Wayne, NJ- Upon sweeping the Rochester Stars this weekend at the Ice Vault, 8-1 and 3-1, the Hitmen pulled off some “special” feats.
The first feat was that for two consecutive games the Hitmen had 2 separate players rack up hat tricks. On Wednesday, in the Hitmen's white washing of Apple Core 12-4, both Tim Clifton and Jason Stephanik both scored 3 goals. On Saturday, when the Hitmen rolled to an 8-1 victory, assistant captain Andrew Black and EJHL leading-scorer Brendan Bradley both followed in their teammates footsteps both notching for themselves.
The second amazing feat was that the Hitmen were perfect AGAIN on the power play. On Wednesday versus Apple Core the Hitmen went 4 for 4 with the extra attacker, and then on Saturday, the Hitmen cashed in all on six power play opportunities to go 10 for 10 in two straight games. Four hat tricks and a perfect 10 for 10 on the power play are special in any league, but in a league like the EJHL with such parity and amazing coaching, it is even a more spectacular feat.
By banking four points on the weekend, the Hitmen reclaim the southern division lead for a 3 straight week, putting a little breathing room between them and the rest of the division. With roughly 1/3 of the season behind the Hitmen and the EJHL, what better time to break down the season and stats to this point.
Currently, the Hitmen are sitting at the top of the southern division and tied with the Jr Bruins and Valley Jr. Warriors for the EJHL top spot. With 66 goals for in 13 games the Hitmen sit atop the EJHL with 5.08 GPG and having allowed only 22 goals against they also claim the top spot in the EJHL with 1.69 GAPG. When it comes to special teams, the Hitmen have been on fire of late, and it shows in their season stats. On the power play this season the Hitmen are tops at 33.3%, ten percentage points clear of the next EJHL team, and on the penalty kill, the Hitmen have relinquished only 4 PPGA in 70 attempts good for a league leading 94.3%. On top of that, individually, the Hitmen have 6 players in the top 15 in EJHL scoring lead by assistant captain, Tim Clifton, and rookie, Brendan Bradley, who are tied for the EJHL scoring lead at 22 points.
The Hitmen also boast two of the top goaltenders in the league as rookie, Tanner Creel, leads the league in save percentage at 96% and goals against average at 1.00. He is being chased by fellow rookie, and Illinois native, Chris Funkey. Funkey currently sits in 3rd place in the EJHL with a 94% save percentage and second in the league with a 1.93 goals against average.
These type of stats put the 2012-2013 Hitmen on pace to challenge the 2010-2011 record breaking EJHL Hitmen team that ended that season with 277 goals for and just 82 against. The 2012 Hitmen also lead the league in PP% finishing at 33.18% and PK% ending at 88.55%. That magical season the Hitmen won the southern division by 25 points and ran away with the regular season crown, only to fall short in the EJHL finals.
"I see a lot of similarities to our 2010 squad," said coach Harris. "We have tremendous depth. We have excellent goaltending and very mobile, puck moving defenseman. But, most of all we have a strong locker room and great camaraderie. They’re guys who compete hard every day on the ice, in the weight room, in the boxing ring. These guys compete and that is why we improve week to week."
Harris went on to say, "The season is young, and we still have a lot of challenges ahead. I hope that our depth and consistency will stay with us all year. Injuries cost us down the home stretch in '10, and I am hoping that we can get guys like, Jordan Masters, Chad Otterman and Cam Hampson back sooner than later. I am looking forward to where this bunch of guys goes as I truly believe that there is something special here in Jersey."
The Hitmen will travel to New Hampshire this weekend to face off in the Beantown Fall Classic. On Saturday, the Hitmen will play perennial prep power, Northwood Prep at 1:50 pm, then come back and try to avenge an early season loss to the Junior Bruins, Sunday at 1:20 pm. Both games will be at The Rinks at Exeter and broadcast on www.fasthockey.com
-Courtesy of Jersey Hitmen