Games of Jan. 13-19, 2023
By Joshua Boyd / USPHL.com
When we were last here on Friday the 13th, little did we know just how unlucky that day and the weekend overall would be for what was then a party at first place in both divisions. The North saw three teams sharing the lead at the dawning of last Friday, and there were two at the top in the South. Only one of those teams in each division remain at the top today, thanks to the efforts of those teams further down who are fighting for their playoff lives even despite the fact that no teams have clinched yet. Most clinching scenarios in the razor-tight NCDC will come more towards late January and in February. For now, it’s jockeying in the great horse race of January. We’ll take a close look at the teams that went at least .500 over these last six days and take a look at all of the matchups coming up between Jan. 20-25.
Twin City Thunder (2-0)
The hottest team in the NCDC in terms of point-earning capabilities are the northernmost of them all, the Auburn, Maine-based Twin City Thunder. They have recently taken a couple points away from the Northern Cyclones (who did leave Maine with a shootout loss point), and the Islanders Hockey Club – both by 3-2 scores – as part of a 5-0-0-1 streak. It has been since a 4-2 loss to the Boston Advantage on Dec. 13 that the Thunder last left the ice empty-handed. In that space, they’ve played in three of their four shootouts, going 3-1 on the season in the 1v1 showdown. In the process of their point streak, the Thunder have been able to climb above .500 on the season, standing at 32 points with a 15-14-1-1 record. They enter this next week of action three points out of fourth place (occupied by South Shore) and two points ahead of the sixth place Boston Junior Bruins.
- The Thunder’s current 5-0-0-1 streak is their best in their four-year history, passing several four-game streaks.
- Twin City has been resilient, including coming back from being down – they are one of just four NCDC teams with at least three wins when trailing after one period. Their third was on Jan. 13 when they bounced back from a 2-0 first period deficit to come back with the shootout win.
- Trace Norwell is tied for the league lead in power play goals with seven. He has points in each of the six games that are part of the streak, with a 4-3-7 line back to Dec. 15.
- Goaltender Trey Miller is the league leader in shootout performance with five saves on five shots.
The Road Ahead: The Cyclones and Thunder are right back at it on Sunday, this time at Cyclones Arena, before the Thunder face the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs at home on Wednesday afternoon.
- Although the Thunder got their first victory against the Cyclones this season, the Hudson, N.H., team are well ahead in the season series at 2-0-0-1, and they are 9-4-0-1 against the Thunder all-time.
- One-third of all 18 historic meetings between the Thunder and Monarchs have gone beyond regulation, including their first and so far only meeting back on Dec. 15, a 4-3 shootout win that kicked off the current 5-0-0-1 Thunder streak. All-time, the Monarchs hold a 12-4-1-1 lead over the Thunder.
Utica Jr. Comets (2-0)
Just like the Thunder, the Jr. Comets are on a mission to climb into a top four spot. They’ve served their cause well recently by sweeping the Mercer Chiefs – who came into their Jan. 13-14 games tied for first place in the South, which along with a win over the WBS Knights in their last of three games in Pennsylvania, gives them a 3-0 winning streak. That ties their best this season, which was a 3-0 sweep of the Knights over the Oct. 14-16 weekend. The Jr. Comets tapped into some kind of formula that worked wonders, as both their wins over the Chiefs were by 4-2 scores. After having to bounce back from a 2-1 deficit after one period last Friday, they took a 2-0 lead on Saturday and pushed to the finish line. When they had that prior 3-0 run in October, they had also beaten Wilkes-Barre/Scranton by back-to-back 3-2 scores after a 5-3 victory to open that three-game set.
Utica is five points back of fourth-place Connecticut, with the Rockets Hockey Club in between, two points ahead of Utica.
- The Jr. Comets are, interestingly enough, one of only two teams completely undefeated when leading after two periods. They are 11-0-0-0, while the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs are just ahead at 12-0-0-0.
- Utica is third in power play percentage at 21.1 percent (23-for-109).
- Michael Herrera is tied for the league lead in goals with 22, and he is tied for seventh in league scoring with 36 points. He is on a six-game scoring streak of 8-3-11 since Dec. 18.
- Michael Webster, eighth among NCDC defensemen in scoring with 21 points, is one of just three defensemen with two shorthanded points.
