By Joshua Boyd / NCDCHockey.com
The rich got richer down in New Jersey over the past week, as the South Shore Kings and Islanders Hockey Club entered the Jersey Hitmen Classic as part of a four-way tie for the league points lead. They exited 1-2, just a point apart at 14 and 13, respectively. The Islanders registered a perfect six points by going 3-0 and the Kings took five with a 2-0-0-1 record at the Hitmen event. The reigning Dineen Cup Champion P.A.L. Jr. Islanders, who were also part of that four-way tie for first a week earlier, came out in third place with 12 points.
Elsewhere in the league, the Provo Predators remain the only truly undefeated team with a 4-0 record after sweeping the Pueblo Bulls this past weekend. The Idaho Falls Spud Kings also earned a weekend sweep of the Rock Springs Grizzlies and made it a crowded top four in the Mountain Division.
As we do every week, we’ll take a deep dive into the teams that finished better than .500 on the week.
Islanders Hockey Club Earn Second Consecutive Showcase Sweep
The Islanders’ six-game winning streak that has seen them sweep both the Boston Junior Bruins Shootout (Sept. 29-Oct. 1) and the Jersey Hitmen Classic (Oct. 5-8) is one win better than their season-best winning streak last year of of five victories between Jan. 5-20, 2023. However, they still have a long way to go to the next best record mark of 11 wins in 2019-20, between Jan. 3 and Feb. 2, 2020, and much further to the club record of 16 wins, which happened twice during their 47-3 inaugural season of 2017-18.
The Islanders started out with a 5-1 victory over the Jersey Hitmen, continued with a 6-1 defeat of the Rockets Hockey Club on Saturday and they wrapped with a 4-1 victory against the Mercer Chiefs.
- While their only two losses this season are in overtime, the Islanders are completely undefeated when holding a record after either the first (4-0) or second (6-0) periods. When they’ve been tied or trailed after either the second or first periods, they’ve eventually suffered their losses. Short version: If you’re their opponent, don’t let the IHC go into the locker room with a lead.
- The Islanders swept two consecutive showcases for only the second time in their career, after they had swept the 2018 USPHL Winter Showcase and the South Shore Kings Presidents Day Showcase back-to-back. Those were part of a string of five straight showcases that they swept that one season.
- The Islanders’ Tikhon Ashikhmin is one of three players sharing the longest active points streak of seven games apiece. Ashikhmin, a second-year Islander, has posted six goals and seven assists for 13 points in this stretch. The ‘03 from Russia is only three points away from tying his 2022-23 points total. And three points is very doable – because he just did it on Oct. 6 against the Rockets.
- Speaking of hot streaks, the Islanders’ Max Lundgren is tied for the league’s longest goal-scoring streak, as he has five tallies in four games. Another second-year Islander, Lundgren (‘03/Sweden) is six points away from tying his first season totals.
- At 5-0-1-0, ‘04 goaltender Frank Murphy is the NCDC’s wins leader, one year after leading the USPHL Premier in total wins last season (at 25). All five of Murphy’s wins are consecutive, giving him the longest league wins streak by default as well.
- Michael Salvatore’s first junior win came against the Jersey Hitmen, as he stopped 35 of 36 shots in the win that opened the IHC’s Hitmen Classic run. Salvatore, currently 1-0-1-0, has a history with the USPHL Midget Divisions and was a participant in the 2020 USPHL 16U All-Star Game while with the Junior Bruins organization.
South Shore Kings Get First Kink In Armor But Stay Strong At 6-0-0-1
The South Shore Kings are enjoying their best-ever start to a season, with a record of 6-0-0-1 and 13 points out of the gate. In fact, they are just two points off their best point streak in team history, which was an 8-0-1-0 run in their inaugural season of 2017-18, running between Oct. 22 and Nov. 11 of that year. Their last seven-game point streak was a run of all wins during the 2019-20 season, spanning Jan. 5 and 19, 2020.
