off in a calculated contest, playing predominantly conservative hockey while waiting to convert strictly when opportunities presented themselves. However, in the 18U
nightcap, the game transformed into a wide-open, stretch-pass scoring-fest with defense, for the most part, taking a back seat to highlight-reel attempt offensive hockey.
Tied 1-1 at halftime, the 16U White squad established a 3-1 lead with 8:04 remaining in regulation on goals just 38 seconds apart from OHA forward Ariel Elkin and Cyclones forward Carter Cahoon. Navy forward Harrison O’Connor
(OHA) managed to again tie the score at 3-3 just 1:10 later for his second point of the morning. Just as the contest seemed destined for overtime, Atlanta forward Zach Iannone set up Elkin for the clinching goal with just 1:03 remaining, which earned the Israeli native Play of the Game honors. Goaltenders Sasha Bravo (OHA) and Milo Prichinsky (Atlanta) both turned aside 13 shots during their 25-minute stints in the crease.
At 18U, the scoring started early and often for the White club, which built a 6-2 lead by halftime on the strength of two goals and two assists from OHA forward Louie White. The British native netted another goal in the second half for his fifth point of the game, completing the hat trick and securing the Player of the Game
award in the 9-4 victory.
The ECEL White squad generated a whopping 55 shots with Navy goaltender Tyler Riche (Northern Cyclones) denying 29 of 32 he faced in the second half. The Navy
offense was paced by OHA forward Jeremy Deschambault-Perron with a goal and assist.