By Joshua Boyd / NCDCHockey.com
Season Opener: Sept. 22 vs. Jersey Hitmen
The Rockets Hockey Club have been a powerhouse in the NCDC essentially since the first Kersner took over the program in 2020. Since the start of the 2020-21 season, only the five-time Founders Cup champion Jersey Hitmen have earned more points in regular season play than the Rockets (225 to the Rockets’ 195).
In 2022, Jason Kersner took the head coaching job with the USHL’s Sioux City Musketeers and brother Jared Kersner stepped behind the bench and continued the Rockets reputation as a tough draw and as statistically the No. 2 NCDC team in the 2020s so far. They obviously have designs on being No. 1 and taking the Dineen Cup back to New Jersey, though over to Bridgewater this time.
“We are very excited about this season’s group. We feel really good about our defense and our forwards down the middle. They are big, long and skate very well,” Jared Kersner said. “They should be able to transport the puck out of our end quickly, which should lead to a lot of offense in transition. Our wingers have a lot of speed and skill, which should lead to sustained pressure and create chances throughout the game.”
With nearly a week until their season opener, roster decisions were still being made so it was a little premature to draw year-to-year comparisons. One thing that will remain the same is the Rockets will be a dangerous team, offensively. The Rockets had more top 10 scorers last year than any other team in the league, including Player of the Year and Bentley recruit Caden Cranston, Army recruit Barron Woodring, as well as Cade Baker and returning forward Cam Bergeman.
“It is too early to tell the differences from last year’s team right now. We hope to continue to be a high-powered offensive team like last season,” Kersner said. “Hopefully, we are confident that we addressed some of the defensive deficiencies that we had last season.”
He also said that it’s too early to add a “C” or an “A” onto any jerseys – leadership will show itself through the season being one reason, the other being that the Rockets always work to build a team full of leaders rather than just two or three players.
“We haven’t chosen our captains yet. Here at the Rockets, we do a lot of leadership development. We define a leader to be anyone, who is relied on by anyone, for anything at any time,” Kersner added. “So, all our players need to learn and demonstrate the 6 C’s of Leadership – Connection, Character, Competence, Consistency, Communication, Courage.”
The team has some NCDC veterans around which to build, including goaltender Chace Hale, who put up a good .910 save percentage for his first full NCDC year. On defense, Johan Copre was one of the leading point-getters among NCDC defensemen all year and finished with 41 points in 40 games. He is joined by Shane McElhaney, who is going into his fourth NCDC/USPHL season, having started in the USPHL Premier in 2020-21 before playing for Jared Kersner with the Skipjacks Hockey Club 18U team, and helping them win the USPHL 18U title that year.
Bergeman tops off the list, offensively, as he comes back off a 58-point season in playing all 50 games. Over two seasons, Bergeman has 84 points in 90 games (and six points in seven playoff contests).
A pair of ‘07’s starting their junior careers will turn a lot of heads this year include goalie Jakob Hanlan and defenseman Anthony Allain-Samake. Hanlan is a native of Gatineau, Que., who last played in the Quebec Midget AAA league and was a third round draft pick in the QMJHL, as was Allain-Samake, who joins from the Ottawa Jr. Senators AAA team.
Leighton Biesiadecki is another newcomer, but one who is homegrown from the Rockets’ program. He played 16U in 2021-22 and was part of the Tier 1 Hockey Federation 18U team this past season. He also played in both of the Rockets’ NCDC games last year to give him a sneak peek of this level.
“He has moved up from our U18 team. We are looking for him to have an impact right away,” said Kersner. “He is a relentless competitor who plays a heavy game and has a great scoring touch around the net.”
They will need all of it – physical play, strong defense and goaltending and a high-octane performance – to make their mark in the Atlantic Division. There are no gimmes or guarantees, so Kersner expects his team to always be on their toes.
“We expect excellence. We want to be great in the small things, and let the big things take care of themselves from there,” Kersner added. “I do not anticipate any surprises in the Atlantic division. Every game is a battle. The last three Dineen Cup champions have come from the Atlantic Division. We need to be ready to compete every game.”