The 16U All-Stars had plenty in the tank, youthful enthusiasm taking over as five of the seven goals scored in the game came in the third period.
Two goals, one from each of the American (wearing white jerseys) and National (wearing red), were scored in the final four minutes of this Instant Classic on the home ice of the NCAA Division 1 Merrimack College Warriors.
The National All-Stars, coached by Noel Rubin (New Jersey Rockets) and Frank Golden (N.H. Jr. Monarchs), went into that third period up 2-0.
In the second period, three New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs players connected for an absolute beauty of tic-tac-toe passing between David Bazile and teammates Ben Muthersbaugh - a day of game lineup addition - and Tyler Anastasi.
That 2-0 National lead score led into the apex of the game - the third period. Josh Girard for the Maine Moose faced down several shots making highlight-worthy saves.
However, his luck couldn’t hold forever. He was surrounded at the net by the Palmyra Black Knights’ Jesse Horacek and Zachary Aben, as well as by the New Jersey Hitmen’s Connor Sedlak. Horacek and Aben both tried, but those were saved by a sprawling Girard, but Sedlak struck paydirt to put Team American on the board.
The highlight goal of the day however, was created when the ‘04 Chris Delaney (Junior Bruins) sent up a pass just over his own blue line to a streaking Yuri Ushakov (CP Dynamo). Ushakov had two full zones of Lawler Arena ice to himself - except for Girard, who he beat with a massive forward-to-backhand deke that was SportsCenter-worthy.
Only 52 seconds later, Bazile went in alone and there was not even need for the penalty shot that would have been called as he was held up. He made a couple dekes and a light tap between the five hole for a 3-2 National lead.
No way was this one over yet, though. The Skipjacks Hockey Club trio of Oliver Frontini, Ryan Gordon and Silas Hughes - all better than point-per-game performers in USPHL league play - combined for a great goal. Hughes made the backhand pass from his knees - facing the boards - to Frontini out Front and it was a 3-3 tie with just over four minutes left.
Less than a minute, Alexander Farmer (N.J. Rockets) scored a gorgeous wrister to seal the deal for Team National, despite a 6-on-4 advantage for Team America at the end.
FRASER, Mich. – The Metro Jets have had tremendous success in recent years with European players coming over and playing for the organization.
Mathias Tellstrom (Sweden) was a top scorer from 2015-17 and Louis Boudon (France) won league MVP honors in 2017 before committing to NCAA Division I Lake Superior State at the start of the 2017-18 season after moving up to the NAHL’s Northeast Generals.
This season, Fredrik Meurling has turned heads with his outstanding play in goal for the Jets, and the 20-year-old Swede is utilizing all the Jets have to offer to finish out his junior eligibility on a high note.
“What makes the Jets such a great place to play is the brotherhood and the environment for developing that the coaching staff creates,” said Meurling, a native of Huddinge. “The fact that we have three coaches that have been working with each other for so long and all have been playing on such a high level, they all know how to get the best out of both an individual and a team. They know how to prepare players for the next level and make sure they are ready both physically and mentally to go there.
“It’s a great place to play and develop as a player and as a person, instead of only a player. That is a big difference compared to a lot of other organizations.”
Jets assistant coach and goaltending coach Randy Wilson has loved what he has seen to this point from Meurling.
“When ‘Q’ (Jets coach-GM Justin Quenneville) informed me back in the spring that we had an import goalie coming in to play for us on the Jets, I was very apprehensive,” admitted Wilson. “My previous experiences with import European players was that of self-centered and high-maintenance players. With Freddy, nothing could be further from reality. He has earned the respect of not only our players but all of the players across the league and of course, our whole coaching staff. He has impressive stature in the net, a very large blocking mass, a solid technical base that is complemented by an extremely competitive game approach.
“He is a gentle giant that plays with the passion of warrior in net. For a goaltender, he has good instincts and reads attack situations very well. He takes pride in his play every time he steps on the ice and battles both in practice and games. I have no doubts that Freddy could easily have played and competed at the NAHL, BCHL or USHL levels and held his own with any of the top goalies in those leagues.”
Making the move to the North American style of hockey was also an adjustment at first for Meurling.
“In Sweden, I was an age-out last year, so I decided I wanted one more year of juniors to have a chance to play college hockey next year, which really isn’t a thing in Sweden,” Meurling explained. “My family advisor has worked with ‘Q’ before and sent players to him, and I read and heard a lot of good things about the organization, so I ended up here and I’m so happy I made the decision to go.
