NCDC This Week: Mercer Chiefs Making Noise In Atlantic Division, All-Stars Show Their Best

By Joshua Boyd / 


The NCDC All-Star Game pulled the best players of the Atlantic and New England Divisions together for one fantastic day on the ice at Boston University. The all-NCDC game was also preceded by the Young Guns game featuring some of the NCDC’s best future prospects, including NCAA Division I-committed Midget players working within NCDC organization programs. Attracting dozens of NCAA and USHL scouts, the event was a fantastic success and hopefully will help launch its participants towards a great future in college hockey. 

Prior to that landmark event, however, there was plenty of head-to-head hockey being played in the Northeast as well as in the Mountain Division, albeit with some weather postponements sprinkled around. Some of the biggest gainers on the weekend included a handful of 2-0 teams on the weekend – the Mercer Chiefs, Northern Cyclones, Ogden Mustangs, P.A.L. Jr. Islanders, Provo Predators and South Shore Kings. All helped themselves with tight playoff races in various standings positions, while the Utah Outliers won their only game to keep the battle for No. 1 in the Mountain Division the closest anywhere in the league.  

As always, we’ll focus on teams that earned at least as many points as games played over the past week as we dig into what they do well, and who’s been helping them do it all. 


Mercer Chiefs Earn Sweep To Climb To Within A Point Of Second in Atlantic

There’s still a lot of hockey to be played until the end of March, but every team in the Atlantic Division not named the Jr. Islanders are going to struggle to get close to first place. Even with that team’s 25-point lead on their closest competition, the battle for No. 2 remains exciting as the Mercer Chiefs (2-0 on the weekend against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights) are just one point behind the Connecticut Jr. Rangers, who split against the Rockets Hockey Club. The Chiefs’ first action since Dec. 22 was a 5-4 OT win against the Knights on Jan. 13, followed a day later by a 5-2 victory. The Chiefs enter this next weekend’s series with the Rockets Hockey Club at 16-13-1-1, good for 34 points, a point behind the Jr. Rangers’ 35 points. Both teams still have 21 games, so the landscape could change down the road, but there’s some good excitement for both teams right now as second place does mean home ice advantage for the start of the playoffs. 

  • Mercer and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton tied at 3-2-0-1 apiece in their 2022-23 season series, the inaugural season for each. This year, it’s much different as the Chiefs hold a 5-1-0-0 advantage. The “Class of 2022” expansion teams meet again March 9-10. 
  • Opposing teams should be greatly concerned about Gregory Diamond heating up. He had a 2-1-3 line for his best performance of his two-season career on Jan. 13 – and then did it exactly again the next day for two straight three-point games. 
  • Henri Spoof scored a goal in the All-Star game, and Dominick Gatto stopped nine of 10 in his stint in net in the third period. 


Northern Cyclones’ Sweep Makes For Great Drama In Race For Playoff Positioning

The Cyclones certainly helped themselves this past weekend, as a home-and-home sweep against the Boston Junior Bruins closed the gap for the fifth place Cyclones against the team in fourth place, just five points away. A 6-2 win on Jan. 11 was followed by a 5-3 victory for the Cyclones on the road on Sunday. The Cyclones improved from 19 to 24 points, and the Junior Bruins remain at 29 points. Stretch drive success will be key for both teams who may also very well face each other in the 4v5 play-in game. 

  • The two Northern wins evened the all-time series in terms of points earned. The Cyclones are 18-15-1-0 for 37 points and the Junior Bruins are at 17-13-1-2, also for 37 points. 
  • The Cyclones are a close second in penalty killing, standing with an 86.2 percent success rate. They’ve given up just 20 power play goals on 145 opponent opportunities, which puts them just behind Ogden’s league-leading 86.6 percent. 
  • Michael Markowski’s third shorthanded goal of the season was also the Cyclones’ seventh, giving them a share of the league lead of seven, tied with the WBS Knights. Markowski, individually, is tied for the league lead in shorties with P.A.L.’s Ty Broad and the Rockets Hockey Club’s Jonas Dobnig. Markowski and Dobnig, both at 3-1-4 when shorthanded, also lead in shorthanded points. 
  • Charlie Zetterqvist, an ‘06 who participated in the Young Guns Game (assist), posted three power play goals as part of his first NCDC hat trick on Jan. 11. That matched two other players for most power play goals in a game this season, before he was joined by Ogden’s William Cherniak two days later. 
  • Olivier Touchette (‘06) registered the empty net goal that helped seal Team New England’s 6-4 comeback win in the Young Guns game (and which was assisted by Zetterqvist). Defenseman Charlie Ross was selected for the main All-Star Game, but an illness on the day of the game prevented him from playing. 