- Vladislav Pshenichnikov is on fire with not only four straight games with points, but with multiple points. He has a 5-4-9 line, including a hat trick in the series-closing win over the WBS Knights.
- Medrick Bolduc has the team’s longest active scoring streak, putting up 2-7-9 over his last seven games back to Dec. 17.
The Road Ahead: The Jersey Hitmen travel to Utica for three games between next Tuesday and Thursday, Jan. 24-26. Jersey is always a tough challenge for the Jr. Comets, as the Hitmen have won 26 of their 28 all-time meetings.
Rockets Hockey Club (1-0-1-0)
The Rockets are hard on the chase, going after the fourth playoff spot, which is just three points up from them and held right now by the Connecticut Jr. Rangers. The Rockets were 7-3 winners over the second-place P.A.L. Jr. Islanders, but they couldn’t string wins together last week as the Jersey Hitmen pulled off a 4-3 victory in overtime. The Rockets are 15-14-2-2, remaining over .500 in order to keep themselves in the playoff conversation.
- The Rockets continue to be strong on the power play, standing at second in the NCDC with a 21.5 percent success rate (28 for 130). Their 28 goals with an advantage are tied for most in the league with the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders.
- RHC is tied for second in offense in the NCDC, averaging 3.67 per game, tied with the Northern Cyclones and not far off the league-leading Hitmen’s 3.84.
- Caden Cranston is still No. 1 in league scoring with 42 points and first in assists with 30. Barron Woodring is third in goals at 20, while Cam Bergeman is tied for second in power play assists.
- Jack Barbro and Quinnipiac University recruit Jonah Copre are both in the top five for defenseman scoring. Barbro leads with 29 points and also leads in goals with 12 and GWG with three. Copre is second in assists with 20 and he is tied for the lead in power play points with 14.
- Copre returned from a lower body injury suffered in November to register three points in his first two games back. He has an active four-game point streak of five assists in four contests going back to Nov. 16.
The Road Ahead: On Friday night at 7:50 p.m., the Rockets take on the Connecticut Jr. Rangers before facing the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders on the road Saturday night.
- The Jr. Rangers hold their all-time series lead at 18-11-2-0, including a 3-1 lead in this season’s series.
- P.A.L. has won all three of their 2022-23 meetings so far, but the Rockets have the all-time lead in the series at 17-11-0-2.
Boston Advantage (1-0-1-0)
The Advantage remain in a tie for second in the North Division especially after they came through the last week without losing any point opportunities. At 6-2-2-0, they have the best record over the last 10 games in the North Division, with their most recent win coming on Jan. 11 in a 5-4 OT victory against the South Shore Kings. They did, however, fall in their next OT game, 3-2, to the Boston Junior Bruins. They were back on the ice Friday morning against the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs, who are just one point ahead of them in the standings.
- Each of the Advantage’s last three games have gone past regulation, going back to a Jan. 7 4-3 shootout win over Twin City, part of an overall 3-0-2-0 record for 2023 going into Friday’s game. They are in a three-way tie for most times playing beyond regulation, at 10 apiece with the Junior Bruins and Mercer Chiefs. They share the lead for points earned beyond regulation (17) with Mercer.
- They are 4-3 in overtimes and they are the only team undefeated in shootouts at 3-0. They also have the best shootout percentage on both the shooting side (57.1, 4-for-7) and defensive side (0.0%, all eight shot attempts stopped).
- They are tied with the Jersey Hitmen for most wins when being outshot, with 10 (10-9-1-0).
- Luke Panchisin stands in a tie for second overall in scoring with 39 points, and his seven power play goals are tied for first. He is also in a five-way tie for most GWG’s at four. He had a 4-3-7 scoring streak over his last four games going into Friday.
- Goalie Nick Bevilacqua is third in wins at 15, and fourth in minutes played at 1,229. He entered Friday undefeated at 3-0 in 2023 so far.
- Defenseman Conor Lally is third in assists by a blueliner at 20, with 11 of those coming on the power play to lead all NCDC blueliners. He is sixth in defenseman scoring with 25 points.
- NCDC veteran Noah-David Dayan is also on a four-game scoring streak with six assists going into Friday.
