USA Junior Hockey Magazine - January 2014
Portland Jr. Pirates/Walpole Express
Joshua Boyd 2014-01-03 02:31:47
Express on, off track with defensive injuries The Walpole Express closed out a tough December, going 2-5-2-1 in the final month of 2013. “We definitely lack some consistency as a team,” said first-year head coach Jonathan Lounsbury, “but as every coach knows, injuries play a big part in a season.” The Express’ team captain nic Cota is out for a few weeks after Christmas, a big loss on the defensive side. Other defensemen went down at various times for the Express, as well. With a rotating defensive corps, the Express struggled in some games to make the necessary clears. “Our goaltenders – Evan McCarthy and Kyle shapiro – have been consistently strong. They make saves 1 and 2, but they can only do so much on that third opportunity,” said Lounsbury.“I wish as a coach we did a better job in front of them, and that is on me as a coach. I need to do a better job.” Despite an overall record of 9-14-5-2, McCarthy (.910) and Shapiro (.915) have kept very respectable save percentages.Shapiro has made 517 saves, good for seventh in the league, and McCarthy is 11th at 466. Both face more than 30 shots per game on average. “They’re both quality goaltenders who are getting Division 1 looks,” said Lounsbury. The Express played four games in five days between Dec. 18 and 22. In the EHL showcase in Connecticut between Dec. 20-22, they had two ties and a big 5-0 win in “a complete game” against the Philadelphia Revolution. “Our last four games have been strong,” said Lounsbury. “We lost to the Connecticut Wolfpack, 3-2, in overtime, battling back from a 2-0 deficit. We struggled to find the net in our first two showcase games, but hit our stride in the last game. Our guys are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.” Frankie Cefalu has been seeing a red light more often himself. The ’95 from Buffalo, N.Y., put himself in the top 10 of league scoring with 35 points in 28 games after a December of 14 points in 10 contests. “His linemates [Matt gaetz and nick Balboa] are a big help, but it’s also about him getting more comfortable with the junior hockey game,” Lounsbury said.“Nick is just back from Rio Grande in the NAHL, and he has five points in his first four games with us.” The Express will be back in action Jan. 12 against the Wolfpack, one of six games in a lighter January. “We need to make sure we’re successful down the stretch,” Lounsbury added. Pirates earn big wins with Starrett in net It was the Portland Jr. Pirates’ best month yet in the United States Premier Hockey League. The Pirates won four games during the month of December, moving out of last place in the Premier Division and improving to 9-22-2-1 after some very tough prior months. The Pirates went 1-2 against the P.A.L. Junior Islanders in December, they went 2- 1 against the Islanders Hockey Club, and they also beat the Bay State Breakers in a 2-0 shutout win. “November [0-9-0-1] was not good for us, but in December, we made some strides in the right direction,” said general manager Brad Church. “We fixed our game defensively. Our goals against for the team is down drastically. We’re committed to playing well and hard without the puck.” In seven November games, the Pirates let up five or more goals in a game, while in December, they gave up four twice and three or less in their other losses. A big difference for the Pirates was the acquisition of shane starrett. A Bellingham, Mass., resident, Starrett was the No. 1 goalie for Massachusetts high school powerhouse Catholic Memorial and then South Kent Prep. He played in seven games for the Lincoln Stars of the United States Hockey League before being Transferred to the Pirates. With the Pirates, he had a 4-4 record, a .938 save percentage and a 1.87 goals against average. “He’s come in and given us a boost in net. He’s good and gives our guys a lot of confidence to play in front of him,” said Church. “He’s also been great in the dressing room.” Starrett is already committed to Boston University for next season. “He’s here to not only help our program, but for us to help him develop for when he gets the call,” said Church. “We’re excited to have him.” Jordan haskell has also been strong every game for the Pirates. The team’s leading scorer (with 24 points in 34 games) is also strong defensively. “He’s been consistent, win or lose,” said Church. “He’s a really good penalty killer.We look forward to having him continue to play the way he’s been playing.” The plan for its nine games of January, which begin Jan. 3 in the USPHL Winter Showcase against the Junior Bruins, is to tune up in all three zones. “Take pride in our defensive zone, be systematic through the neutral zone and be aggressive in the offensive zone,” said Church. “The results will be there if we’re consistent like our last dozen or so games.”
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