By Joshua Boyd and Marlee Bulman / USPHLNCDC.com
In some cases, teams this week will have exactly two days without games with six on either end of that short break, their schedules looking like a cartoon barbell, bending perilously in the middle. This applies to eight of the 14 NCDC teams who are taking part in the two back-to-back early October showcases, all of whom hope to be that hero holding up the barbell with a big something-eating grin when it’s all said and done.
From the recently-completed BJB Shootout, several teams made great headway in the standings – none more so than the two-time defending Dineen Cup Champion Jersey Hitmen and the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs, both of whom swept through Marlborough with matching 3-0 records. Both are in Wayne, N.J. this coming weekend for the Hitmen Classic as well. The current South and North Division leaders meet Friday.
We take a look at the teams that fared best over this past week, those earning points in at least two games.
Jersey Hitmen (3-0-0-0)
The Hitmen continue to live up to the expectations that are set ahead of them as two-time defending Dineen Cup Champions. Taking on the Northern Cyclones on Saturday, the Hitmen had to find their legs, not getting a goal in until the second. Even still, they took a 4-0 shutout over the Cyclones keyed by the league’s top goaltender, J.J. Cataldo, making 28 saves. On Sunday the Hitmen faced off against the Junior Bruins, ending with a 5-1 final against the team they defeated in their first of two Dineen Cup rematches this week. On Monday, the Hitmen overcame a three-goal deficit in the second period to storm back with a 4-3 victory against the Twin City Thunder.
The road ahead: Or should we say, the “home” ahead. The Hitmen are on their home ice, even if they’re only the “home” team on the schedule for two of their three games this weekend. Of course, many eyes will be on the Hitmen vs. Junior Bruins rematch of the 2022 Dineen Cup Final on the same surface – the Ice Vault Rink 3 – where the Hitmen won it all in April. The Junior Bruins actually hold a 10-5-0-4 all-time series lead, which includes winning both of the teams’ meetings last year. In Game 2, the Hitmen face the Monarchs (see below for all-time series breakdown). Finally, on Saturday, it’ll be the Boston Advantage taking on the Hitmen, against whom Jersey is 4-0-0-0 all-time.
New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs (3-0-0-0)
After taking a loss in their season debut to Granite State rivals the Northern Cyclones, they won Game 2 of the season against the Islanders Hockey Club and then put the clamps on for the BJB Shootout. They won both of their first two games by 1-0 scores against the Connecticut Jr. Rangers and Rockets Hockey Club. Goaltender Jake Fillion was in net for both and actually extended his overall shutout streak to 166:03 between a goal scored by the Islanders prior to the shootout and a goal scored at 12:47 of the second by Utica to break the long streak.
Jimmy Fallon scored the game-winners in both the shutout victories and has points in all five games this season so far for the Monarchs.
The road ahead: New Hampshire will start the Hitmen Classic with their first game ever against the Mercer Chiefs. When they face the Hitmen, they will see a team with an 8-4-0-0 all-time series lead against them, though the teams split in 2021-22 and 2019-20. Eight days after their 1-0 shutout win over Connecticut, they face the Jr. Rangers again on Saturday. The Monarchs are 7-5-0-1 all-time against the Rangers, against whom they split in their first-ever NCDC series in 2018-19.
P.A.L. Jr. Islanders (2-0-0-1)
On Saturday, P.A.L faced Twin City Thunder, a close game that Twin City ended in a shootout 2-1. On Sunday, P.A.L had an amazing game against the South Shore Kings, ending in a 6-2 final for P.A.L., with Donovan Powell registering a 2-1-3 line, including the GWG. By the time he was done and scored one more goal in Monday’s 6-4 win against the Boston Junior Bruins, he stood with five goals in his last four games.
The road ahead: Thursday sees a nighttime match-up with the Boston Advantage. P.A.L. leads the all-time series (going back to the Advantage’s 2020 entry into the league) by one point – 2-1-0-1. On Friday, they face the Thunder once again. P.A.L. is 7-2-0-1 all-time against the Thunder. Saturday sees the classic Islanders vs. Islanders (Hockey Club) match-up. P.A.L. has gone 6-6-1-0 against IHC the last four seasons. The 47-3 Islanders Hockey Club Dineen Cup championship team from the NCDC’s inaugural 2017-18 season won all five Isles vs. Isles games that year.
Northern Cyclones (2-1-0-0)
The Cyclones saw two of the most outstanding comebacks so far in the NCDC, with come from behind wins against the Rockets Hockey Club on Friday and against Connecticut on Sunday. In between, they suffered a 4-0 defeat at the hands of the Hitmen.
In the game against the Rockets, they were down 2-0 in the second before a three-goal outburst including the eventual GWG from Hudson Nadasdi. It was an even more dramatic comeback against the Jr. Rangers, as the team entered the third down 5-2. Three goals in a row, including the tying goal from Marko Giourof, put the team into overtime and then in the shootout. Giourof again sank the crucial goal to give his team the “W.”
The Cyclones are off this coming weekend and will return to action on Oct. 13
The first game for the Connecticut Jr Rangers over the weekend was against the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs, a close game that ended in favor of the Monarchs 1-0. The Junior Rangers, on the first of October, faced off against the South Shore Kings, with Billy Shields scoring on the Kings in a power play to help take the win, 2-1. The final game was against the Northern Cyclones, ending in a shootout for the Cyclones 6-5.
The road ahead: Following their meeting just a few days back, the Rangers and Kings meet again on Thursday. It’s a dead-even series for the Jr. Rangers, at 9-9-1-0 all-time.
Friday features the Junior Bruins. Not including their three-game series for the Dineen Cup in 2019 (won by the Junior Bruins), the Rangers are 8-9-1-0 all-time against the Junior Bruins. As aforementioned, Saturday’s opponents the Monarchs hold a slim series lead over the Rangers.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights (2-0)
The Knights made their share of history, winning both of their games against the Islanders. The first win was a 5-3 victory on Sunday, with defenseman Rhett Kodsi going in the books with the first GWG and goaltender Marks Sklivinskis-Repe making 35 saves on 38 shots. A day later, they got the second victory, with Sklivinskis-Repe had another outstanding performance with 44 saves on 46 shots in a 3-2 win. Cameron Bauer had the game-winning goal and an assist.
The road ahead: The Knights enter their first showcase of the year, facing the Twin City Thunder, Boston Advantage and Boston Junior Bruins for the first time ever.
Mercer Chiefs vs. Boston Advantage (1-1)
Taking on the Boston Advantage this weekend in a double header, the Advantage won the first game, 4-3, in overtime off a Jacob Bigras GWG. Nick Bevilaqua was outstanding in net with 59 saves on 62 shots. The Chiefs came back in full force on Saturday, shutting out the Advantage 6-0. Jacob Stern stopped all 37 shots he faced, and Elowan Orme-Lynch scored a pair of goals for the Chiefs’ first-ever shutout win.
The road ahead: For Mercer, they face three first time opponents in the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs, Islanders Hockey Club and South Shore Kings.
The Advantage renew acquaintances with the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders on Thursday. They have both won two games in their four games so far since 2020, with the Jr. Islanders earning an extra point with an overtime loss to lead the series points race. After their first-ever tilt with the WBS Knights, they close on Saturday with the Jersey Hitmen, who own wins in all four of their all-time matchups.
Drop The Pucks!