NCDC This Week: Mercer Chiefs Chasing Home Ice Playoff Spot With Four-Game Winning Streak
By Joshua Boyd / NCDCHockey.com
It was pretty much another standard week in the National Collegiate Development Conference – everyone’s beating everyone, there are plenty of upsets and very few solid runs. Not that those are lacking, either. We are seeing the Mountain Division’s top team the Ogden Mustangs putting up points in eight straight games, at 7-0-1-0; and then in the Atlantic Division, you can find the second-year Mercer Chiefs helping themselves to get some space at second place thanks to a 4-0-0-0 run. Every team now has an average of roughly 13 games over the final six weekends, so every point is crucial as teams try to either settle into a top spot or move up the standings.
Mercer Chiefs’ Four-Game Winning Streak Give Them Four-Point Cushion At Second
Almost everyone in the Atlantic Division can catch everyone else still, but to get even a few points ahead of your closest competition helps buy a little more confidence in a higher playoff spot. At 44 points, the Mercer Chiefs are mathematically able to catch up with the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders, but the league-leading P.A.L. squad is 25 points ahead. Conversely, the sixth-place Jersey Hitmen, the team against which Mercer got a sweep this weekend, could technically not only catch up, but pass Mercer. Mercer defeated Jersey, 4-2 and 4-3 in overtime, over the weekend.
- Mercer is enjoying a 7-1-0-0 record this year against the Hitmen and overall they are 10-4-0-0 in the all-time series at this point.
- Their 4-0 winning streak is the best active streak in the league at this time.
- Will Rassier’s three-game goal streak, with four goals (plus one assist) is the longest active goal-scoring streak.
Boston Junior Bruins Earn Road Sweep For Three-Game Point Streak
The Junior Bruins played three games over the first weekend of February, two in Maine and one back home in Marlborough, Mass. Against the Twin City Thunder, they won 4-2 and then fell in a shootout, 4-3, on Saturday, Feb. 3. At home on Sunday, they defeated the Utica Jr. Comets, 6-3. The five-point stretch gave the Junior Bruins, in fourth place in the New England Division, a seven-point lead over the Northern Cyclones, who were idle to start February. The Junior Bruins are mathematically still eligible for as high as first place in the New England Division, while also being fully within reach of the sixth place Twin City Thunder. Long story short, we’re a long way from knowing who will be at which seed in the New England Division come playoff time.
- One thing that is for certain is that longtime Junior Bruins standout Shane Baker is enjoying the NCDC’s longest active point streak, pushing it to 11 games going back to Jan. 11, over which time he has put up a 7-7-14 line. Baker is tied for third in league scoring with 46 points.
- The Junior Bruins and Utica Jr. Comets were actually tied 1-1 in the eventual 6-3 win, and that gave the Junior Bruins their 10th win when tied after 20 minutes (10-3-1-1), which is tied for the second most wins in the league in that situation. They were also tied 0-0 against the Thunder in their Friday 4-2 victory.
Idaho Falls Spud Kings Challenging For Playoff Position On Three-Game Winning Streak
The Spud Kings have been turning it on recently, winning three in a row including a sweep of the visiting Provo Predators this past weekend. It was a pair of very different one-goal games, with scores of 2-1 followed by 7-6 in overtime on the second night, surely both thrilling to the sold-out crowds of more than 4,000 that pack Idaho Falls’ Mountain America Center. The two victories, plus a 4-1 win over Rock Springs on Jan. 27, have given the Spud Kings 38 points on the season, which puts them one point behind the fourth place Pueblo Bulls. The Spud Kings are still mathematically eligible to climb as high as first, while also mathematically eligible to be dislodged by the sixth-place Rock Springs Grizzlies (who can not finish higher than fourth).
- Adding to the thrill ride of the 7-6 victory on Saturday, the Spud Kings were actually down 4-1 after one period and 4-3 after two periods. They came back to win in overtime on the back of an Owen Pitters OT goal. Their fourth win when trailing after two periods ties the league lead in that category with the Rockets Hockey Club.
- Defenseman D.J. MacLeish had the GWG in the 2-1 win on Feb. 2, which was his fifth GWG of the year. That leads all other NCDC defensemen by at least three. He is, not surprisingly, also the league leader in goals by a defenseman with 16 and is tied for second in defenseman scoring with 37 points.
