By Joshua Boyd / NCDCHockey.com
Week of Oct. 10-16
The first string of seven non-showcase days since the start of the season revealed much as the eastern division teams went back into divisional play. The Islanders Hockey Club are able to hang on to their best start since their 2017-18 Dineen Cup championship season, while the five-time defending Founders Cup regular season champion Jersey Hitmen are beginning to gain steam with a run of four straight wins. The defending Dineen Cup champion P.A.L. Jr. Islanders enjoyed a weekend sweep and have only lost once in 60 minutes to start out their defense campaign an impressive 7-1-1-1.
Out west, the Provo Predators join the Islanders Hockey Club as the only two teams still unbeaten in regulation. The Ogden Mustangs have climbed to the top of the points race in the Mountain Division thanks to a 2-0-0-1 run, while the Pueblo Bulls and Utah Outliers also enjoyed weekend sweeps.
This week, we’re closely looking at teams that earned at least as many points as games played between Oct. 10-16.
Jersey Hitmen Enjoying Four-Game Undefeated Streak
Off the heels of their Hitmen Classic-closing 2-1 victory against the Boston Junior Bruins, the Hitmen carried on their winning streak by defeating the Rockets Hockey Club in a Garden State one-off on Oct. 11, 5-2, and then swept the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights, 5-2 and 3-0. The team’s 4-0 winning streak has given them some fuel, but at 4-6-0-0, they still have serious ground to cover to challenge near the top of the Atlantic Division (or the league for that matter). Points-wise, they are in a three-way tie for third with eight points – tied with the Mercer Chiefs and WBS Knights. It’s still early and any NCDC observers since its infancy knows to never count out a Jersey Hitmen team.
- It’s not coincidental that the Hitmen’s winning streak has aligned with that of ‘03 goaltender Braedyn McIntosh, who has gotten the call for every one of those wins and is second in save percentage since their Oct. 7 win with a .963 mark, stopping 130 of 135 shots since the streak began.
- The Hitmen are tied for 10th overall in points this year with eight. The lowest they had to climb to first from after 10 games was fourth place in 2021-22, when they were 5-4-1-0 at the 10-game mark.
- Jersey love being road warriors. All four of their recent wins have been as the road team (including their Oct. 7 game at their regular home the Ice Vault).
- The Hitmen, and their upcoming Oct. 20-21 weekend opponents the Connecticut Jr. Rangers, are the last two teams that have not played a game past 60 minutes as of yet this season.
Islanders Hockey Club Remain Potent Force Still Unbeaten In Regulation Through 10 Games
The IHC is flirting with team history milestones right now, with their 8-0-2-0 record seeing their best streak of points. They are closing in on tying their best point streak of the 2020s, which was an 11-game winning streak that they put together from Jan. 3-Feb. 2, 2020, just as the decade dawned. It’s almost inconceivable to think a team could repeat the not one but two 16-game winning streaks the Islanders enjoyed in that bar-setting 2017-18 season.
Since their 3-0 Hitmen Classic (which followed a 3-0 BJB Shootout), the Islanders have defeated Twin City in overtime, 4-3 on Oct. 12, and then shut them out 5-0 in the second half of the home-and-home series, on Oct. 14.
- The Islanders are hitting the gas on every mark, including offense, defense and special teams. They are second in goals for (4.10) and goals against (2.10), and they have the third best penalty killing rate (85.7).
- Frank Murphy, who is the #USPHLAdvancement torch-carrier so far this year, is in the top five for all major goaltending categories. A former USPHL Premier All-Star with the Toledo Cherokee, Murphy has five wins (second), a .945 save percentage (fourth), and a 1.82 goals against average (fourth). He has also played the second most minutes so far this season at 428.
- Offensively, Tikhon Ashikhmin remains in a tie for first in league scoring with 17 points overall. Over nine games, he has the most productive point streak with a 7-10-17 line.
- Max Lundgren has the league’s longest overall and longest active goal-scoring streak with eight over his last six games, for a total line of 8-2-10 since Oct. 1. With 13 points, he is one point shy of matching his points total from the full 2022-23 season.
Boston Junior Bruins Earn Weekend Sweep Of Northern Cyclones
For the first time since starting out 3-0, the Junior Bruins were able to string together wins after a five-game see-saw period that encapsulated the bulk of their two showcase appearances. Against the Northern Cyclones in a home-and-home this past Saturday and Sunday, winning 3-2 in a shootout on Oct. 14, and 4-1 on Oct. 15.
