By Joshua Boyd / NCDCHockey.com
One of four NCDC showcase events for the season is in the books, and some of the big winners from that event are, not surprisingly, among the overall standings leaders as we enter showcase number two, which will be the Hitmen Classic, starting Thursday and running through Sunday. Three teams ran the table at the showcase, all from the New England Division, as both the Islanders Hockey Club and Utica Jr. Comets went 3-0 and the South Shore Kings went 2-0.
Also, out in the Mountain Division, the Utah Outliers earned their first two NCDC wins in a sweep of the Rock Springs Grizzlies. Ogden defeated the Pueblo Bulls in both of their games on the road in Colorado. Provo also won its only game of the week, and the Predators have given up only one singular goal against in their first two Tier II games.
We will take a closer look now at all of the teams that finished above .500 for the past week.
Islanders Hockey Club Earns Sweep For Best Start Since 2020
The Islanders are hoping for better days ahead as compared to their past few seasons. The Islanders are currently tied for first in the New England Division with eight points, off of a 3-0-2-0 record. They righted the ship with a 3-0 record at the BJB Shootout after starting out with two overtime losses to the Junior Bruins, with whom they share the division lead also in concert with the South Shore Kings. The Islanders won 4-2 against the Jersey Hitmen in Friday’s opener, followed that with a 5-4 shootout win (including 11 rounds of shootout) on Saturday evening against Mercer and then closed Sunday night with a 4-3 victory against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights. They will face both the Hitmen and Chiefs again this coming weekend at the Hitmen Classic.
- The Islanders last posted eight points in five games in 2020-21, when they went 4-1-0-0 and that was also their last season making the playoffs, so there are good portents for this strong start in 2023.
- The IHC has not swept a three-game showcase since the 2020 USPHL Winter Showcase, when they defeated P.A.L., the former Rochester Monarchs and the Rockets Hockey Club. They swept five showcases during their legendary 47-3 inaugural season of 2017-18, which ended with a Dineen Cup victory.
- The IHC’s 11-round shootout against Mercer, which Sam Larsson ended victoriously for IHC, is the team’s longest by one round. On Nov. 23, 2019, they defeated the South Shore Kings 4-3 in a game and 3-2 in a 10-round shootout (won by former Islander Johan Rosenquist).
- This is the second season in three years that four of the Islanders’ first five games were one-goal decisions. They are 2-0-2-0 this year, and were 3-1 in one-goal games out of the gate in 2021-22.
- Returning Islander Tikhon Ashikhmin (‘03) is off to a great start with eight points in five games, which is half his total point production of last year. That’s the best offensive start for an Islander through five games since Nicholas Niemo (University of Maine) posted nine points in his first five in 2019.
- Frank Murphy ‘04 is the first goalie to be in net for all three Islanders wins at the same showcase. The former USPHL Premier All-Star goalie faced 100 shots, giving up nine goals over three games.
Utica Jr. Comets Start Out 3-0 After Debuting For Season At BJB Shootout
The Jr. Comets worked for an extra week after the NCDC’s 16 other teams had started, and it was worth the wait. The Jr. Comets swept the shootout with wins against the Connecticut Jr. Rangers (5-1), the Rockets Hockey Club (4-2) and the Mercer Chiefs (7-0) to join the 4-0 South Shore Kings and 2-0 Provo Predators as the only completely undefeated NCDC teams out of the gate.
- This repeats the Jr. Comets’ 2021-22 start, which was also the start of current Head Coach Louis Educate’s tenure behind the bench. That was a 3-0 weekend against the Rockets Hockey Club to kick off the season.
- This 3-0 start where they scored 16 goals at the BJB Shootout vastly beats their start to the 2020-21 season at the same event, where they went 0-3 and didn’t score a goal.
- The last time the Jr. Comets swept a showcase was the 2020 South Shore Kings Presidents Day Showcase, the organization’s first season as the Jr. Comets. They also swept the 2017 BJB Shootout, which were their third, fourth and fifth games in their NCDC history.
- The Jr. Comets’ 7-0 win over Mercer on Monday represented by and far their largest margin of victory in a shutout win in their seven-year NCDC history. Their prior largest margin was four goals, achieved twice on Oct. 31, 2021 (4-0 vs. Boston Advantage) and Dec. 13, 2019 (4-0 vs. Rochester Monarchs).
- Cameron Manley’s first NCDC shutout came in his 14th game. The local product from Whitesboro, N.Y., played in 22 USPHL Premier games for the Jr. Comets between 2021-23, posting a .930 save percentage and 15-4-0-1 record; a good representative of #USPHLAdvancement In Action.
