NCDC Die-Hards: Hitmen’s Two-Time Dineen Cup Champ DiPietra Excited For Year 4 In League

DiPietra Is Already No. 10 All-Time In NCDC Regular Season Games Played

Growing up and developing his game around Chicagoland, Michael DiPietra could not begin to predict he’d someday be making his biggest mark in hockey in New Jersey.

However, after three seasons in the Garden State, he is the proud owner of two championship rings with the Jersey Hitmen and eons of outstanding shifts seen by NCAA Division I college scouts going back to 2019.

This year, DiPietra will become the 14th player to skate in all or parts of four NCDC seasons. He is already 10th all-time in regular season games played at 133 games and a full, uninterrupted 50-game season could see him become No. 1 in that category.

“I love the competitiveness of the league. Each year it seems like anybody can beat anybody and that brings out the best in players,” said DiPietra. “That constant competition has definitely made me a better player overall, which is why I like the NCDC so much.”

He can easily pinpoint how he’s gotten better since joining the Rockets Hockey Club originally in 2019.

“Going into the league, I was 17 and the highest level I had played was AAA. When the season started up, I realized how much faster the game was at the Junior level,” he added. “This forced me to learn and adapt to the quicker pace, so I’d say that’s the biggest improvement on my game, quicker puck decisions and better hockey IQ.”

DiPietra knows that, as an ‘02, this is the year that he’ll be paving his Path To College Hockey, with colleges watching him closely to gauge how best a two-time champion and veteran junior leader can help their programs.

“Going into my last year of juniors I am planning to have my best year yet, not just with stats but also doing all the little things right that colleges do pay attention to,” he said. “As important as having a great season is, simply being a good teammate and respectful on and off the ice do not go unnoticed.”

Where better to mold this all-around game than with the Hitmen, who have proven themselves as the pacesetters of the NCDC, winning two of the four all-time Dineen Cups awarded in the league, and winning four straight Founders Cups as the regular season champions.

“One factor that is bringing me back to the Hitmen are the practices. Our skates are always fast-paced and have a specific goal for each one. On top of those team practices, we also have a great skills practice (Justin Stanlick), power skating session (Angelo Serse), and goalie session (Jochen Reimer),” DiPietra said. “I also love the workouts after practices with our strength trainer Gerry DeFilippo. I’m also very grateful to have a great trainer at the Hitmen in case of injury (Jess Collum). Lastly, I like the overall culture of the hitmen organization and looking forward to finishing my junior career there.”

With this kind of a support staff, it’s no surprise that Head Coach Toby Harris has been able to focus more on the on-ice product. He has won over 600 of better than 750 all-time games with the Hitmen, working side by side with Club President and Associate Head Coach Jim Hunt, who is one of the chief architects of the entire USPHL.

“My coaches have taught me how to have a winning mindset not just in hockey but in life. I have learned what it takes to win and how to win, and to not be ok with losing,” said DiPietra. “Another life and hockey lesson I’ve learned from Coaches Hunt and Harris is that you get into whatever you are trying to achieve the effort you put forth.”

DiPietra also praised the Rockets, with whom he spent the entire 2019-20 season and a good portion of 2020-21 before a trade to the Hitmen late in that first NCDC championship season.

“My time at the Rockets was good. It was a fun and enjoyable experience due to the players and coaching staff. I’m thankful for my time there,” he added.

Another great experience from his time in the NCDC was being part of Hub City Tampa, when the entire NCDC moved to Florida for January and February 2021. Utilizing a “closed community” plan, all NCDC teams played 20 games and players could only travel between the rinks and a full-service resort, which offered meals and several recreational opportunities, in order to best protect the health and safety of all players and staff.

“Tampa was an awesome experience. Aside from being able to golf every other day or take a swim after a practice or workout, being at a resort with the entire team was a blast and brought everyone closer,” said DiPietra. “Hub City was one of the few positives that came from COVID.”

He will bring all of these experiences to the ice as a largely new Hitmen squad hits the ice in hunt for yet another Dineen Cup.

“As a fourth-year veteran, I want to be the best leader I can be with or without a letter, especially for the younger guys coming to the team,” DiPietra added. “Aside from that, I am going to take my goal-scoring and finishing of my chances to the next level, as that was my off-season focus, along with a few other things.”