WATERVILLE VALLEY, NH -- The Lumberjacks Hockey Club experienced a pair of firsts this past week as both Eastern Hockey League (EHL) and the Eastern Hockey League Premier (EHLP) teams punched their their ticket to the Frozen Finals. Each trip will mark the program's first-ever at either level, with this year's event set to begin on Wednesday in West Chester, PA (Ice Line Quad Rinks).
"The Lumberjacks have been building towards this for several years," said EHL head coach and general manager Jim Mosso. "From the top of the organization down through the staff, we have made it an all out effort to do things the right way. We believe in bringing in 50 players a year [25 each roster] and buying into the development of those players. We feel that if we have individual players that bond within the right culture, that it will lead to team success. We have been on the threshold of being one of the best organizations in the league the last two years, and it feels good to get rewarded as such. I want to thank the team two years ago under [Mason] Emoff and [Andrew] Bechard’s leadership, which helped put together the building blocks to succeed. That team missed the Frozen Finals by only 1 goal. I also want to thank last year's group under the [Logan] Discanio, [Geordan] Buffoline and [Tyler] Lisieski captaincy, for creating the reputation the 'Jacks have now which helped me recruit this year's group of talent. Last year's team did everything to deserve to win the whole championship, and I can’t help but feel like they are living their EHL postseason dreams through this year's team.
Starting with the EHL team and their journey to the Frozen Finals, you can almost label it as fate when you combine where last year was cancelled with what this year's team endured. The Lumberjacks' top team played nine total games from September to December. At the turn of the calendar year, the move to Waterville Valley, NH became 'officially official', and the Lumberjacks finished off the regular season with 14 games played in January and 12 games played in February.
The Lumberjacks entered the postseason as the #3 seed in the North Division, but felt confident knowing that they won five of their final six regular season games on the way into the playoffs. Four straight playoff wins later and for the first-time in franchise history, the Lumberjacks are on their way to the EHL Frozen Finals.
While numerous players have contributed to this year's team, it's clear that the leader also wears the 'C' on his chest, as Egan Schmitt has guided his team along this journey. Combined between 35 regular season games and 4 postseason games, Schmitt has posted 60 total points, including seven game-winning goals. Schmitt and Paul Fine-Lease have each notched 11 points so far in the playoffs, which makes them key players to watch in West Chester.
While both top forwards are looking to stay hot and etch their names in the EHL Record Books, David Reduzzi's name already appears on the top-ten chart for all-time victories. With 38 total wins over the course of his EHL career, Reduzzi ranks 9th all-time in league history. A potential four more victories would undoubtedly move Reduzzi's name up the charts, but also end a challenging season in grand style.
As for the EHLP Lumberjacks, who played just eight games in opening four months of the season, the journey to the finals was a little different. From January 9th to March 4th, the Lumberjacks finished off the regular season with 26 total games played. When the regular season came to a close, the Lumberjacks locked up the #2 seed and proceeded to sweep the #3 New England Wolves in their first playoff matchup.
The series win pushed the Lumberjacks into the North Division finals where they met up the top-ranked New Hampshire Avalanche, who also won the 2020-21 Regular Season Championship. While the Lumberjacks began the season as underdogs, that label only grew after dropping the opening game of the series by the score of 4-0.
However, the team regrouped and kept battling, winning not one, but two overtime games in a row to complete an incredible comeback and punch their ticket to the EHL Frozen Finals.
While it has been done before in the #EShow, not many programs have seen both teams advance the way the Lumberjacks have. Through a challenging season that included a temporary relocation to the state of New Hampshire, the Lumberjacks fought through every hurdle that was thrown their way. Now, it's time to add to this incredible story.
Be sure to visit EasternHockeyLeague.org for the full Frozen Finals schedule, and if you can't make it to Pennsylvania, you can watch every game live on HockeyTV.