By Joshua Boyd / NCDCHockey.com
What an amazing past week in the NCDC, one that was especially for the division leaders that entered it. All three – the Atlantic-leading (and overall league-leading) P.A.L. Jr. Islanders, Islanders Hockey Club and Ogden Mustangs – entered last weekend with leads that they maintained with big weekend showings. They Islanders HC went 3-0, Ogden went 2-0 – including a win over the team one point behind them last week, the Utah Outliers – and P.A.L. went 2-0-1. Nobody has come close to P.A.L.’s success, as they stand with a 29-point lead over second place in the Atlantic Division. The Islanders Hockey Club have a seven-point lead, and Ogden now has a three-point lead.
There’s still plenty of hockey left and teams continue to jockey for position, such as the exciting battles at the fourth and fifth place spots for each division, all ranging between differences of one to three points.
As usual, we’ll shine the NCDC This Week spotlights on our teams that earned at least as many points over the last week as games played.
Ogden Mustangs Prosper In Key Mountain Division Battle To Hold Onto First Place
The Mustangs were just a point above the rival Utah Outliers a week ago, but after the two teams went head-to-head on Saturday, it was the Mustangs that came away with the 5-1 victory on home ice. The two teams meet again the weekend of Feb. 23-24. The victory pushed the Mustangs to a 26-7-1-1 record for 54 points, three points ahead of Utah’s 51 points. The Mustangs also helped their division-leading cause by earlier defeating the Idaho Falls Spud Kings, 6-2, on Jan. 19.
- The victory against Utah gave Ogden a one-game edge in the razor-tight season series, at 4-3-0-0.
- With four wins in a row, the Mustangs are tied with the Islanders Hockey Club for the longest active winning streak, of four games.
- Ogden led after both the first and second periods of both games this past weekend, giving them a league-leading 22 wins when up after 40 minutes (22-1-1-0).
- They also scored the first goal in both games, and they lead in wins when scoring first at 22-2-1-1. P.A.L. also has 22 such wins.
- Their 11 goals scored this past weekend gave them a one-hundredth of a lead in the total offense category, as their 3.89 goals per game is first, trailed closely by the South Shore Kings’ 3.88 goals per game. They are second in shots on goal per game at 42.57.
- Utah and Idaho Falls went a combined 1-for-10 on the power play, thus keeping Ogden at the top of the league’s penalty killing chart with only 20 power play goals against on 152 opponent opportunities, for an 86.8 percent success rate.
- Teddie Hember’s assist on Parker Osborn’s second goal in the 5-1 win over Utah gave him 12 power play assists, good for third in the league. He’s also tied for third in defenseman goals after scoring his seventh against Idaho Falls, and tied for seventh in overall scoring with 25 points.
- With a six-point weekend, Parker Osborn passed Utah’s David Utkin to become the league’s leading scorer among rookies. He has a 25-23-48 line in 33 games. That also puts him second in overall scoring behind only P.A.L.’s Ty Broad (52 points).
- Osborn also tied Utkin for the NCDC goal lead, with 25 apiece.
Islanders Hockey Club’s 3-0 Week Lifts Them To Seven Points Above New England Field
The Islanders, as aforementioned, are on fire with four straight wins – tied for the longest active winning streak in the NCDC at this time. The team swept the Boston Junior Bruins on Jan. 19 and 20 (8-1 and 4-2) and also beat regional rivals the Northern Cyclones by a 4-3 score on Jan. 17. The Islanders thus improved to 26-4-4-1 for a total of 57 points, which gives them a seven-point lead over the second place South Shore Kings.
- The Islanders improved to 4-1-2-1 in their season series against the Junior Bruins and they are 5-0 against the Cyclones this season. They stand at 16-18-3-1 against the Junior Bruins and 19-11-1-2 against the Cyclones, both series going back to the NCDC’s 2017-18 inaugural season.
- Rookie forward Daniel Woodford is tied for the second-longest active goal-scoring streak with goals in each of his last three games, scoring against the Junior Bruins twice and also once in the game against the Cyclones. The recent outburst accounts for half of his six goals this season.
- They’re still the best at the one-goal games, as the IHC won their league-leading 11th by that margin when they beat the Cyclones. They’ve only lost once in regulation this year in a game decided by one goal, and are 11-1-4-1. On the other side, the 8-1 win against the Junior Bruins was the first time the Islanders have been part of a game decided by more than five goals this season.