- Out of the Junior Bruins’ seven total wins, Captain Shane Baker is close to 50 percent on game-winners. He’s had one of each so far – an overtime GWG against the Islanders Hockey Club on Sept. 24, a regulation GWG against the Rockets Hockey Club on Sept. 29 and Saturday, Oct. 14’s shootout game-winner, the first SOGWG of his three-year career.
- Garrett Simpson stopped all three shots he faced in the shootout and is the only NCDC goalie that is “batting a thousand” in shootouts.
- With a 7-3 record, playing clean hockey has largely paid off for the Junior Bruins. They have the fewest penalty minutes per game at just 7.3 clocked per game. They are one of four teams without a major penalty assessed to them as of yet.
- After an earlier four-game goal streak, Jake Terra currently has four assists over each of his last three games. The first-year NCDC player has 10 points in nine games.
P.A.L. Jr. Islanders Improve Lead In Atlantic Division With Sweep Of Rangers
The Jr. Islanders, who started out with a seven-game point streak from the start of the season before an Oct. 7 loss to South Shore, got right back to winning ways with back-to-back victories of 5-2 and 3-2 in a home-and-home with the Connecticut Jr. Rangers.
- The Jr. Islanders’ success has a lot to do with the team setting the tone in games, as they’ve scored a league-high nine first goals, going 7-1-1-0 in that stretch. Ryan Kearney and Devin Niles are among the seven individuals with two first goals of games.
- All those first goals have also helped them go a league-best 7-0 when leading after the first period.
- Returning veteran and team Captain Ty Broad remains tied for the league lead in scoring with 17 points, and is almost scoring at 2.4 times the pace where he was through 10 games last year, when he had registered seven points. Broad also shares the league lead in assists (13) and shorthanded goals (two). He is tied for the all-time team lead with former Jr. Islander Brendan Prappas – currently playing pro hockey in France – with five in his career.
- Broad’s three assists in the first game against Connecticut pushed him into a tie for seventh on the all-time P.A.L. leaderboard with 65 points, tied with Devin Kasperek (2018-20), the team’s all-time leading scorer among defensemen.
Pueblo Bulls Take Down Rock Springs In Two Straight To Pull Even On Season
With a 6-5 overtime win and 4-2 victory against the visiting Rock Springs Grizzlies, the Bulls won two in a row for the first time since the opening Sept. 22-23 weekend, when they swept the visiting Utah Outliers. This gave the Bulls their second .500 winning percentage of the season after standing at 2-2 following their two defeats against visiting Ogden Sept. 29-30.
- The season of firsts (which happens in a first season, of course) now includes the Bulls’ first NCDC overtime victory and overtime goal, scored by defenseman Nate Farrell. With a three-goal weekend, Farrell is the Bulls’ leading scorer with seven goals and five assists for 12 points. He is second in NCDC scoring by defensemen with 12 points. He is also the only defenseman leading their team in scoring.
- All of Farrell’s points have come across each of the eight games played by the Bulls, giving him the league’s third-longest point streak.
- The Bulls were down 5-3 after 40 minutes of their eventual 6-5 overtime win, giving them their first comeback victory when down after two periods.
- The Bulls have the NCDC’s third most potent offense, averaging exactly four goals per game so far.
- Hunter Hayes scored his fourth goal over the last three games and has the second-longest active goal-scoring streak in the NCDC.
Utah Outliers Take Wins Against Idaho Falls, Provo In Extra Time
The Outliers also ventured beyond regulation for their first two occasions this past weekend, winning in overtime 3-2 against the Idaho Falls Spud Kings and 4-3 in a shootout against the Provo Predators, that team’s first loss of any kind in their NCDC history.
- Like the Bulls, the Outliers had to come back from a deficit to win their first overtime, though that only lasted about nine minutes in the first period.
- Four out of five wins for Utah this year have been by one goal.
- David Utkin scored his league-best third game-winning goal, but his first in overtime, also making it the Outliers’ historic first NCDC overtime game-winner. He is also tied for second in the league in overall goals with nine and second in power play goals with four.
- Jentzen Kaebel scored the first-ever shootout game-winner for the Outliers, and is one of only three NCDC defensemen to score such a goal so far this year.
South Shore Kings Take First Regulation Loss In Middle Of Two Wins
The Kings tied their second-best points streak, earning points in their first eight games out of the gate (7-0-0-1), but the very next day – in the middle of a three-game series against the Utica Jr. Comets – they fell by a score of 2-1, their first regulation loss of the season. They came right back with a 9-5 victory to close out a series that started with a 6-2 win.
- The nine goals is an all-time single-game high for the Kings, who last scored eight goals on Jan. 12, 2020 in an 8-1 win over the former Rochester Monarchs.