Ogden Mustangs Stand Atop Mountain Division In Latest Leapfrog Move 

The Ogden Mustangs’ two wins against the Idaho Falls Spud Kings put them ahead by one point in the Mountain Division race for the lead, which the Utah Outliers held as recently as Jan. 13. Nikita Volski was key to a 37-save 1-0 shutout victory for Ogden on Jan. 12 (though it must be said that Tucker Inabinet of Idaho Falls was heroic in stopping 58 of 59, despite coming out with the loss). The Mustangs had a much different offensive day on Friday, winning 8-2. Ogden is now 24-7-1-1 for 50 points, and Utah is 23-8-1-2 with 49 points. The Outliers have one game in hand on Ogden currently, after the Outliers’ Jan. 13 game was postponed. 

  • The 37 saves for the 1-0 shutout was the most an Ogden goaltender has had to make for a shutout victory this year, and puts Volski into the top 10 for that category league-wide. He and creasemate Vlad Bryzgalov (who was listed on the NHL Central Scouting Mid-Term Rankings for the 2024 NHL Draft) each have two shutouts this year. 
  • Bryzgalov’s .935 save percentage ranks fifth in the league, and his 2.19 GAA is sixth. 
  • As aforementioned, William Cherniak became the fourth player this year to score three power play goals in a single game. Cherniak was with the USPHL Premier’s Las Vegas Thunderbirds and got a call-up to Ogden right after posting 11 points in three games against Lake Tahoe. Right away, he was impactful, putting in the only goal and GWG in the 1-0 victory before posting his all-power play hat trick. #USPHLAdvancement In Action – and then some!
    • The 1-0 victory was the Mustangs’ 10th one-goal win this year, tying them for the league lead in that category. They have a record of 10-3-1-1 for 22 points earned in one-goal games, while the Islanders Hockey Club are 10-1-4-1 for 25 points. D
  • There have been five games decided by six goals in the NCDC this year, and Ogden has won three of those. Connecticut and Utah have the other two six-goal wins. 
  • For more evidence of just how potent Ogden’s offense is, they are No. 1 in shots on goal per game (42.64) and tied for second in goals for (3.79 per game). 
  • Idaho Falls went 1-for-13 on the power play this weekend against Ogden, and the Mustangs remain No. 1 in penalty killing at 86.6 percent (19 power play goals against on 142 opponent opportunities). 
  • Ogden scored first in both games this weekend, bringing their first goal count to 24 to tie for the league lead with P.A.L. 
  • Defenseman Teddie Hember registered his 12th and 13th power play points (both assists) in the 8-2 win, and his 13 power play points are second most in the league among NCDC defensemen. His 11 PP assists rank third among blueliners. 
  • Dimitri Voyatzis registered his 29th assist of the year in a 1-1-2 performance during the 8-2 victory, which ranks him in a tie for third league-wide. 


P.A.L. Sweep Puts Them On Cusp Of Guaranteeing A New Founders Cup Champion

Mathematically – for this exact moment at least, here on Wednesday morning – every Atlantic team could technically take the division title. 

That may change when next the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders hit the ice on Wednesday afternoon. 

With a win, they will have enough points to keep one team (in this case, the Jersey Hitmen) from challenging for the division – and therefore, the league – title and will then keep working their way through the list if they maintain very healthy lead on their divisional foes. The Jersey Hitmen won all five Founders Cup regular season titles between 2019 and 2023 (as well as the 2021 and 2022 Dineen Cups). If P.A.L. takes that win, it would officially symbolize a passing of the torch – the official question being “to whom?” It must be noted that P.A.L. would still have an ever-fluctuating points amount remaining before they could actually clinch the Founders Cup. P.A.L. are the current Founders Cup race leaders, holding 60 points representing a nine-point lead over the next closest competition, the Islanders Hockey Club (51 points). What looks more certain is their likelihood of capturing the Atlantic Division title, where they have a 25-point lead over the second place Connecticut Jr. Rangers with 19 games remaining. 

The Jr. Islanders got to this point after their second weekend sweep of the Hitmen this season, winning 3-1 at home on Jan. 12 and then 3-2 in Wayne, N.J. on Jan. 13.  