- Defense wins games, and the Islanders have been great on the D side, posting the league’s second best team goals against average at 2.06 GAA, and the defensemen corps gives up only 31.46 shots per game, second lowest in the league.
- Braxton Powers’ 19th goal of the season, his hat trick goal against the Junior Bruins on Jan. 19, was also the Islanders’ seventh shorthanded goal as a team, joining the WBS Knights and Northern Cyclones in sharing the league lead with seven apiece.
- Despite that many shorthanded goals, playing the cleanest game has helped the Islanders stay on top in New England. Their 10.77 penalty minutes per game is the lowest across the league.
- NCDC All-Stars selection Samuel Larsson registered his 15th power play assist on Jan. 20, which is good for second among NCDC blueliners as are his 17 power play points.
- Another All-Star, goaltender Frank Murphy, is enjoying a seven-game winning streak, including all three of the Jan. 17-20 games. He improved to 19 wins, which is good for second overall in the league. His 1.94 goals against average is good for third, as are his 1,518 minutes played.
- Braxton Powers broke a 3-3 deadlock against the Cyclones at the 8:34 mark of regulation in the third period for his league-leading seventh game-winner. Teammate Max Lundgren is tied for second with six. Also, his shorthanded goal to mark the hat trick tied three others for the league lead with three, and the shorthanded point was his fourth, tied with two others for the league lead.
P.A.L. Junior Islanders Earn Five Points Over Three Games For Mammoth Division Lead
The Jr. Islanders bounced back from an overtime loss to the Rockets Hockey Club on Jan. 17 (6-5), before the Jr. Isles were able to sweep the Connecticut Jr. Rangers with scores of 4-1 and 4-2 on Jan. 19 and 20. The five points were good enough to keep the Islanders on a 10-game point streak (9-0-1-0) and also give them an almost – but not yet mathematically insurmountable – 29-point lead in the Atlantic Division. At 31-2-2-1, they have 65 points and are the only NCDC team to have clinched a playoff berth this season.
Their success also guaranteed that there will be a new Founders Cup Champion this year. The five-time winners between 2019 and 2023, the Jersey Hitmen, are one of three teams in the Atlantic that cannot mathematically catch up to the Jr. Islanders. No team has clinched the Founders Cup, but the Jr. Islanders are the current league leaders and statistical favorites to do so, though the Islanders Hockey Club are just eight points behind. The P.A.L. Jr. Islanders and Islanders Hockey Club face each other this weekend, in what could decide a lot, and at the very least the head-to-head tiebreaker if it were to come down to that.
- The Jr. Islanders came out on fire on Jan. 20, putting 26 shots on goal in the first period, the second highest shots total in the first period. Utah set the bar one week earlier with 28 on Jan. 13.
- Also on Jan. 20, they left the first period with a lead for the 15th time this season – and they have never lost when they’ve led after 20 minutes, at 15-0 with a lead. Their 27-0-1-0 record with a lead after 40 minutes is also the best in the league.
- Connecticut led 1-0 on Jan. 19 in their first of two games of the weekend series, before the Jr. Islanders came back to win. It was a league-best seventh victory when a team is trailing after one period. The Jr. Islanders are 7-1-1-1 in that situation. The “1” in the third column of that record was their Jan. 17 OT loss to the Rockets, in which they also trailed after the first.
- The Jr. Islanders lead the NCDC in both shots on goal per game (42.75) and team goals against average (1.97).
- NCDC All-Stars selection Coleson Hanrahan remains No. 1 in defenseman scoring for the NCDC with 39 points after a five-point weekend (2-3-5). He had three assists to bump up to a league-leading 33 helpers, and both of his goals came on the power play. That helped him to tie for the league lead in defenseman power play goals with five and he leads in PP assists (17) and points (21).
- Nicholas Bevilacqua was an NCDC All-Star Game starter alongside Coleson Hanrahan and P.A.L. teammates Ty Broad and Heikki Virtanen on Jan. 15. He saw his 20-game winning streak end with the overtime loss to the Rockets, but rebounded with his league-leading 24th win against the Jr. Rangers on Jan. 20. He is second in save percentage at .948, and third in shutouts with three.
- Bevilacqua is also two wins from tying the NCDC wins record (48, held by current Army goaltender Evan Szary). He is also three games from tying Szary in goaltender games played, as 85 is the record.
