Looking back at the 2017-18 season, the Eagle River Hockey League definitely came into its own.
Preseason assertions that the ERHL would be nothing more than "just another beer league" fell by the wayside as week by week the dedication of players, coaches, sponsors, and those in the stands became apparent.I am an outsider to the hockey world. I have to admit, my assumption of a small town adult hockey league was that it would be something akin to adult pick-up basketball games at the YMCA; lots of ace bandages and ill-fitting tank tops. What I came to discover after covering about 25 games over the space of a week, was that the ERHL is highly organized, locally supported, masterfully publicized, stylistically merchandised, and serious hockey league.
The action-packed weekend tournament was non-top, high-speed hockey where the indoor rink setting could barely contain the pond-style fun.
Three games ran simultaneously cross-ice where teams of 3-on-3, plus a goalie, faced off for 20 minutes, meaning- pucks were definitely flying in all directions at an average rate of about 100 goals per hour of play. A fifth player watched by the half boards, always ready for the royal rumble tag in. The high-score honors went to the Ale Star vs Prestige Worldwide game whose stick swinging accounted for a combined 23 goals.
ER Alehouse are your 2018 AA ERHL champions, having defeated PIAS 3-1 in the playoff finale. Ryan Weaver filled his scrapbook with 10 total points these playoffs, with two coming off his two-goal final game performance for Alehouse.
In the AA consolation game, Cubs brought home victory, defeating OMR 3-2 in a friendly faceoff which eventually snowballed into an over-time thriller. As the Cubbies and OMR faced-off for the opening puck drop, respective goalies Patrick Zmuda and Jon Maroney attempted their luck at center ice.
ER Alehouse and Stellar Designs faced off in AA division semi-final action to see who would make it to the big dance. Alehouse was the last band standing, as they outplayed Stellar 2-0 into the AA finals. Always wheeling Chad Lammers, provided Alhouse’s two goals in his unassisted scoring performance.
3-31-18- Saturday at the Mac, it was the semi-final game 10 of the ERHL AA playoffs where PIAS saved the best for last in their third period 2-1 upset thriller over the top ranked Shines. PIAS rose to the occasion as they found themselves in the improbable position of punching their ticket into AA final.
3-30-18- Thursday evening at the Mac, AAA green giant, Jalapenos faced off against third seed underdogs, but not to be underrated, Garcias. From the outset, it was 54 minutes of feathers flying once the refs dropped the rooster at center-ice.
In Game 9 of the AA playoffs, it was the respective two vs four seeds where Alehouse all but blanked OMR 6-1. Karl Greninger scored a hat trick to lead the Alehouse offensive effort on the night. Ryan Weaver and Garrett Riley also made headlines of their own, with Weaver netting two goals and an assist while Riley tallied a goal and two helpers.
In Game 8 of the AA division playoffs, first seed Shines and sixth seed Stellar also left the ice Thursday night with their antlers locked- calling it good with a 2-2 tie. In the opening action, Russell Miller found the sweet spot of the cage, going left to right across the crease at 15:22 in the first, assisted by Seth Beausang, for the 1-0 Shines goal.