  • P.A.L. holds the longest active winning streak at seven in a row, as well as the season-best streak of 18 games won between Oct. 13 and Dec. 8. 
  • The 3-1 victory on Jan. 12 was the P.A.L.’s league-leading seventh this season by that margin, giving them a 7-0-0-0 record. 
  • P.A.L. held leads after the first period and second period in both games last week, continuing to give themselves the only completely undefeated record in both situations. They are 14-0 when leading after 20 minutes and 26-0 when up after two, the latter making up the bulk of their 29 victories. 
  • The Jr. Islanders have the league’s best defense at 1.88, the only team averaging under two against per game. 
  • Two more first goals of games gave P.A.L. 24 on the season to tie with Ogden, but no one has more wins when registering the first goal – the Jr. Isles are 22-1-1-0 when striking first. All-Star Game selection Heikki Virtanen’s five first goals is tied for the league lead. One of the All-Star starters, Virtanen also leads the league in power play goals with 11.  
  • Another All-Star, Coleson Hanrahan, registered his league-leading 30th assist (overall) and 34th point (among defensemen). He got a chance to start in the All-Star Game. 
  • Nicholas Bevilacqua got the start for the Atlantic All-Stars in net, which is not surprising giving his stature in the top five of most categories – second in save percentage (.952), first in wins (23), third in GAA (1.79) and third in shutouts (three). He stopped 15 of 16, registering the most saves of any goalie in the All-Star Game. 
  • Ty Broad, who remains fourth in all-time Jr. Islanders points (96), registered his 18th goal which was also his league-leading 48th point. Broad was an All-Star Game starter, and is also tied with Coleson Hanrahan for the league lead in assists with 30 and leads the league in power play assists (17) and points (21). 
  • Also representing the Jr. Islanders at the All-Star and Young Guns game were, in the All-Star Game, Ryan Kearney (two assists), Carter Hanrahan and Jack Hewitt, and in the Young Guns Game, forward Devin Niles and defenseman Ryu Shirozu. There were also additional P.A.L. Midget players and draft picks who made the Young Guns contest. 


Provo Predators Find Themselves On Third Place Island Amid Mountain Division 

The Provo Predators were able to sweep the Pueblo Bulls for their trip to Colorado on Jan. 12-13, winning 5-3 and 4-3, both in regulation. This helped the Predators remain in third place with an exclamation point. They are now nine points above the Bulls, who reside in fourth place – but only three points above fifth. Provo’s not concerning themselves with that battle, even if they’re still a ways from clinching a playoff berth. Likewise, they have quite a distance to bridge to get into the top spot battle between Ogden and Utah. The second place Outliers, with 49 points, are seven points above the Predators’ 42. So a sweep for either Provo or Pueblo this weekend won’t change the Predators’ third place position, but depending on what happens around the league, it could move the chains for Provo perhaps closer to that top pair. 

  • Provo improved to 6-3-0-0 against Pueblo in their season series. 
  • The Predators’ active three-game winning streak going back to Jan. 6 is tied for second longest in the league with the South Shore Kings. 
  • Provo is the only team in the NCDC to have never lost a one-goal game featuring standard team play, going 8-0-0-2, losing only twice in the shootout. 
  • The Predators remain the only team with two goaltenders in the top 10 of goals against average, with Michael Polston ranking eighth at 2.70 and Ryan Henry right above at 2.66 for seventh. Polston’s 13 wins rank fourth in the league. 


South Shore Kings Keep Fight For First In New England Division Weekend-By-Weekend Situation

The Kings were able to pick up a pair of road victories in Utica, defeating the Jr. Comets 4-0 and 8-4 on Jan. 13 and 14. Then, all nine of their rostered players for the All-Star Event – eight of them in the All-Star Game plus Young Guns defenseman Ethan Gonyeau – were ready to go Monday at Boston University. Tireless warriors.

South Shore absolutely cannot afford a degree of letup right now, as they are currently trailing the Islanders Hockey Club by three points for the New England Division lead. South Shore is 23-6-1-1 for 48 points, and the Islanders – who split last weekend – lead the division at 23-4-4-1 for 51 points. South Shore has seen its share of time atop the division, including starting December up there. Right now, every weekend’s two-game results can shake up the top two spot dynamic. The Kings go for a home-and-home with the Northern Cyclones in hopes of bridging some of the gap and looking for some help from the same Cyclones here on Wednesday, as well as the IHC’s weekend opponents the Boston Junior Bruins. 