Below are the Kings’ best point streaks by season:
2023-24 6-0-0-1 (Sept. 22, 2023-present)
2022-23 7-0-1-0 (Jan. 27-Feb. 17, 2023)
2021-22 4-0-1-0 (Oct. 9-28, 2021)
2020-21 6-0-0-0 (Jan. 14-23, 2021)
2019-20 7-0-0-0 (Jan. 5-19, 2020)
2018-19 6-0-0-0 (Oct. 21-Nov. 4, 2018)
2017-18 8-0-1-0 (Oct. 22-Nov. 17, 2017)
- The Kings are an offensive beast and a defensive pest, and it’s proven by the numbers. They have the No. 1 offense (4.43 goals per game), the second best team goals against average (2.14, trailing only the Provo Predators’ 1.50), the highest shots on goal average per game (46.57) and the lowest shots against average per game (26.71).
- Only the Kings and Predators have never been outshot in a game so far this season.
- As if they weren’t already dangerous enough, opponents have been unwise to also put them on the power play. With 11 power play goals on 30 attempts, the Kings’ 36.7 percent power play is No. 1 in the league.
- Veteran Salvatore Cerrato continues to lead all defensemen in scoring with 12 points. He posted 15 points in 40 games last year, so he’s likely to blow past those totals before this month is over. He shares the league’s longest active point-scoring streak (seven games) with the Islanders Hockey Club’s Tikhon Ashikhmin and the Connecticut Jr. Rangers’ Jack Houser. His 10 assists are also good for second league-wide.
- Veteran goalie Ryan Keyes is tied for the league lead in wins with IHC’s Frank Murphy and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s Tade Carman. All three had USPHL experience prior to the NCDC, as Keyes was a 16U goaltender in the Rockets Hockey Club system and Murphy and Carman are both former USPHL Premier All-Stars.
Idaho Falls Spud Kings Wrap Up First-Ever Weekend Sweep At Home Opener
In front of more than 4,000 fans (as is always the case at the Mountain America Center in Idaho Falls, Idaho), the Spud Kings won their second straight against the Rock Springs Grizzlies, 6-4. Not only was it their historic first-ever home victory in the NCDC, it also marked the first time they’ve won at least two in a row and their first weekend sweep of a common opponent. In Rock Springs, Wyoming, just one night earlier, the Spud Kings had won by a score of 7-3 (another record set – most goals for in a game). With the wins, the Spud Kings jumped above .500 for the first time since starting out 1.000 with their first franchise victory on Sept. 22, also against Rock Springs. They are tied with the Utah Outliers for third place in the Mountain Division in points and are in third place alone in winning percentage (.600).
- The Spud Kings are tied for second in team offense with a 4.00 goals per game average, along with the league points leaders the Islanders Hockey Club, and just .43 of a goal behind the category-leading South Shore Kings.
- More than half of the Spud Kings’ 20 goals scored so far have come in the second period, with 11 vs. three in the first and six in the third.
- The Spud Kings’ ’05 junior rookie defenseman D.J. MacLeish posted a league-best seven points over the last week (even more than players who skated in three showcase games), which vaulted him into second in points among all NCDC defensemen with eight total.
Provo Predators Remain Only Completely Undefeated Team With 4-0 Record
Although the South Shore Kings had also started this season with a 4-0 record (en route to their current 6-0-0-1 mark), it stands that the first-year Provo Predators are the last fully undefeated team this season. No other team has avoided a loss at any point of a game, as the Predators completed a weekend sweep of the visiting Pueblo Bulls with scores of 5-3 and 4-2. Peaks Ice Arena has obviously been good to them, as three of those wins in a row have been on home ice and the Preds have a chance to continue that streak over their next three games as the Predators don’t leave Peaks again until Oct. 20.
- As aforementioned, the Predators are number one in goals against average, with just 1.50 goals against per game crossing their line.
- Goaltender Michael Polston earned his third victory of the season in their 5-3 win on Oct. 6 and he is No. 1 in GAA league-wide with a 1.33 line. He is also No. 1 in save percentage with a .959 mark, among goalies with multiple appearances.
- Ryan Henry (‘04 out of Wayne, N.J., site of this past weekend’s Hitmen Classic) earned his first junior win on Saturday, stopping 23 of 25 in the 4-2 win. Henry is a former Jersey Hitmen Midget player.
- Opponents might want to decline penalties incurred by the Predators – after all, no one has been able to score in 16 power play opportunities, giving the Preds a league-best 100% penalty killing rate out of the gate.