- Goaltender Tucker Inabinet, who stopped 31 of 32 shots in the 2-1 victory, leads the entire NCDC in saves made with 1,127.
Ogden Mustangs Widen Mountain Division Lead With Sweep
The Mustangs, as aforementioned, are enjoying the league’s longest current points streak by a team at 7-0-1-0. They took wins of 5-2 and 6-1 against the host Rock Springs Grizzlies this past weekend. That gave them a 29-7-2-1 record for 61 points, which gives them a six-point lead over the second place Utah Outliers in the race for the top spot in the Mountain Division. The Mustangs are also just eight points behind the league-leading P.A.L. Jr. Islanders in the hunt for the Founders Cup, indicative of the regular season championship. They closed the gap by four points after they won both against Rock Springs and P.A.L. fell twice to the Rockets Hockey Club last weekend.
- Parker Osborn, the leading rookie scorer – who is also second overall in league scoring, registered a goal in his sixth straight game. That is tied for the second-longest goal streak overall this season – one more and he ties for the most games with a goal. He has eight total, scoring in each game going back to Jan. 19, including a pair of two-goal efforts. He now has 30 goals and 23 assists for 53 points in 37 games. He is the first to reach 30 goals in the NCDC this season. His six GWG’s this year are tied for second most in the league.
- Brody Simko has the third-longest active point streak right now, with 11 points (4-7-11) in his last seven games.
- With these players’ recent offensive outbursts, it should also come as no surprise that Ogden has the league’s best offense at 3.95 per game. Ogden is also second in shots on goal per game at 41.90, just .10 behind the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders’ 42.00
- Ogden outshot Rock Springs in both games and now has the most victories when outshooting an opponent, at 26-4-0-0.
- The Mustangs are also No. 1 in wins when scoring first in a game. They’ve started the offense in 29 of their 39 games and won 25 of those for a 25-2-1-1 record.
- Ogden is tied for the league’s penalty kill, as they’ve allowed only 22 power play goals on 165 times shorthanded, good for 86.7 percent, which ties the Northern Cyclones.
Rockets Hockey Club Attain First Weekend Sweep Of P.A.L. In 2023-24
It took until February, but an NCDC opponent of the league-leading and defending Dineen Cup Champion P.A.L. Jr. Islanders finally defeated the Jr. Isles twice in the same weekend. They had swept several opponents along the way, but it was the Rockets this time that went 2-0 with wins of 4-0 and 4-1 against P.A.L. This is a huge confidence-builder for RHC since, were the season to be over now, that would be the first round match-up.
- Chace Hale put up his best goaltending performance of the season when he stopped all 44 shots faced on Feb. 2. As good as that was, it still didn’t cap his career best of a 48-save shutout on Nov. 5, 2022, against the Connecticut Jr. Rangers.
- Jonah Copre didn’t register a point this past weekend, but he remains No. 2 in league defenseman scoring with 37 points and second in assists with 32.
- Cam Bergeman put up his third shorthanded goal to tie four other players – including teammate Jonas Dobnig – for a tie for the league lead in shorties. He also had a SH assist this year that gives him four shorthanded points, also tied for the league lead with the same crowd including Dobnig. Bergeman is second with 28 goals and he is third in points with 46 points.
Around The Boards
The South Shore Kings started February on the first of the month with a 2-1 shootout loss to the Islanders Hockey Club, before playing the Utica Jr. Comets on Feb. 3. The Jr. Comets dealt them a 5-2 defeat on their home ice Foxboro Sports Center. Traveling away from Foxboro to Tyngsboro, Mass., they defeated the Islanders Hockey Club, 4-3. With three points in three games, the Kings came back to being two points behind the Islanders for the New England Division lead.
- Who says you need to shoot the lights out to win a game? The Kings registered 14 shots on goal on Feb. 4 but still defeated the Islanders Hockey Club. The 14 shots is a season low in the NCDC this year. It hasn’t happened often – the Kings have only been outshot four times this year, but are 3-1-0-0 when it has happened.
- On the other end, the Kings still give up the fewest shots on goal per game (which goes hand in hand with only being outshot four times), giving up 29.5 shots against per game.
- Ryan Keyes won his 22nd game of the year against IHC, and he has nine more wins this year than in his first two NCDC seasons combined (13).