- Coming out of the BJB Shootout, ‘05 returning forward Fuji Suzuki had posted a goal and four assists for five points to lead the Jr. Comets. Suzuki has been a member of the Japan National Under-20 and Under-18 Teams over the past couple seasons.
P.A.L. Jr. Islanders Escape Massachusetts Without A Regulation Defeat
With a 2-0-1-0 record at the BJB Shootout, the Jr. Islanders stand atop the Atlantic Division standings with a 3-0-1-1 record overall. With their eight points, they share the four-way league lead in points with South Shore, the Islanders Hockey Club and the Boston Junior Bruins. To start the Shootout, the Jr. Islanders fell 3-2 in overtime to the South Shore Kings (whom they had defeated two games to one in the 2023 Dineen Cup Championships). From there, P.A.L. defeated the Junior Bruins, 5-2, and the Northern Cyclones by a 1-0 score.
- This is the third time in their seven-year NCDC history that the Jr. Islanders enjoyed a share of first place after five games. They also posted eight points and were in a tie, points-wise, with the Jersey Hitmen one year ago in 2022-23. In 2018-19, the Junior Bruins, Rockets Hockey Club and P.A.L. all stood at 4-1-0-0 after the 2018 BJB Shootout to lead the league.
- The Jr. Isles’ game against the South Shore Kings was a flip in the storyline of the pivotal Game 2 of the Dineen Cup Final. Where this past spring the Kings had an early lead and the Jr. Islanders won in OT, this time, it was the Jr. Islanders with the early lead before the Kings won in OT. The newfound rivalry will continue into this weekend, as the teams face each other again on Saturday at 12:15 p.m.
- The Jr. Islanders’ 1-0 win is their fourth single-goal shutout in their NCDC history, with Nick Bevilacqua (35 saves) joining St. Lawrence University goaltender Cameron Smith – who enjoyed two 1-0 shutout wins – and Boston University goaltender Henry Graham in the 1-0 win club for his team.
- The Jr. Islanders’ Captain, Ty Broad, improved to 10 points, which has him tied for the league lead in points heading into the Hitmen Classic with Connecticut’s Jack Houser. Currently scoring at an 85-point pace, Broad has reached the 10-point mark more than a month earlier than last season (Nov. 5). His 58 career points so far also put him into the Jr. Islanders’ All-Time Top 10. He was already eighth in the Top 10 of P.A.L. goal-scoring with 25 entering last weekend.
- Broad is also one of four players currently enjoying a five-game point streak from the start of the season. He is one point in his next game away from matching his career best of six games, which he pulled off twice last year.
South Shore Kings Take Two At BJB Shootout To Remain Undefeated At 4-0
The Kings are enjoying a 4-0 start so far, thanks to a pair of season-opening wins against the Northern Cyclones and BJB Shootout wins against the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders (3-2 OT) and the Jersey Hitmen (5-3).
- The Kings’ penalty killing unit has been a big help, even if the Kings are only averaging 10 minutes of penalties per game. In 10 opportunities, opponents have not yet been able to crack their PK lines. They are tied for first in the shorthanded category with Utica (0-for-14 for opponents) and Provo (0-for-7).
- The Kings have more points after four games than ever before in their seven-year NCDC history, and more than their past three seasons (all with 1-3-0-0 starts) combined. Their previous best start was Year 1 (2017-18), when they went 3-1-0-0 after four.
- Their current four-game winning streak already matches their longest winning streak from last season, achieved three times.
- Defenseman Salvatore Cerrato added another goal and an assist to his 10 points, No. 1 in the league among defensemen. His current four-game point streak already beats his longest of last year (three games, twice). His 23 career points moved him into fifth all-time among Kings NCDC defensemen, tied with former King Charlie Killian.
Ogden Mustangs Take Sweep Against Bulls In Colorado
With new teams, this time of year is always exciting because there are so many firsts, and the Mustangs enjoyed both their first weekend sweep and their first road sweep in their new NCDC existence. They also continue to enjoy their first streak, as they have yet to lose a game in regulation, going 3-0-1-0 so far. The only other Mountain team to have not lost in 60 minutes are the 2-0 Provo Predators (whose first NCDC win came in OT against Ogden).
This past weekend, the Mustangs took the trip over the Rockies to Pueblo, Colo., and came away with all four points they set out to capture, winning 4-3 and 5-2.
- Out of three goals so far, two of ‘05 rookie Payton Struck’s tallies are game-winners, tying him for the lead in that category with the Junior Bruins’ veteran Captain Shane Baker. The former Rogers (Minn.) High School standout scored at 2:49 in the first game against Pueblo, making it temporarily 4-2. He also scored the regulation GWG in the Mustangs’ first win, capping a huge third period rally for Ogden against Idaho Falls on Sept. 22. With a 3-2-5 line in four games, he’s the Mustangs’ leading goal-scorer and is tied for the second-longest point streak in the league.