The Road Ahead: It’s a home-and-home Friday (in Hooksett, N.H.) and Saturday night at Lovell Arena. There could be some deck-flipping at the top, depending on the outcome of these two games when the dust settles, and depending on how the Northern Cyclones fare as well.
- The Monarchs have a lead in the all-time series, at 7-2-2-1, though it should be noted that six out of their 12 all-time meetings have gone beyond regulation (the Advantage are 5-4-0-3 in the series).
- The Advantage are up against the Boston Junior Bruins on Thursday afternoon. The Junior Bruins lead their all-time series at 14-3-0-0
South Shore Kings (2-1)
The Kings, who were right back into action on Thursday against the Islanders Hockey Club (falling 4-2), had gone into that game on a three-game point streak of 2-0-1-0, which included their two most recent wins. They defeated the division-leading New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs, 6-2, on Jan. 13. Five days later, they were back in action to defeat the Boston Junior Bruins, 4-2. Both teams are five points away from the Kings. The Monarchs are on top of the North with 40 points vs. the Kings’ 35, while the Junior Bruins are one of the teams trying to catch up to and potentially dislodge the Kings.
The Islanders Hockey Club earned a 4-2 victory against the Kings on Saturday. The Kings are at 30 points with their eyes on the Kings’ current fourth-place spot, the cutoff for playoffs. There’s still a lot of hockey left, but don’t expect the Kings to willingly get off the train to playoffs.
- The Kings have one of the best defensive corps in the NCDC, giving up the third-fewest shots on goal, allowing just 33.34 (no teams allow less than 30 on average).
- South Shore holds onto victories well. They are 14-1-2-1 when leading after two, with their 14 wins in that situation being second-most in the league.
- Jack Hillier’s third hat trick – in the win against the Monarchs – was also the Kings’ third of the season. He also became the first NCDC player this season to register three hat tricks. The last NCDC player to do so was Alex Dameski in 2021-22. Current Sacred Heart University forward and Kings all-time NCDC leading scorer Chikara Hanzawa was the last King to have three hat tricks in a season, in 2020-21. Hillier entered the game against the Islanders on a four-game, 4-3-7 scoring streak.
- Cullin Wilson, who scored the GWG against the Junior Bruins, scored again versus the Islanders to give him goals in each of his last four games and he’s added two helpers for an active 4-2-6 line.
- Ben Williams’ win over the Monarchs gave him a six-game winning streak in his last six starts going back to the start of November.
- Jacob Torgner is second in the league in goals against average (2.12) and fourth in save percentage (.937).
The Road Ahead: After facing the Islanders, the Kings will have a bit of a break, not heading back to game action until Wednesday, Jan. 25, when they face the Junior Bruins at home. The Junior Bruins hold a 20-6-3-0 all-time record against the Kings.
Islanders Hockey Club (2-1)
The Islanders picked up the aforementioned 4-2 victory over the South Shore Kings on Thursday, which keeps them in the playoff conversation. Even at seventh place currently, they’re only six points out of fourth place. A playoff position is still within reach, but in an NCDC where anyone can beat anyone, it’s always a challenge to put together a run. In fact, their wins against the Islanders and their statement victory against the Northern Cyclones (7-1 on Jan. 17) match their longest winning streak set back at the IHC Showcase in November, at two games.
- The Isles do well at their home Skate 3 in Tyngsboro, Mass. (or in showcases when they’ve been the home team). Nine of their 13 wins have come with the IHC holding the last change.
- Islanders goalie Connor Strobel is sixth in the league in goals against average at 2.47.
- Jesper Seeberg, a call-up from the IHC Premier team, has fared very well with a 1-3-4 line in his four games played so far.
The Road Ahead: The Islanders face their longtime in-state rivals the Boston Junior Bruins on Saturday, and then have four days off from games before facing the Twin City Thunder at home on Jan. 26.
- The Junior Bruins hold an all-time series lead of 16-8-2-1, but it’s the IHC that has won all three meetings so far this year.
- Twin City holds an 11-4-1-0 all-time series lead, including all three of their games so far this season.
