The American Hockey Institute‘s NE Wolves hockey team, based in Waterville Valley, NH, punctuated an outstanding season (41-11-3) by sweeping three games to win the 2013 Academy East Hockey Championship on home ice at the Waterville Valley Ice Arena. Special teams proved to be a catalyst on the weekend as the Wolves went 19 for 19 on the penalty kill and 6 for 15 on the power play over the three games. After earning the number 1 seed by winning the regular season title, the Wolves continued their strong play in the league tournament with wins over Ulysse Prep (Montreal) 2-1, National Sports Academy (Lake Placid) 6-0 and Stanstead College (Stanstead, Quebec) 5-1 in the championship game.
Wolves 5, Stanstead 1. AEHL player of the year Collin Bourque of the Wolves, who scored an astonishing 114 points on the year, was all over the score sheet again in the championship game notching a goal and 3 assists while Matthew Heise (2 goals), Riley Flanagan and Kendall Culbertson (1-2-3 each) also contributed multiple point games to the offense.
The Wolves broke open a tight one goal game by scoring three unanswered goals in the second period for a 4-0 lead at the intermission. A Matthew Heise goal just 29 seconds into the third period provided the champs with an insurmountable lead.
The first period was an up and down high tempo stanza with the strong Stanstead club applying pressure on the forecheck and several quality chances only to be denied by the Wolves AEHL all-star goaltender Joe Cerulo. At the other end, Stanstead goaltender Shawn Ouellet, who was outstanding all weekend, made several strong saves under heavy pressure before a Matthew Heise power play goal from the doorstep at 5:27 gave the Wolves the 1-0 lead. The strong Wolves power play (30% success rate on the year) possessed the puck for a long period before power play quarterback Collin Bourque slid the puck to Riley Flanagan who quickly relayed a hard pass to Heise in front of Oullet. Heise stopped the pass, deked to his back hand and put it home. Kendall Culbertson made it 2-0 with another power play goal 2:09 into the second when he one-timed a hard diagonal Bourque feed past Oullet who didn’t stand a chance on the play. Tord Thoresen picked up the second assist on the play retrieving a loose puck on the half wall and feeding Bourque. Flanagan made it 3-0 at 10:19 after an offensive zone face-off and cycle with Bourque who used his great speed and quickness to evade checkers, circled the net and fed Flanagan who drilled a one-timer to the back of the net. The goal seemed to deflate a tired Stanstead club and the Wolves quickly added to the lead when Culbertson and Flanagan played tic-tac-toe before Bourque ripped a hard snap shot home at 11:30 and the 4-0 lead after two. The Heise goal on the first shift of the 3rd all but ended any Stanstead hope when Nick Wirth and Connor Mauro possessed the puck on the cycle before Heise drilled home a “wrister” and 5-0 lead.
Stanstead would not quit and battled to the end with Cody Bean scoring from Max Harper and Spencer Martin at 17:15 and the 5-1 final. Joe Cerulo stopped 18 of 18 in the net and Jon Bishop stopped 3 of 4 to combine for the win in net.
Wolves 6, NSA 0. In the game to determine who would play for the championship the Wolves used their strong special teams play scoring four power play goals and one short-handed to roll to a 6-0 win over NSA. The NSA club was coming off a heart-breaking loss to Ulysse with two tenths of a second left in overtime and battled hard in the first period as goaltender Keegan McHeary made numerous strong saves before Connor Mauro scored the first of his two goals rifling home a wrist shot from the slot at 14:26. Nick Wirth made the nice feed to Mauro after he and Matthew Heise cycled down low. Heise made it 2-0 on the power play when he collected a feed from Tord Thoresen and slid home a quick “deke” in front at 3:26 of the second. Thoresen played catch with Collin Bourque before sprinting into the slot to score another power play goal at 11:58 and a 3-0 lead. With momentum clearly on the Wolves side early in the third, Connor Mauro used his strong checking game and speed to score a shorthanded goal when he stole the puck at his own blue line and raced down the right side before snapping it home to the far side at 4:59. Riley Flanagan added another power play goal just over two minutes later on a pretty passing play with Culbertson and Bourque, and Heise added his second of the game from Culbertson and Bourque to account for the 6-0 final. Tyler Kirsch posted the shut-out in net stopping 20 NSA shots.
Wolves 2, Ulysse 1. In the opening game of the tournament the Wolves overcame a sluggish start and strong play by Ulysse goaltender Christopher Langlais (30 saves) to prevail 2-1. In typical fashion when two strong teams get together in such an important match-up, the checking was fierce and the Wolves used outstanding defense and goaltending surrendering only 16 shots in the game. Ulysse drew first blood with a hard working goal at 6:51 when Matthew LaPlante took a hard cross slot pass from Mickael Riguette to score before Cerulo could move. Rinquette and Matthew Hinse showed a determined effort on the forecheck applying pressure that resulted in the goal. The Wolves got the spark they needed when Will Humfryes scored “cross-bar down” to tie it 1-1 at 13:50. The goal was the result of hard forecheching from Humfryes and Christian Smith who would not be denied the puck before feeding Humfryes who eluded two defenders for the high-lite reel goal. The Wolves gradually gained territory over the second period only to be turned back by Langlais and the strong defense led by Alex Bilodeau and Vincent Desharnais. The Wolves would finally break through for the eventual game winner when defenseman Andrew Nelson completed a rush and scored glove side after taking a feed from Kendall Culbertson who had combined on the cycle with Riley Flanagan.