- Ty Broad put up a 1-3-4 line this past weekend, so he has eclipsed the 100-point mark just in his time with the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders (he has 101 points overall). He was able to avoid what would’ve been a tie for first in NCDC scoring by pushing up to 52 points – that is, if he hadn’t scored the last three games, he’d be tied with Parker Osborn at 48. Broad and both Hanrahan brothers Coleson and Carter are also tied for the league lead in assists with 33 apiece. A power play assist on a Coleson Hanrahan goal gave him a league-leading 18 helpers with the extra man, and he is tied with Carter Hanrahan at 21 power play points apiece for the NCDC lead.
- Virtanen did not score a power play goal in his 1-1-2 performance the last three games, but he still remains the league leader in power play goals at 11.
Utica Jr. Comets Earn Home Sweep For Firm Hold On Third In New England
The Jr. Comets were 4-0 and 4-2 victors against the visiting Twin City Thunder, hitting the 20-win mark and hitting 43 points. At 20-13-2-1, the Jr. Comets hold third place in the New England Division with a 14-point lead over fourth place. They may have a healthy lead there, but they’re much more interested in taking away the seven points between them and the second place Kings (50 points).
- Utica improved to 5-1-0-0 for the season against the Twin City Thunder.
- NCDC All-Star Game selection Riley Joslin was already the leader in power play goals by a defenseman, and his fifth this past weekend kept him at the top but now with company from P.A.L.’s Coleson Hanrahan.
- Leading scorer Payne Gatewood, another NCDC All-Star Game selection, put up a goal and three assists for four points. Gatewood now has 22 goals, and his 42 points now registers fourth in league scoring.
- When Cameron Manley stopped all 26 shots he faced in the 4-0 victory on Jan. 19, he joined teammate Waylon Esche as the only goaltending duo in the league with multiple shutouts. Both goaltenders have registered two apiece.
- Niko Benjamin registered a hat trick on Jan. 20, his first in his three-year Jr. Comets career. Benjamin recently became the Jr. Comets’ all-time leader in games played with 128 (and counting).
Rockets Hockey Club Wins Two Of Three To Remain At Fourth In Atlantic
The Rockets Hockey Club were able to defeat the mighty P.A.L. Jr. Islanders in overtime on Jan. 17, and then came out of the weekend with a split against Mercer to give themselves four points out of the three games. These were important points (as they all are), as it helped the Rockets stand at fourth place with 30 points, two place above the fifth-place Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights. The Rockets certainly don’t want to slip below fourth, which gives them a home ice advantage in the 4v5 play-in game – however, the Rockets are more interested in the more stable full playoff spots above them. Third place is just five points above them, and second place is only six points away. With 17 games remaining, there’s tons of runway to push up the charts and grab one of those spots, with only No. 1 in the Atlantic (currently held by P.A.L.) mathematically out of reach for the Rockets. After the Jan. 17 6-5 win against P.A.L., the Rockets won another one-goal affair against Mercer on Jan. 19, 5-4, and fell to the same Chiefs, 4-1, on Jan. 20.
- The Rockets remain the comeback kings of the season so far, as they were trailing after two periods against both P.A.L. and in their first game against Mercer, but pulled out the OT wins in both. Their four victories when trailing after 40 minutes lead the NCDC.
- NCDC All-Star Game selection Sam Blanton is enjoying the NCDC’s longest active scoring streak, as he has put up five goals and five assists for 10 points in his last eight games.
- Another NCDC All-Star, defenseman Jonah Copre, had a fantastic three-game stretch. He scored the OT game-winner against P.A.L., then also added four assists over the three games. Copre is second in defenseman scoring this year with 36 points, and second in assists with 31.
- Cam Bergeman, another NCDC All-Star, registered his 24th goal of the season against P.A.L., which is good for a tie for second most in the league this year. That was also his ninth power play goal, good for a tie for second in the league.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights Take Three Points To Hang Tough In Atlantic Playoff Race
The WBS Knights are the team that is two points behind the Rockets Hockey Club, but also only eight points out of second. Like the Rockets, they can’t catch up to P.A.L. for first place, but they can still move north and find a better spot than fifth to remain at over their final 17 games from this point. They helped their cause by splitting with the Jersey Hitmen and coming away with three points. They defeated Jersey 3-2 on Jan. 20 and fell 2-1 on Jan. 21 in overtime. They currently have 28 points, which is also five above the Hitmen in the battle for what would be the fifth and final playoff spot (which is for a single 4v5 play-in game).