- Easy as 1-2-3. That’s the order of how many assists the ‘Stangs’ leading scorer Dimitri Voyatzis has posted over the last three games. His six assists give him a spot for a tie in the top four of helpers league-wide and he continues to be a great #USPHLAdvancement In Action success story after being named an All-Star for the USPHL Premier Mustangs last season.
Utah Outliers Win First Two NCDC Games In Sweep Of Rock Springs
The Outliers will long remember and celebrate Friday, Sept. 29, 2023, as they earned their first victory in the NCDC that day with a 2-1 victory against the host Rock Springs Grizzlies in Wyoming. They also were able to celebrate their first home NCDC victory (in their first home game) the next day, defeating the visiting Grizzlies 6-2 on the Accord Ice Arena home sheet. The firsts didn’t end there. Greyson Settipane ended the 6-2 victory with his first two goals, including the Outliers’ first shorthanded goal.
- Magzhan Sagadiev, an ‘05 out of Kazakhstan, made his Outliers and NCDC debut this week and is already tied for the team lead in scoring, posting a 2-2-4 line over the weekend against Rock Springs. Sagadiev had played AAA in New England for many years, including with the GBL Jr. Bruins.
- Tied with Sagadiev is David Utkin, an ‘05 from Russia, who scored 34 points in 33 games last year for the USPHL Premier Outliers (plus six in seven postseason games, including a Nationals trip). Utkin has posted a 3-1-4 line early on, and his goal 40 seconds into the third period of the 2-1 win on Sept. 29 was his – and the NCDC Outliers’ – first game-winning goal.
- Griffin Davis, an ‘05 from Nashua, N.H., who has played the last few years for the South Kent School, registered the first Outliers goalie win in NCDC history with an outstanding 39 saves on 40 shots.
Boston Junior Bruins Finish Shootout With 2-1 Record
After their amazing opening series against the Islanders, which featured two overtime victories against the rival Islanders Hockey Club, the Junior Bruins took their third straight win on Sept. 29 by beating the Rockets Hockey Club, 7-4. Their first loss of the season came at the hands of the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders, who won 5-2 on Sept. 30. The team wrapped their BJB Shootout stand on Sunday, Oct. 1, with a 5-3 win over the Connecticut Jr. Rangers.
- Shane Baker, as aforementioned, enjoys a tie for the league lead in game-winners after his fourth goal of the season stood up as the GWG against the Rockets. He is also tied with Justin Ryan for second in league scoring with nine points apiece.
- Fellow veteran Junior Bruin Coleman Jenkins has collected assists in his last four straight games, for six total and a career-high for helpers in consecutive games.
- Jackson Delleo, an ‘06 rookie forward who played with the 16U Junior Bruins last year, scored his first NCDC goal against P.A.L. and added two more the next night against Connecticut for six points in five games out of the gate.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights Go 2-1 In BJB Shootout
The last team to come out of Marlborough better than when they went in were the WBS Knights, who entered at 1-1 after an opening weekend split against P.A.L. They started out on Saturday with a 4-1 win over the Northern Cyclones, fell by a 4-3 score to the Islanders Hockey Club on Sunday night and defeated the Twin City Thunder, 4-2, on Monday. The Knights will face the Cyclones quickly again on Thursday in one of their two Hitmen Classic games.
- The Knights like Marlborough, as their 2-1 record at the New England Sports Center matches their previous best showcase record attained at the Fall Beantown Classic held Oct. 29-31, 2022.
- Justin Ryan leads the Knights with a 2-7-9 line, and his nine points are good for second in league scoring. Ryan is a #USPHLAdvancement In Action success story after being a USPHL Premier Atlantic Division All-Star in 2022-23. He is currently enjoying a four-game point streak with his 2-7-9 totals.
- Leading the charge in terms of consecutive games with points is NCDC veteran Chance Uzzell, whom the Knights acquired in May from the Northern Cyclones for a tender. Uzzell has posted all seven of his assists over his five games so far this year. He is in a four-way tie for longest point streak in the NCDC and a career-best streak for Uzzell.
- William Jasmin, a former EHL player who made the jump to the NCDC with his former coach Terry Watt, currently leads the NCDC in goals with five in his five games. This includes a hat trick in the team’s win over the Thunder.
- Another former Premier All-Star, goaltender Tade Carman earned his third win at the Shootout to place him in a three-way tie for goaltender wins with the IHC’s Frank Murphy and Connecticut’s Wilmer Brundin.