  • South Shore and Provo are tied for second longest active winning streak with three games apiece. 
  • The Kings’ 4-0 shutout victory – their second in a row, paired with their Jan. 6 shutout win against Twin City – marked the first time in Kings NCDC history they’ve won by shutout for two straight games. They did that with two different goalies as well, with Adam Stevenson stopping 31 on Jan. 6 and All-Star starter Ryan Keyes stopping all 37 saves he saw from Utica on Jan. 13. Keyes’ two wins this past weekend gave him 18 wins on the season good for second in the NCDC.
  • The Kings have found a way to win eight four-goal decisions this year, twice as many as their next closest competition in that very specific goal margin category. 
  • South Shore’s defensive corps still gives up the fewest shots against per game, at 29.68, the only team averaging below 30. Offensively, South Shore is also the only team averaging 4.00 goals per game. 
  • The Kings power play went 1-for-4 this weekend in Utica, and they still have the No. 1 man advantage in the league. South Shore has scored 36 goals in 125 attempts for a 28.8 percent success rate.  
  • Defenseman Salvatore Cerrato, who started the All-Star game, stands with 20 assists good for third and 26 points, good for fourth among defensemen.  
  • Nathan Stachowiak, another All-Star starter, put up a 1-3-4 line against Utica and now has 41 points, good for fourth in the league. 
  • Other Kings appearing in the All-Star Game included Kotaro Murase, Jake Kavanagh, Jason Zaccari, Aiden Lindley and Thomas Delfarno, who was a day-of-game addition after another player was unable to play due to illness.  


Utah Outliers Continue To Pester Ogden In Battle For First Place In Mountain

The Utah Outliers and Rock Springs Grizzlies were forced to keep their series to one game this past weekend, postponing their Friday game but playing on Saturday. Utah won by a 7-2 score and have won all three of their 2024 games so far this year, all incidentally against Rock Springs. They still got enough points to remain right on the bumper of the Ogden Mustangs in the quest for the top spot in the Mountain Division. And guess who’s on the agenda for Saturday night? Utah will be in Ogden that night after facing the visiting Pueblo Bulls on Friday. That is the first of five remaining games against the Mustangs this regular season. 

  • The Outliers came out shooting on Saturday, setting the league’s high mark for shots in a first period with 28, and their shot total of 65 is second highest for a team this season. 
  • The Outliers held the Grizzlies to 29 shots, which is close to their season average of 32.09, good for third fewest shots against in the league. 
  • Goaltender Philip Rondina stopped 27 of 29 and improved his league-leading goals against average to 1.50. His .950 save percentage is third in the NCDC. 
  • David Utkin’s 25th goal – the second in the 7-2 victory – keeps him at the top of the league’s goal-scoring leaderboard. His 45 points are also second in the league behind only P.A.L.’s Ty Broad. 


Around The Boards

The Connecticut Jr. Rangers remain in second place in the Atlantic Division with 35 points, coming off a split weekend against the Rockets Hockey Club. The Rangers won 6-1 in Bridgewater, N.J., on Friday, and then the Rockets won in Connecticut, 5-3, on Saturday. The Rangers are dueling it out currently with the Mercer Chiefs for second place, and the Rockets are at fourth place with 26 points, only one point ahead of the WBS Knights. 

  • Connecticut’s Alexander Ondos and All-Star Carl Johan Salle have two of the league’s best active scoring streaks. Ondos has 5-5-10 going back six games to Dec. 16, and Salle has 1-4-5 over his last five games. 
  • Connecticut goaltender Primo Baldassarre extended his winning streak to five games with the Rangers win on Friday, before falling on Saturday. He is No. 1 in the league in save percentage with a .960 and second in goals against average at 1.55. 
  • Rockets All-Star Cam Bergeman scored his 22nd goal of the year to put him at second overall in NCDC goals. 
  • Jonah Copre, who also played in the All-Star Game, had an assist against the Jr. Rangers for 32nd point, good for second among NCDC defensemen. Fellow Rangers defenseman Anthony Allain-Samake, a UConn commit, started in the All-Star game. 

The Islanders Hockey Club split against the Twin City Thunder, who also played and fell to the Boston Junior Bruins last weekend. On Jan. 11, Twin City won 3-2 in Tyngsboro, Mass., and then the Islanders won 3-0 on Jan. 13 in Auburn, Maine. 

  • When the Thunder won 3-2, that marked the IHC’s first regulation loss in a one-goal game. Their 10-1-4-1 record for 25 points gives them the most points in one-goal games this year. 
  • The Islanders are second in goals against per game at 2.06, and second in shots against per game at 31.66. 
  • The 3-0 victory was Frank Murphy’s league-leading fifth shutout. Murphy also shutout all shooters in his All-Star Game period, stopping all 14 shots he faced. Murphy is fourth in GAA (1.93) and save percentage (.939).