Hackensack, NJ -- After an undefeated Atlantic Youth Hockey League regular season and AYHL Playoff Championship, the Little Flyers were one step away from their goal of reaching USA Hockey Nationals. The Atlantic District Tier I Championships presented a familiar foe for the Little Flyers in the form of the Philadelphia Jr. Flyers. The two teams have battled it out all season long for supremacy of the Atlantic District at the Tier 1 18U level.
In a best of three series and a ticket to Nationals on the line, both teams came ready to battle it out for a trip to Rochester, Michigan. Little Flyers forward Hunter Hayes opened the scoring in the series with a shorthanded goal with 1:25 remaining in the first period of game one with an assist from Matt Harris to take a 1-0 lead into the first intermission. The two team would exchange goals in the second period with the Jr. Flyers tying the game at 1-1 and then Ryder Wicken putting the Little Flyers back up by one with an even strength goal. Ryan Talorico and Jack Costible assisted on the Wicken goal. With the game tied in the third period, neither side was willing to give an inch. The Little Flyers found themselves shorthanded twice in a three minute span of the third period and that ended up being the deciding factor as the Jr. Flyers took advantage and scored a power play goal with 5:57 remaining in the game. The Little Flyers had several good scoring chances down the stretch but couldn’t find the game tying goal as the Jr. Flyers took a 1-0 series lead. Tyler Temoyan made 29 saves in game for the Little Flyers.
In a must win situation for game two, the Little Flyers offense came to play. The teams remained scoreless after the first period but that was short lived in the second as Assistant Captain Braedon Dougherty and Andrew Hodolitz connected for a short handed goal by Dougherty to put the Little Flyers on the board first. Ryan Wicken found Ryan Talorico with under five minutes to play in the second period to give the Little Flyers a 2-0 lead. Less than a minute later, Hunter Hayes netted a power play goal with assists from Matt Harris and Jack Costible. Taking a 3-0 lead into the third period, the Little Flyers looked to finish the game strong to force a game three. Sammy Phillips added an insurance goal several minutes into the third period with assists credited to Zach Crain and Andrew Hodolitz. With Temoyan and the defense taking care of business down their end of the ice, Andrew Henry seemed to put the game out of reach with a goal at the 10:22 mark, Costible picked up his second assist of the game on the goal and Sammy Phillips collected his second point of the game with a helper. When these two teams face-off we know the game is never over until the final buzzer sounds. The Jr. Flyers made the game interesting as they scored two power play goals in a minute and thirty second span to cut the Little Flyers lead to three. Less than a minute later, the Jr. Flyers struck again to make it a two-goal game. The Little Flyers regrouped and shut down the Jr. Flyers for the remaining three minutes of the game to even the series at one game apiece. Temoyan finished with 23 saves heading into game three.
Game three, the rubber match took place on Monday with the winner punching their ticket to USA Hockey Nationals. Out shooting the Little Flyers 18-8 in the first period, the Jr. Flyers took a 1-0 lead into the second period. Sammy Phillips' even strength goal at the 13:39 mark of the second period tied the game at 1-1, Matt Harris and Chase Hannon were credited with the assists. The third period was all about the Little Flyers offense, Hunter Hayes put his team up 2-1on an even strength goal with assists from Bredon Daugherty and Jack Costible. Chase Hannon doubled the Little Flyers lead with 11 minutes to go in the game, Sammy Phillips and Hunter Hayes registered assists on the Hannon goal. Captain Matt Harris gave the Little Flyers breathing room to go up 4-1 with six minutes left in the game. The Jr. Flyers never stopped battling, scoring later in the third period to make it a 4-2 game. With time ticking down, Andrew Henry put the exclamation point on the game, putting the puck in the back of the net with just over one minute to clinch the Atlantic District championship and earn the Little Flyers a bid to USA Hockey Nationals. Tyler Temoyan made 95 saves in the series, going 2-1 in net.