Hitmen 16U Premier Start Year with Solid Weekend
It only took the 16U Premier team 34 seconds to score their first goal of the season on route to a 10-3 win over the IHC Prep Team. Connor Sedlak scored off a beautiful deflection from Will Fortescue and the Hitmen never looked back. Dmitriy Ignatov, Matt Esquerre and Arthur Tsimerman each added two goals to pace the Hitmen to their first victory of the season. Eric Dunn, Devon Kelly and Ty Ebeling also tallied goals in the win.
In their second game of the weekend the Jersey Hitmen lost in a shootout to the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs despite holding a 34-20 shot advantage. Aidan Garabed tied the game up early in the second and after the Hitmen fell down 2-1 Sedlak knotted the game at two with a nifty rush. The Hitmen had plenty of opportunities in overtime but could not find the back of the net. Eventually they came up short in the final round of the shootout.
The team was back in action Saturday night and it didn’t take long for them to find their way again as they shutout the Florida Jr. Blades 4-0. The 16U Premier squad didn’t waste any time as Kelly scored two minutes into the contest and that would be all they needed. Garabed, Dunn and Ben Birkhahn all added insurance goals in the victory. The Hitmen dominated from start to finish and held a 44-7 advantage in shots.
After concluding the round robin as the #1 seed with a 2-0-1 record the Hitmen drew a very talented Mid-Fairfield Jr. Rangers team in the quarterfinals. The Jr. Rangers lost in the semifinals of the National Championship last season. The Hitmen struggled to find their way early against the speedy and skilled Jr. Rangers squad and trailed 2-0 after the first half. What a difference an ice cut makes. The Hitmen came out flying in the second half and received goals from Dunn and Jake Antonucci to even the game at two. Even after falling behind 3-2 the Hitmen continued to push and controlled the play for the final 15 minutes. 16U Premier eventually scored on a great play by Fortescue who snagged a clearing attempt out of mid-air and rifled home a shot from the top of the circles with 4:16 left in the third. Garabed continued his hot weekend and would bang home a rebound with 1:18 to play to send the Hitmen to their first signature win of the season.
The Hitmen ran out of gas in the semifinals falling 4-0 to the Boston Jr. Eagles. 16U Premier played well the entire weekend. Most notably their speed and work ethic was on full display. The Hitmen are poised for a great year.
Weekend Notables – Nick Johansson played well in net. He made key saves in the Jr. Monarchs and Jr. Rangers games to keep the Hitmen going. Fortescue anchored the defensive core and was great on both sides of the puck. Luke Johnson had a great weekend and demonstrated his abilities as a good puck distributor and defender. ’03 Defenseman Jake Geraci played exceptionally well and was used in all situations. He has good puck possession skills and can play shut down defense. Antonucci played great defense and added a boost of offense to keep the team rolling. Cole Brennan and Ben Birkhahn proved that they are very capable defensemen that can play in any environment. Both players have good shots and defend well. The offense received goals from eight different forwards. Sedlak had a very good weekend. His work ethic and forechecking was unmatched by his opponents. Dunn tallied three goals on the weekend as he continues to find the back of the net. Tsimerman setup two of the biggest goals of the weekend and had an impact in all of the wins. Troy Clement and Robby Greenleaf played with excellent speed and added multiple assists. Ignatov scored some beautiful goals and hustled hard the entire weekend. He was arguably one of the best surprises. Ebeling continues to be one of the most consistent forwards as his ability to play in all three zones makes him a huge asset to the team. Matt Esquerre and Tony Wang used their speed all weekend and will be very difficult to defend as the season progresses. Devon Kelly continues to be the ultimate team player as he fills in any role needed. He also was a big shot in the arm for the offense. Garabed had a great weekend and scored two of the biggest goals. The team received contributions from every single player.