“In general, I think the American hockey on the smaller rink has helped me develop a lot. The close-in battles with a lot of traffic in front helps me develop both my footwork to find pucks and my ability to see the importance of controlling rebounds. To work with Randy every day makes everything so much easier. He definitely has the experience and knows what it takes to get to the next level both as an individual and as a team. He has really improved my game in so many ways, and really is one of the reasons I came to the Jets.”
Away from the rink, Meurling has felt right at home.
“Living in the States has definitely been a change,” Meurling said. “For me, it’s the first time living away from my family so I’m really happy FaceTime is a thing. I am so happy I have a family and two billet brothers (Jake Schmid and Nick Ceccarini) that take care of me every day. We are having a lot of fun at the Schmid house and I really appreciate that we can stay in their home this season.”
“Freddy’s character off the ice is nothing short of a pro,” added Quenneville. “On the ice, he is an elite hockey player. His hockey IQ, skill set and size make him a valuable player at any level. Randy has done a great job with his game and the sky is the limit for Freddy from here.”
Playing as a goalie tandem this season with fellow 1998 birth year Brian Tallieu has been a major boost to Meurling’s game as well.
“’Tally’ has for sure been a big role model for me,” said Meurling. “He is in his third year here and you can really tell. The way he leads by example and his role as one of the leaders in the group is really something to take after. To compete with him every day helps me a lot and our ability to make each other better every day has worked out really well for us this season.”
With the final six weeks of the season on the horizon, Meurling wants to keep playing well and picking up wins for the Jets.
“Last year, the team obviously won the national championship, and with this group of guys, I would really love to share that experience,” Meurling said. “Everything you have heard about it from the returners sounds so awesome, and to share it with this group of guys would be a perfect way to end my junior career. Other than that, I’m of course trying to make college a real thing for me to next year. That was why I came here and that is my main personal goal for this year.
“For long-term goals, I like to not take it too far. I’m trying to focus on this season right now and making my chances to find the right college for me as high as possible. College is going to be a four-year thing and it’s hard for me to think further than that right now.”
Wilson feels college may only be the start to where Meurling can go.
“I believe that pro hockey is in the future for this young man,” said Wilson. “I am really curious to follow how far he actually makes it up the pro ladder.”
The USPHL 18U All-Star game was a big draw for scouts and fans alike.
This was despite weekend when there was a wonder if anyone - players, coaches or fans - could make it through a massive storm followed by single-digit temperatures. But the railing above the rink at Gallant Arena at Merrimack College was full, and several onlookers stood at the glass as the league’s top 18U players squared off.
In the end, the National All-Stars in red jerseys picked up the victory. The National team was selected by Skipjacks Hockey Club head coach Jason Kersner and Islanders Hockey Club head coach Tim Pelletier, and coached by Kersner to a 7-5 victory.
The Boston Junior Bruins’ Salvatore Caterina sent a hard shot from almost exactly at the American blue line that found its way through for the first goal just 5:31 in. The Islanders Hockey Club’s Zach Diamont assisted.
A turnover by Team National at the blue line was picked up by the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders’ Anthony Bernardo and sent across to Islanders teammate Jake Lanyi for the first American goal 9:43 into the period.
A flurry of first period goals followed from there. The first of three came off a pretty passing play completed by the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs’ Emanuel Sanchez, assisted by the Junior Bruins’ Ian Carpentier and Merrimack commit Nolan Barrett (Skipjacks Hockey Club).
Roughly four minutes later, it was Carpentier from Sanchez, on a 2-on-1 with 1:41 remaing.
But the All-Stars weren’t done. This first period was way too much fun to just walk away from. The New Jersey Hitmen’s T.J. Schweighardt, the leading scorer among defensemen and overall for his team, surgically inserted the puck in a space about the size of maybe three pucks over the shoulder of UMass-Lowell commit Aidan Harper (Skipjacks) with 8.8 seconds remaining. When the snow had settled, the score was 3-2 heading into the second. Coincidentally, it was also 3-2 when the third period began, thanks to Team National goalie Oliver Quinn (N.H. Jr. Monarchs), with 16 saves on 16 shots, and Team American goalie David Battisti (Rochester Jr. Monarchs), who stopped all seven shots he faced.
The third period put the scorekeeper back to work on the goals and assists front, with one apiece from each team.
Ben Peterson (Northern Cyclones) worked his way in with a majestic individual effort to put home the eventual GWG for Team National in the 4-3 win.
Team American did not give up, though, working hard to build off their third goal and Lanyi’s second at the 8:55 mark, but Team National and its goalie Jake Perrin (Islanders Hockey Club, 14 saves) held on for the win.