Teams Jump Right into the Fire as 2023-24 Season Gets Underway
So much for easing into the season.
Aug. 15 was the first day that North American youth hockey teams could play officially sanctioned games that could be counted toward their 2023-24 MYHockey rankings. And while Labor Day weekend long has been considered the unofficial annual beginning to the youth hockey season in the United States, more and more teams seem to be jumping into the fire right away every year.
Some teams are looking to play top competition and get a head start on compiling a resume that will earn them a high ranking, while others are just looking to play some early games, get to know each other, bond a little and start to figure out how the pieces that have been assembled fit together.
No matter their reason for attending, once the players and parents stepped out of the sweltering summer heat and into the cool confines of the host rinks, it was business as usual. Other than some ice that might be a little softer or wetter than usual, for those in attendance it just as easily could have been a February hockey weekend in Minnesota.
In one of the opening weekend’s largest events, 85 boys Tier 2 teams in the 14U, 16U and 18U age groups, including many clubs expected to compete for top-20 national rankings and trips to USA Hockey Nationals in April, traveled to the Philadelphia area to compete in the season’s first Mid-Atlantic Showcase Series event.
Launched in 2004 as a four-team tournament, the Mid-Atlantic Showcase Series has evolved to where it now holds four large showcase tournaments near Philadelphia annually. These events feature many of the nation’s top Tier 2 boys programs and are designed to provide a fun, safe and competitive environment for all participants while also assisting them in advancing to play at higher levels in the future.
Meanwhile, the East Coast Wizards, a national-powerhouse girls program, hosted 22 Tier 2 teams for their annual August showcase tournament in Massachusetts. Twelve 16U and 10 19U teams attended the event, which featured many clubs that are expected to be ranked among the top programs in North America this season. Most of the tournament field consisted of teams from the New England Girls Hockey League (NEGHL), one of the strongest leagues in the United States.
This coming weekend even more highly competitive tournaments and showcases will be held, a week before the barrage of holiday events that always take place during Labor Day weekend. There will be many smaller tournaments, jamborees and play days held around the United States and Canada – too many to document here – along with more larger events attended by dozens of teams competing in hundreds of games.
Summer hockey will continue in Canada as young players compete in less-serious off-season tournaments alongside friends and teammates before joining their 2023-24 clubs in September and beginning regular-season play in early October.
One of the largest Tier 2 organizations in the United States, the Eastern Junior Elite Propects League (EJEPL), will hold its first showcase weekend of the season at rinks in Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey Aug. 25-27. The EJEPL’s season-opening event will include about 70 boys teams competing across eight age groups and playing more than 450 games at 21 venues. The 10U, 11U, 12U, 13U and 14U game schedules can be found by CLICKING HERE. There also will be 15U, 16U and 18U teams competing, and those schedules can be found by CLICKING HERE.
Check the schedule and perform a LiveBarn venue search to determine which games might be available for viewing via livestream.
The EJEPL offers a competitive 16 game schedule for ages 10U through 14U and a 20-game schedule for older teams, including multiple showcase events each year. Teams from 14 different states compete in the league, with all member teams participating in the showcases and playing a handful of home and away games. League playoffs are held in early February so as not to conflict with local league play.
An early-season AAA tournament for 14U, 15U, 16U and 18U boys teams is being hosted by Total Performance Hockey in Michigan Aug. 24-27. Last year’s event included 36 teams, 10 of which were ranked among the nation’s top-30 in their age group, according to the final 2022-23 MHR United States rankings. The Grand Rapids Kickoff Classic is being held at the Southside Ice Arena in Byron Center, Mich. The arena does have a LiveBarn feed, so the games should be available via livestream.
On the girls’ side, the National Girls Hockey League (NGHL) is holding its season-opening Dawg Daze of Summer showcase tournament in Connecticut Aug. 25-27. Featuring 60 different Tier 1 and Tier 2 teams representing approximately 40 organizations, the tournament offers competition in the 12U, 14U, 16U and 19U age groups. Games will be held at Champions Skating Center in Cromwell, Conn.; Newington Ice Arena in Newington, Conn.; and Northford Ice Pavilion in Northford, Conn. All three rinks are serviced by LiveBarn, so most, if not all, of the tournament’s nearly 140 contests should be available for viewing via livestream.