- Kotaro Murase scored his first hat trick of his two-year NCDC career, and it was the Kings’ second hattie this year, following one by Xavier Vaillancourt back on Oct. 15.
The Kings had Utica between their two games against the Islanders Hockey Club, while for the Islanders it was a straight 1-1 split against the Kings. They won 2-1 in the shootout and lost in regulation by a 4-3 score three days later.
- The Islanders Hockey Club is the least-penalized team in the league, averaging only 11.18 penalty minutes per game.
- IHC played in a league-high 11th game to go beyond regulation, over which they’ve gone 4-4 in OT and 2-1 in shootouts for a similarly league-leading 17 points. Their fourth shootout win also ties a league best, with Utah.
- Islanders goalies have put forth the second best shootout percentage this year, giving up only two goals on 24 shots against for a .167 success rate for opponents.
- After stopping 29 of 30 shots in 65 minutes, Ean Badgett gave up just one shootout goal on nine attempts.
- Joseph Samango’s shootout winner was his first game-winner of any type this year, and his second shootout goal of the year.
Connecticut and Wilkes-Barre split a weekend series of one-goal games, with the WBS Knights winning Game 1, 3-2, and Connecticut won 1-0.
- Primo Baldassarre stopped all 29 shots he faced from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Feb. 4, and he is now tied in shutouts with former Islanders Hockey Club goaltender Frank Murphy. Both have five on the season. Baldassarre is also first overall in goals against average (1.81) and save percentage (.951).
- The Knights won their game 3-2 after being down 2-1 following two periods. It was the first time this season that the Knights have come back from being down two goals to win.
The Twin City Thunder split against the Boston Junior Bruins in Maine, falling 4-2 on Feb. 2, and winning 4-3 in a shootout on Feb. 3.
- The Thunder are 2-0 in shootouts, and their 3-for-4 goal-scoring gives them a .750 success rate, the best average in the league. They’re also the only team to not have been scored on in a shootout*, as their opponents have been stonewalled on five attempts. (* = This doesn’t include the Jersey Hitmen or Connecticut Jr. Rangers, the last two teams that have not been in a shootout this year.)
The Utica Jr. Comets put up a split as they visited both the South Shore Kings and Junior Bruins on a weekend Massachusetts swing. They won 5-2 against South Shore on Feb. 3 and fell 6-3 to the Junior Bruins on Feb. 4. They remain eight points back of the South Shore Kings in second and 10 points back of the Islanders Hockey Club, and are also 13 points ahead of the fourth-place Junior Bruins.
- Alexander Keller and Payne Gatewood each had a shorthanded goal in the Jr. Comets’ victory on Feb. 3, helping them to a tie for most shorties in the NCDC with eight (tied with the Jersey Hitmen).
- Utica has given up just 20 power play goals on 149 times shorthanded for an 86.6 percent penalty killing percentage, just one 10th of a percent off the league lead posted by the Northern Cyclones and Ogden Mustangs (86.7).
- Riley Joslin’s sixth power play goal, scored in the 6-3 loss to the Junior Bruins, ties him for most PPG by a defenseman with the P.A.L.’s Coleson Hanrahan.
- Waylon Esche was in net for both games and is second in minutes played in the league (1,758).
The Pueblo Bulls and Utah Outliers split their weekend series in West Valley City, Utah, with the Bulls winning 5-2 on Friday night and the Outliers winning 7-1 on Saturday. Both teams were certainly hoping for more than two points from the weekend, as the Outliers are now six points back of the Mountain Division-leading Ogden Mustangs; and the Bulls, sitting in fourth place (the final playoff spot), are only one point up on Idaho Falls as the two teams continue to jostle to get into a postseason spot that they could eventually clinch as March draws nearer.
- Pueblo went 3-for-8 on the power play this weekend and their PP remains No. 1 in the NCDC. They have scored 47 man-up goals on 168 shots for a 28.0 percent success rate.
- The Bulls’ Will Sinclair had a goal and an assist as part of an overall four-game point streak (2-3-5) and now he is second in goal-scoring among NCDC defensemen with 12 goals. Nate Farrell had three assists in the win and he’s fourth in defenseman scoring at 33 points.
- Utah’s Garrett Joss posted a 1-4-5 line in the 7-1 win and improved to a tie for third in league scoring at 46 points.
- The Outliers’ Philip Rondina got the victory on Saturday and is currently third in goals against average (2.01) and save percentage (.934).