- The Knights stand at 3-3-1-0 against the Hitmen this year, and Jersey is 4-2-0-0 against the Knights.
- Their win on Jan. 20 came on the one-year anniversary of the Knights’ first-ever victory against the Hitmen on Jan. 20, 2023, a 6-3 victory when WBS was in its inaugural season of 2022-23.
- Two of the Knights’ NCDC All-Stars, William Jasmin and Justin Ryan, both scored in the 3-2 victory, with Ryan capturing his third GWG of the season. The other All-Star representing the Knights, goaltender Tade Carman, was strong in net with 46 saves on 48 shots.
Around The Boards
The Idaho Falls Spud Kings were able to help new Head Coach John Becanic to his first NCDC victory, 3-2 on Jan. 20, against the Pueblo Bulls, but that was preceded by the Ogden Mustangs’ 6-2 win over Idaho Falls on Friday.
- Idaho Falls defenseman D.J. MacLeish scored his 13th goal on Jan. 20, which evened up the game against Pueblo and led to Owen Pitters’ eventual GWG. MacLeish leads all NCDC defensemen in goal-scoring, three ahead of Pueblo’s Will Sinclair. MacLeish is also No. 3 among all defensemen in scoring with 29 points.
- Goaltender Tucker Inabinet, who was acquired from Rock Springs on Jan. 2, earned his second Spud Kings victory on Jan. 20. He leads the NCDC in goaltender saves with 1,034. Inabinet is a second-year NCDC player who previously played with the Rockets Hockey Club in 2021-22.
As seen above, the Jersey Hitmen took a split weekend against the WBS Knights with their 3-2 regulation loss and 2-1 overtime win.
- Samuel Beaulne’s second goal of the season stood up as the GWG in the Hitmen’s third overtime victory of their season. They are 3-1 in the extra session.
The Mercer Chiefs bounced back from their 5-4 loss to the Rockets on Jan. 19 to come back with a 4-1 victory on Jan. 20. The victory was able to push the Chiefs ahead of the Connecticut Jr. Rangers into the second position in the Atlantic Division with 36 points.
- NCDC All-Star selection Henri Spoof is on a three-game goal-scoring streak, which culminated with his first NCDC hat trick on Jan. 20. He has five goals in three games going back to Jan. 14, as well as three assists during that time. His overall scoring streak shows a 5-4-9 line in five games dating back to Dec. 22, 2023.
The Provo Predators split their series with the Rock Springs Grizzlies, with the Predators winning 4-1 on Jan. 19 and the Grizzlies coming back with a 6-4 victory on Saturday, Jan. 20.
- The 6-4 win for the Grizzlies was their first after being tied after 40 minutes (3-3), this being their sixth game in that situation.
- Provo’s Michael Polston improved to 14-3-0-1 with a .926 save percentage after Friday’s game, which gives him the third-most wins in the NCDC.
- Polston and Ryan Henry, with respective GAA’s of 2.60 and 2.70, are the highest ranking goaltending duo in terms of goals against average.
The South Shore Kings and Northern Cyclones split their weekend series with the Kings winning 2-1 on Jan. 19 and the Cyclones winning 4-2 on Jan. 20. The two points kept the Kings in second place in the New England Division with 50 points, seven above third place and seven behind first.
- The Kings are still No. 1 in giving up the fewest shots on goal per game with 30.00. Also, with 27 power play goals in 127 attempts, their 29.1 percent power play success rate is also No. 1 in the league.
- NCDC All-Star Ryan Keyes’ 19th win on Jan. 19 was good for a tie for second in the NCDC.
- NCDC Young Guns Game selection Charlie Zetterqvist scored two goals to help the Cyclones come back from being down 2-1 in the third period to win 4-2 on Jan. 20.
The Utah Outliers were able to defeat the Pueblo Bulls, 5-3, on Jan. 19 but then fell to the Mustangs the next night. Utah stands with 51 points, three points behind Ogden but ranking fourth best points total in the NCDC.
- The Outliers are one of two teams in the league to be undefeated in up to 65 minutes of hockey when leading after two periods, at 16-0-0-1 (Provo is at 13-0-0-1).
- Goaltender Philip Rondina has the No. 1 goals against in the league at 1.70, and he’s third in save percentage (.943).