Connecticut Jr. Rangers (1-1)
The Jr. Rangers and the South Shore Kings have a lot in common going into Friday. They are holders of the fourth-place position in their respective divisions and both have a hungry group of teams just below them in the standings, all of whom are in the playoff ballpark to one degree or another. The Jr. Rangers, who won 4-2 against the Jersey Hitmen on Jan. 13 and fell 6-2 to P.A.L. on Sunday, are just three points ahead of the Rockets Hockey Club and five ahead of the Utica Jr. Comets, who are coming off a big sweep of the second-place Mercer Chiefs. On the other side, the Jr. Rangers don’t have any special attachment to the number 4, as they would gladly give it up for a 1, 2 or 3, preferably the former. The Jr. Rangers are a challenging but not impossible eight points from first and just six points from second place currently shared between P.A.L. and Mercer. Every bridge, on all sides is available, so they’re charging forward while simultaneously watching their backs.
- Their 37 hard-won points are actually more than they’ve had after 33 games the last two seasons. Their most at that benchmark of games is the 42 they had in 2019-20. THey are only one win off what they had that year (17-8-7-1 in 2019-20 vs. 16-12-3-2 this year).
- Connecticut fires the third-most shots on goal per game at 38.52.
- They are tied with P.A.L. for the best points when tied after two periods. The Jr. Rangers are 6-3-2-0 and the Jr. Islanders are 6-2-0-2 for 14 points apiece in the closest games.
- Goaltender Mason Joseph is second in save percentage league-wide at .942, while he is also fourth in goals against average at 2.20.
The Road Ahead: The Jr. Rangers are heading to Bridgewater, N.J., on Friday, and they host the Mercer Chiefs on Saturday night at 7:15 p.m., starting a four-game home stand to close out January.
- The Rangers are 18-11-2-0 all-time vs. the Rockets, including a 3-1 advantage this year.
- The Chiefs are 2-0-0-1 against the Jr. Rangers this year.
Jersey Hitmen (1-1)
The Hitmen go into Friday’s first of three games against the Utica Jr. Comets remaining in first place, but it’s a tenuous hold as the Jr. Islanders and Mercer Chiefs are just a pair of points behind. The Hitmen went through their second straight split weekend, which was an improvement on their final pair of games in 2022, which were both losses. The Hitmen have managed to come back with wins in both their recent weekends following a loss, both W’s actually coming against the Rockets Hockey Club, just more fuel on the fire in the long-standing Garden State rivalry. Prior to last Saturday’s 4-3 OT win over the Rockets, they had fallen 4-2 to Connecticut. It was a long trip to Utica, but they hope the bus ride back is full of smiles. Time to get to work.
- Along with leading the NCDC in points, the Hitmen are first in many other categories, including being the least-penalized team in the league at 9.13 minutes per game. They are fine letting other teams take the penalties, as the Hitmen have the No. 1 power play at 22.5 (27 goals on 120 opportunities).
- They have been the best away team this year, with an 11-5-0-1 record for a league-leading 23 points as the road team. They also have the most wins when scoring first (17).
- They continue to check off the boxes of best offense (3.84 goals per game) and best defense (2.19), as well as shots on goal per game (39.97).
- Goaltender J.J. Cataldo continues to be a magic man, leading the league in save percentage (.955), GAA (1.61), and shutouts (eight). He is tied for the wins lead with P.A.L’s Cameron Smith at 16 apiece.
- His Dineen Cup-winning creasemate Peyton Grainer has done well at 2-1 with a shutout and a .949 save percentage.
The Road Ahead: The Hitmen have the dominant historical upper hand on the Jr. Comets, winning 28 of 30, including both earlier meetings this season.
New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs (1-1-0-0)
The North Division-leading Monarchs entered this weekend with the difficult quest of remaining at No. 1 alone or at least tied to keep in a good position for a potential home ice spot in the playoffs. With such a tight scene in the North (and the South for that matter), teams are still some time away from clinching any spots, so this is when the work goes into maintaining to reach at least February in good stead. Recently, the Monarchs took a 6-2 loss to the South Shore Kings, before turning around to beat the Junior Bruins, 5-4. They had a big showdown coming this weekend, with a pair of games against a Boston ADvantage team that is one point behind in the standings. Game 1 began Friday afternoon.
- The Monarchs have the second best defense in the NCDC, at 2.62 goals against, and 30.79 shots against per game (also second best).