- First-year King Xavier Vaillancourt’s power play hat trick on Oct. 15 was just the second in two years, as current Army forward Barron Woodring Rockets Hockey Club) did the same on Dec. 16, 2022. Vaillancourt is the league’s power play goals leader with six, and he and teammate Culin Wilson are tied for the power play points lead with seven.
- The four assists posted by Jason Zaccari on Oct. 15 matches the four from Salvatore Cerrato on Sept. 22 as another league-high set this year by a Kings player.
- Cerrato has the league’s longest current and overall scoring streak with 15 points in 10 games, and also the longest active assist streak at seven games (eight assists).
- The Kings and the Provo Predators are the only team to not have been outshot yet this season.
- South Shore remains first in goals per game (4.7) and also in shots for (44.10) and fewest shots against (28.00) per game.
- Cerrato is first in defenseman scoring at 15 points and first overall in assists (13) and Zaccari is third at 13 points. Thomas Delfarno is tied for the most power play points among defensemen with six, and Delfarno and Salvatore are tied for second in power play assists with five apiece.
- Goaltender Ryan Keyes leads all NCDC goalies in wins with five, and he is eighth in goals against average at 2.32.
Mercer Chiefs Earn Three Points With Win, Overtime Loss against Rockets Hockey Club
The Chiefs pulled into third place in the Atlantic Division over the weekend after splitting a weekend with the Rockets Hockey Club while earning a 4-3 win over the Rockets (during their Breast Cancer Awareness Game) and falling 5-4 in overtime. The Chiefs hadn’t strung together points since the BJB Shootout, when they saw a shootout loss and a win on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, respectively.
- Returning veteran Gregory Diamond was back for the first time since suffering an injury during the Sept. 23 season opener, and posted a goal and three assists for four points in his return. Diamond, who had two goals at the 2023 NCDC Young Guns All-Star Game and was named a Player of the Game, has already doubled his points total from 2022-23 that was produced in 18 games.
- First-year forward Tyler Agnew also scored four points, giving him an early season-high of three points in the Oct. 15 game, and nine points in eight games thus far on the season.
Ogden Mustangs Lead Mountain Division Points Race After Win, Shootout Loss Against Idaho, Provo
The Mustangs used a three-point weekend to shimmy past the 5-0-1-0 Provo Predators and stand with 12 points, which is good for No. 1 in the Mountain Division. The Predators won their fifth straight game out of the gate, 3-2, in Friday’s shootout, and the Mustangs came back to win 3-1 against the Idaho Falls Spud Kings the very next day.
- The victory was Head Coach Kenny Orlando’s 100th USPHL coaching victory. Congrats, Coach!
- Ogden has only ever gone past 60 minutes against the Predators, and have yet to get a win against them. The Predators defeated the Mustangs 2-1 in overtime in both teams’ first-ever NCDC game on Sept. 22.
- The Mustangs’ first shootout was a seven-round affair that saw Brody Himko and Grant Hineman score the Mustangs’ first two historic NCDC shootout goals.
- Ogden is undefeated in regulation when outshooting opponents (3-0) and also when being outshot (1-0-0-1).
- The vast majority of Ogden’s points have come on the road, where they are 4-0-0-1, vs. 1-1-1-0 on the Weber County Ice Sheet.
- Goaltender Vlad Bryzgalov is second overall in goals against average (1.71) and save percentage (.947). The 2006-born son of former NHL goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov is getting NHL draft buzz already.
- With a goal in the shootout loss to Provo, Payton Struck had his second three-game goal streak this year. Struck leads the team in scoring with 11 points in eight games.
Provo Predators Remain One Of Two Teams Undefeated In Regulation After Two Straight Shootouts
The Predators became the first NCDC team this year to play in back-to-back shootouts, splitting those 1-on-1 sessions evenly with a win and a loss. The Predators defeated Ogden, 3-2, on Oct. 13, and then fell 4-3 to the Utah Outliers the next day.
- With four shootout goals this past weekend, the Predators quickly jumped into a tie with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights in that category. The Predators – who went seven rounds vs. Ogden and six against Utah – also have the most shootout attempts at 13.
- Jonatan Raatikainen scored a shootout goal each night, and is tied with the WBS Knights’ Andrew Piccirillo as the only two players with two shootout goals so far this year.
- Defense is the strength this year for Provo, who lead in team goals against average (2.00), and they are second in fewest shots against per game (29.5). The Predators are also super stingy on opposition power plays, as they have the league’s best penalty kill with two goals against on 27 times shorthanded for a 92.6 percent success rate.
- Goaltender Michael Polston has regularly been a brick wall, standing first in goals against average (1.47) and save percentage (.952).