The NGHL is dedicated to the promotion and growth of girls ice hockey programs across the nation and supports its member clubs’ visions for player-focused development and progression to the next level. The league provides a supplementary schedule to full-season clubs with competition at the 10U, 12U, 14U, 16U and 19U levels for Tier 1 and 2 programs. League member teams and guest teams from around the United States compete in NGHL events, and NGHL offerings include league play, showcases and exposure clinics.
A Look Back: Mid-Atlantic Showcase Series Summer Showcase
The first Mid-Atlantic Showcase Series event included 85 teams competing in 181 games Aug. 18-20 in suburban Philadelphia. Games were played at Hatfield Ice Arena, Oaks Center Ice, Bucks County Ice and Flyers Northeast Skate Zone. Teams traveled to Philadelphia from locations such as Las Vegas, Virginia, Ohio, Connecticut, Buffalo, Long Island, Maryland, New Jersey and Pittsburgh.
The tournament’s 18 AA division was exceptionally strong, including many teams that traditionally receive high national rankings and compete for bids to USA Hockey Nationals. Many of the participating teams advanced to Tier 2 Nationals as 16U clubs in 2022-23, including:
- Team Ohio
- Power City Bruins
- Igloo Jaguars
- Montclair Blues
- Team Philadelphia
- New Jersey Colonials
- Genesis Hockey
- Long Island Rebels
- Tri-City Eagles
- Philadelphia Blazers
There were five divisions at the 18U AA level, with the winner of each pool and three wildcards advancing to the quarterfinals. The Long Island Rebels defeated New Jersey Colonials Blue, 3-0, in the finals to capture the championship after knocking off the Philadelphia Blazers, 3-2, in the semifinals. New Jersey advanced to the finals with a 4-1 semifinal win against Genesis Hockey Club.
Matthew Hohmann, Jake Gagliano and Brody Ort of the Rebels tied for the tournament lead in points with 11 apiece
The 16U AA North Division also was strong, featuring 16 teams, many of which had tremendous success at the 14U and 15U levels. Some of the top 16U programs represented included Team Ohio, the Steel City Renegades, Team Philadelphia, the Webster Cyclones and the Montclair Blues
There were four divisions in the 16U age group, with the top-two teams from each division advancing to the quarterfinals. Montclair Blues Blue defeated Team Ohio (Metzger), 4-1, in the championship game after eliminating the Steel City Renegades, 7-4, in the semifinals. Team Ohio beat the Tri-City Eagles, 7-4, in the other 16U North AA semifinal matchup.
Montclair’s Shane Melly and Andrew Tralongo tied for the 16U North AA division lead in scoring with 12 points each.
There also was a 10-team 14U AA division, which consisted mainly of local teams along with the Rochester Jr. Americans, Vegas Jr. Golden Knights, Team Ohio and the Yale Jr. Bulldogs. Team Ohio captured the 14U AA tournament title with a 3-0 victory over the Vegas Jr. Golden Knights.
East Coast Wizards Tier 2 August Showcase
The East Coast Wizards hosted a Tier 2 showcase tournament in Bedford, Mass. Aug. 18-20. Featuring teams from many traditional nationally ranked girls programs that compete in the NEGHL – as well as a team from Cornwall, Ontario – the event included 12 teams at the 16U level and 10 teams in the 19U division.
Cornwall finished atop the 16U Division with a 3-0-1 record, followed by the New England Wildcats (3-1-0), East Coast Wizards 14U (3-1-0), Mid-Fairfield Stars (2-1-1), Assabet Valley (1-0-3), Charles River (2-2-0), East Coast Wizards Major 2 (2-1-0), North Suburban Wings (2-2-0), Boston Breakers (1-1-2), East Coast Wizards Black (0-3-1), Shoreline Sharks (0-4-0) and Massachusetts Spitfires (0-3-0).
The Mid-Fairfield Stars went 4-0-1 to finish first in the 19U Division. They were followed by East Coast Wizards Major 2 (4-1-0), Shoreline Sharks (2-3-0), East Coast Wizards Black (2-1-0), Boston Jr. Eagles (1-1-2), North Suburban Wings (1-1-2), New England Wildcats Red (1-3-1), Boston Breakers (1-3-0), New England Wildcats Black (1-3-0) and NEGHL Selects (0-1-0).