P.A.L. Jr. Islanders Eke Out 2-1 Record At Hitmen Classic
Out of the defending Dineen Cup Champion Jr. Isles’ three losses so far, two are to the team they defeated in a come-from-behind effort last April to win their first league championship – the South Shore Kings. After defeating them in overtime at the BJB Shootout on Sept. 29, the Kings gave the P.A.L. their first regulation loss of the season, with South Shore winning 4-1 on Oct. 7.
Otherwise, the Hitmen Classic went well enough with two earlier wins. They started with a 3-1 victory against the Junior Bruins. They also won 4-2 against a Utica Jr. Comets team that entered their game on a 3-0-1-0 point streak out of the gate after sweeping the BJB Shootout to start their season, so that was a battle of two teams undefeated in regulation to that point, just as the Kings-Islanders second go-round this season would begin.
- With a 5-1-1-1 record, the Jr. Islanders lead the Atlantic Division and are third overall. They are also the only team with every type of standings result – a regulation win (well, five), a regulation loss, an overtime loss and a shootout loss.
- When the Jr. Islanders lead after 20 minutes, it’s not a good sign for the opposition. They are 5-0 when leading after the first period, the best record in the league in that situation.
- Jr. Islanders Captain Ty Broad is tied as the NCDC’s leading scorer, putting up a 4-10-14 line in eight games so far this year. He is tied with Jack Houser of Connecticut at 14 points apiece. With the 14 points coming over each of his first seven games, he is tied with three others for longest point streak this year. He is already scoring well past his 41-point pace of last year.
- After registering a goal and an assist in the Jr. Islanders’ win against the Utica Jr. Comets, Coleson Hanrahan ‘05 pulled his points per game average to an even 1.00 (eight points in eight games), which is also good for a tie for second in NCDC defenseman scoring.
Rockets Hockey Club Climbs Above .500 with 2-1 Weekend At Hitmen Classic
The Rockets started out their Classic run last Thursday, winning 3-2 in overtime against the Utica Jr. Comets, who had entered the event at 3-0 off a great start to the season at the BJB Shootout. The Jr. Comets had also defeated the Rockets in their last game, 4-2, on Oct. 1, so there was some redemption right off the bat.
Game 2 saw the Rockets defeat the Twin City Thunder, 5-2, before the Rockets would eventually fall to the Islanders Hockey Club, 6-1, on Saturday.
- The Rockets, 5-3-0-0 overall, have the league’s best record when the other team outshoots them. The Rockets are 4-1 in that situation.
- Rockets veterans Cam Bergeman and Jonas Dobnig scored back-to-back shorthanded goals in the win against the Thunder, giving the Rockets a league-leading four shootout goals. Bergeman and Dobnig each have two to lead the team.
- Before Saturday, the last time two Rockets each scored a shorthanded goal in the same game was Jan. 8, 2021, near the start of Hub City Tampa, when the Rockets defeated the Connecticut Jr. Rangers, 6-0. Johnny Wescoe (Niagara University) and Nicholas Chiocca both had shorties in the game.
- With a five-point weekend (2-3-5), Austrian Rockets veteran Jonas Dobnig broke into the top five of league scoring with a 4-7-11 line in eight games. He is tied for fifth with the IHC’s Maksim Tsegelnik.
Twin City Thunder Post First Two Wins Of Season With 2-1 Hitmen Classic Performance
The Thunder started their 2023-24 season in the Boston Junior Bruins Shootout, but it didn’t go extremely well for them there, as they exited Marlborough with an 0-3 record. They turned it around in New Jersey, winning games against the Jersey Hitmen (2-1) and the Utica Jr. Comets (4-3), on either side of a 5-2 loss to the Rockets Hockey Club.
- The Thunder’s wins against the Hitmen and Jr. Comets were their first against both teams since 2021-22.
- James Tatro, a second-year ‘03 Thunder forward, scored the GWG in both of their wins so far. He had goals in each of the three games in New Jersey, carrying that streak into his next game.
- Stefan Carney, a third-year Tier II veteran, went 2-0 at the Hitmen Classic, giving up just four goals on 77 shots.