The 2023-24 season is here! The Pennsylvania Huntsmen are revamped and ready to start the grind. The big news is that the Huntsmen will be represented at both levels of the Eastern Hockey League. The EHL team in it’s first season, while the Premier Team gears up for year two.
The EHL Team will play out of the South Division competing with: New Jersey 87’s, New Jersey Bears, Philadelphia Hockey Club, Philadelphia Little Flyers, and Team Maryland. A very tough division with some well-established teams, and some new ones. The New Jersey Bears will be in their first season after taking the place of the Protec Jr. Ducks, but there is some carryover between the two. Philadelphia Hockey Club will enter their second season in the EHL as they were previously part of the USPHL. The Little Flyers and 87’s are always tough, both teams have been to the Frozen Finals over the past few years. Team Maryland hasn’t had the success of the 87’s and Little Flyers but were on the doorstep of a Frozen Finals birth last year before being eliminated by the Little Flyers. “I like our division,” says Head Coach Matt Reid. “It keeps teams honest and makes for a long tough season. We have goals set for each game. I believe if you win all the small battles, you can win the war.”
Reid has plenty of hockey accolades to his name, but at the EHL level, the Huntsmen are one of the new teams this year and Reid is ready for the challenge. “Training Camp was great overall, we had time to build the foundation that we will continue to build throughout the season. Our biggest strength right now would be our speed. We play fast, up tempo hockey and our guys are in great shape. We are still learning our structure but will continue to improve. Our expectation is to compete every time we hit the ice and be tough to play against. We are concentrating on our battles and support.” Lastly, Reid is anticipating watching his players grow and see how they apply what they learned, but he's always excited about something else, “Concession stand snacks, can’t wait!” says Reid.
The Huntsmen made an immediate impact in their inaugural season in the EHL Premier. Overall, they finished 25-14-3, finishing second in the Mid Atlantic Division. The Huntsmen defeated the New Jersey Renegades in the first round of the playoffs. PAH was eliminated in the Mid Atlantic Division finals by the New Jersey 87’s, who went on to win the EHLP Championship. The Huntsmen and 87s had some great battles and that should carry over into this season. The Mid-Atlantic Division is a little different this year. The New Jersey 87’s, New Jersey Renegades, Philadelphia Little Flyers, and Union Jr. Thunder all return, but the Connecticut Chiefs have been added to the division being moved from the New England Division in previous seasons.
Head Coach Blaise Kilroy and Assistant Head Coach Lou DeCola are back and ready to get year two underway. There are some familiar faces returning to the Huntsmen: forwards Jacob Chow, Luca Palachick and Anthony LoGiurato, and on defense, Hunter Irrera, Chase Mueller, and goaltender Derek Baradgie return.
The Huntsmen also had movement from within the organization. Forwards: Jaeger Daniels, Justin Kratz, and Ryan Arendes and defensemen: Tucker Miller and Mason Henne all made the jump to the EHL level and will be playing for Coach Reid. Arendes was named Top Forward Prospect at the end of the EHLP season after playing 41 games and tallying 33 goals and 34 assists. It will be exciting to see what he can do in the EHL. Leonardo Vona and Hunter Hoffman also played a few games with the Huntsmen Premier last year, but will suit up in the EHL this season.
While the coaches and players are excited for the season, General Manager Zach Overholtzer had his site set on having two teams skate out of Power Play Rinks since last year, and he has high expectations for both teams. “We knew that we wanted an EHL team in year two. It was critical to have a strong culture and solid on ice product, so we paid close attention to all details. We were fortunate enough to have Josh Fusco as an advisor to our operation. It was a lot of work but obviously well worth it. I am looking forward to seeing how the handful of EHLP players from last season that moved up perform in the EHL.”
One of the biggest things that has been a focal point for the Huntsmen is culture. “Our culture is everything, says Overholtzer.” “I expect to see us build upon it in year two. Both teams should be very competitive and have depth on each roster. Our EHLP team will be sending top guys up to the EHL to get experience and set them up for a full time spot the following year. In house competition will drive development and success.”
Let the season begin!
Friday 9-15 at New Jersey 87s 12:30pm Wednesday 9-20 vs Philadelphia Hockey Club 11:30am
Saturday 9-16 at Philadelphia Little Flyers 7:30pm
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By: Joe Sindoni
Play by Play Announcer