(Summaries by Joshua Boyd)
Luca Leighton, P.A.L. Jr. Islanders
Leighton was a driving force behind the Jr. Islanders’ 6-1 run in December, which included wins over the top two teams in the South Division, the Jersey Hitmen and Mercer Chiefs. He scored a league and division-best 12 points over the course of December, posting four goals and eight assists. The ‘03 from Old Brookville, N.Y., now has 76 points in 73 games, the most for any P.A.L. NCDC players since he joined last year out of the Jr. Isles’ USPHL 18U program, a great example of #USPHLAdvancement in action. He is tied for third all-time in Jr. Islanders NCDC scoring. Defensively, Leighton also blocked 10 shots last month.
Caden Cranston, Rockets Hockey Club
A return selection here, Cranston is still leading the NCDC in scoring with 40 points off 12 goals and 28 assists in 29 games. Over the month of December, he scored two goals and added nine assists for 11 points in seven games. Both of his goals on the month came in an extremely important win over the second-place Mercer Chiefs, as the Rockets start 2023 trying to manoeuver into a top four position. Cranston, a former Buffalo Stampede standout in the USPHL Premier, is a continuing beacon of #USPHLAdvancement In Action!
Michael DiPietra, Jersey Hitmen
Second all-time in NCDC games played, DiPietra’s last seven of his 162 regular season contests in the league since 2019 have been among his best. He posted four goals and six assists for 10 points to finish in a tie for fourth among league forwards for December point production. DiPietra now stands just three points shy of the 100-point mark, as does his fellow teammate Sean Melso, the all-time league leader in points by a defenseman.
Jack Hewitt, P.A.L. Jr. Islanders
Hewitt (‘03/North York, Ont.) led all NCDC players in plus-minus during the month of December and was the league’s second highest-scoring blueliner with a goal and nine assists for 10 points in seven games. Hewitt was a huge pickup for the Jr. Islanders, who brought him in from the OJHL. He has been productive on both sides of the ice for the surging Islanders who at third place with 37 points are applying serious pressure on the second place Mercer Chiefs and first place Jersey Hitmen after their 6-1-0-0 December.
Jack Barbro, Rockets Hockey Club
A familiar name here, Barbro defended his Defenseman of the Month honors by posting the most points of any NCDC blueliner in December with a 2-9-11 line through seven games. The Rockets’ ice time leader (averaging 25:10 per game), he also led the team in shots on goal for the month of December. With 27 points, Barbro remains the top point-scorer among all NCDC defensemen.
Ryan Keyes, Mercer Chiefs
The first-year Chiefs have been relentless in their push for first place not just in the South Division but for all of the NCDC. They started December two points out and remain just one point back of the four-time Founders Cup (regular season) champion Jersey Hitmen. It’s going to be an exciting two and a half months to the playoffs as this dogfight keeps filling the skies above the Northeast Corridor, and Keyes has been instrumental in all of it. He went 3-0 during the month of December, including a win over the Hitmen in which he made 37 saves on 40 shots.
He also started his month with a 35-save shutout of Connecticut, and ended by stopping all 10 shootout attempts by the Rockets Hockey Club in a barn-burning 6-5 shootout victory on Dec. 16. Since joining the Chiefs in mid-October, Keyes has gone 7-2-0-1, including a point-earning streak of 6-0-0-1 since the start of November. He stopped 96 of 104 shots in December for a .923 save percentage.