- New Hampshire is best at keeping leads, as they are a league-best 12-0-0-0 when leading after two periods, one of only two teams completely undefeated in that situation (Utica being 11-0).
- Christopher Repmann’s four shorthanded points lead all NCDC players in 2022-23. Defenseman Zander Lizotte similarly is one of just three defensemen in the league with two shorthanded points.
- Goaltender Jake Fillion is No. 4 in wins (13) and second in minutes played (1,313).
The Road Ahead: As mentioned, the fight for No. 1 commenced on Friday afternoon as they went into their first of two straight showdowns with the Advantage. The Monarchs are 7-2-2-1 all-time against the Advantage heading into Friday.
- The Monarchs have a showdown with the Twin City Thunder on Wednesday, and they face in-state rivals the Northern Cyclones for the first of two straight on Thursday, Jan. 26. The Monarchs are 12-4-1-1 against Twin City all time, and 13-7-1-2 against the Cyclones all time.
P.A.L. Jr. Islanders (1-1-0-0)
The Jr. Islanders are right in the thick of that battle for first place in the South Division. On Friday night, P.A.L is facing the team with whom they are tied in points at second in the South and in the NCDC overall – the Mercer Chiefs. They’ll also face the Rockets Hockey Club, who pinned a 7-3 loss on the Jr. Islanders last Friday. P.A.L. rebounded with a 6-2 win over the Connecticut Jr. Rangers on Sunday to remain in that hunt for first.
- After 33 games, P.A.L. has 43 points and is tied three ways with their previous best regular seasons at that milestone. They had 43 points last season at the same mark and also in 2019-20. One small difference is the 2021-22 team had one more win at the same spot (21 vs. 20 currently).
- P.A.L., at 15-3-0-0 as the home team, have the most points at 30 with the last change.
- The Jr. Islanders’ 8-2-0-0 record in their last 10 games is the best in the league.
- They are also undefeated in regulation when allowing the first goal (16-0-1-1).
- Luca Leighton goes into Friday tied for second in scoring at 39 points, and he is second in assists with 28. He is the league-leader in power play assists (13) and power play points (15). He is on a four-game point-scoring streak so far in 2023, with a 3-5-8 line in his first four games of the new year.
- Donovan Powell is one of five NCDC players tied for first in game-winning goals with four apiece. He has the team’s best point-scoring streak of six games, with a 5-4-9 line over that stretch going back to mid-December.
- St. Lawrence University commit Cameron Smith continues to shine, tying for first in wins (16) and solely first in minutes (1,593) and saves (913). He is third in save percentage (.941) and goals against average (2.15).
- Jack Hewitt leads all NCDC defensemen in assists with 30, and he is tied for first in points at 29. He is also first in defenseman power play goals (five) and tied for first in power play points (14).
The Road Ahead: Mercer is 2-1-0-0 in the season series so far, for four points, while the Islanders have three off a 1-1-0-1 mark.
- P.A.L. faces the Rockets again on Saturday at home, coming in with a 13-11-3-3 all-time record against the RHC. The Jr. Islanders have won all three games this year to push that all-time record over .500 this year.
In Other Action
The Mercer Chiefs are hoping to shrug off an 0-2 weekend against Utica when they first face P.A.L. on Friday, and Connecticut on Saturday. Mercer is 2-1-0-0 against the Jr. Islanders this year, and 2-0-0-1 against the Jr. Rangers.
The Boston Junior Bruins picked up that important win, 3-2 against the Boston Advantage on Jan. 14, but fell in their next two against the Jr. Monarchs (5-4) and South Shore (4-2). In a somewhat similar schedule over the next week, they’ll face the Islanders on Saturday, the South Shore Kings on Wednesday and the Boston Advantage next Thursday.
The Northern Cyclones earned a point from their 3-2 shootout loss to Twin City last Friday, but fell by a tough 7-1 score on Tuesday against the Islanders Hockey Club. They were still able to hold onto a share of second with the Boston Advantage, but will need a good charge to try to leapfrog their Granite State rivals the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs for first in points (the Cyclones are first in winning percentage at .650 and hold four games in hand on the Jr. Monarchs. Before the New Hampshire rivals meet next Thursday, the Cyclones host the Twin City Thunder on Sunday.
Drop The Pucks!