#DineenCupPlayoffs Series Preview: P.A.L. Jr. Islanders vs. Jersey Hitmen

Jersey Hitmen (4) at P.A.L. Jr. Islanders (1)

All Games At Northwell Health Ice Center

Wednesday, March 27, 1:30 p.m. 

Thursday, March 28, 6:30 p.m. 

Saturday, March 30, 2:15 p.m. 


By Joshua Boyd / NCDCHockey.com 


The two organizations who have won the last three Dineen Cup titles and a combined six Founders Cup (regular season) titles will go face to face in their best-of three series this week, knowing full well only one of these teams will get a chance at either repeating or reclaiming the title of champions. 

The Jersey Hitmen, who won the Founders Cup each season from 2019 through 2023, as well as the 2021 and 2022 Dineen Cup titles, had a very rare challenging season. They sat in sixth place for much of the season, but utilized a 6-0-1-1 run within a very tight Atlantic Division 2-6 pack to finish in fourth place. The Hitmen defeated the Connecticut Jr. Rangers, 6-2, to win their Play-In Game to allow them to play for the chance to advance yet again in the Dineen Cup Playoffs. 

P.A.L. dominated from wire to wire this year, winning 40 games as part of a 40-7-4-1 record, giving them the most victories since the Hitmen had won 42 in 2019-20 (the record being 47 set by the Islanders Hockey Club in 2017-18, when they went 47-3-0-0).  

“P.A.L. is the defending Dineen Cup Champions – our room respects them immensely. They backed up their 2023 Dineen Cup with a 2024 Founders Cup and they are undoubtedly the odds-on favorite to win again this year,” said Hitmen Head Coach Toby Harris. ”As the underdogs, we relish this moment. Our guys have worked incredibly hard to dig themselves out of an early season hole. We have watched hours of video to fix our shortcomings. Spent long hours in the weight room and competed hard in practice to right this ship. We are playing well right now and look forward to lining up against a very formidable opponent. The Hitmen will be ready come 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday!”

During the regular season, the Jr. Islanders won the series 6-1-1-0, but it was the Hitmen won won 2-1 in overtime in their most recent showdown on March 9. That was one of four one-goal games in the series, representing half of their total 2023-24 meetings. 

“We are very excited to start playoffs and compete for an opportunity to win another Dineen Cup. We know this is going to be a battle and a long journey. There have been a lot of tight games with teams in our division and league,” said Marcou. “We have played the Hitmen a lot this year and this is an exciting rivalry. We know that they are well coached and will compete hard. We are proud of the regular season success and are still hungry for more.”

P.A.L. brought nearly half its regular roster back from the Dineen Cup title game, including the league’s leading scorer in Ty Broad, who finished with a 25-45-70 line in 50 games. The Jr. Isles’ Carter Hanrahan also finished in the Top 10 with 57 points in 49 games, and rookie Ryan Kearney finished with 49 points in 52 games. On defense, the return from injury of Cup champ Jack Hewitt allowed the P.A.L. to quickly fill the shoes of leading blueliner Coleson Hanrahan, who advanced to the United States Hockey League’s Youngstown Phantoms to end the season. Hewitt finished the season with 24 points in 29 games. 

The big story this year for P.A.L., however, was quite often Nicholas Bevilacqua. In net, Bevilacqua became the NCDC’s all-time leader in games played (91), wins (52) and he led the NCDC this season in goals against average (1.96) and save percentage (.948). 

“They are extremely well coached,” said Harris, of P.A.L. “They have great goaltending, a big, physical D core and are deep up front.”

William Jasmin, a mid-season pickup for the Hitmen, ended up as the team’s leading scorer with a total of 49 points in 52 games this year. Following closely behind him was Jack Matsukubo (38 points). Sam Beaulne led the way for the Hitmen defense (28 points in 51 games). 

Daniel Moor, an impressive ‘06 rookie this season, was the leading goaltender for the Hitmen. In 34 games, he went 15-10-2-2, and finished the regular season with a .924 save percentage.