NCDC This Week: Right Back Into The Thick Of It

Jan. 6, 2023

By Joshua Boyd / 


With a pair of games in the midweek, the NCDC is back in business, playing its first games since Dec. 19 way back in last year, you remember – 2022? It may be a new year, but the same season that kicked off in September has turned the corner and we’re well into the second half. There have been some big surprises, like the Mercer Chiefs storming to second overall, and some familiar territory like seeing the four-year Founders Cup (regular season) champion Jersey Hitmen standing in first place. Who knows what the second half may feature? Let’s start off with a look at where the top 10 teams stand going into their upcoming games. 

(Order followed is 2022-23 Winning Percentage)


Jersey Hitmen 

The Hitmen started the year in familiar territory, in first place overall, but they are feeling the pressure from below. At 20-6-1-0, they are leading the South Division and the league overall at 41 points, just one point ahead of the Mercer Chiefs. They’ve seen this movie before – a year ago, they were one point ahead of the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders (who are currently  four points behind the Hitmen). The year before that, they were one point ahead of the Rockets Hockey Club. 

They had much more comfortable leads in 2019-20 (five points) and 2018-19 (10 points) as of New Year’s Day. 

  • The clean game has worked for the Hitmen all season, as they are also the least-penalized team in the league with 9.15 minutes per game. 
  • Forward Michael DiPietra and Sean Melso are each nearing their 100th career point, both coming off the holiday break with 97. Only the Rockets Hockey Club’s Barron Woodring (114 points) has more than the Hitmen duo. 
  • DiPietra led the Hitmen in December points with 10, followed by Tyler McNeil with nine and Melso with seven. McNeil, a former Fresno Monster, leads the team and is second in the league with 35 points in 27 games. DiPietra’s 4-6-10 line in his last seven games is the best active scoring streak in the league. 
  • J.J. Cataldo remains the leader in nearly every goaltending category – save percentage (.957), goals against average (1.54), wins (16) and shutouts (eight – a single season and career record). He is third in minutes played at 1,170. 

The Road Ahead: The Hitmen are on the road for an 8:15 Friday night showdown with the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders on Friday, and then they’re back at home Saturday at 5:30 p.m. against the I-287 rival Rockets Hockey Club. 

  • The Hitmen are 24-3-1-1 all-time against the Rockets – however, the Rockets hold a closer 5-5-3-0 record in the matchup during the Kersner Brothers Era of the last three seasons, including an 8-5 win on Dec. 17. 
  • Jersey holds a 21-7-0-0 record against the Jr. Islanders, another team that picked up a win in their last meeting with the Hitmen. 


Northern Cyclones 

Don’t be surprised if you find the odd Halloween decoration here or there around Cyclones Arena. After all, you couldn’t blame the Cyclones for trying to recapture their October magic – they went 9-0 from Oct. 2 through Oct. 31, giving them the league’s longest winning streak, still the longest of the last two seasons. Regardless of the past, the Cyclones are still one of the top NCDC teams operating, standing with a .680 winning percentage – ahead of even the No. 2 point-getters the Mercer Chiefs. The Cyclones stumbled a bit in December, going 2-3-1-0, but they know they have the weapons to get the wins up ahead. 

  • With the exception of their single showcase game against the Hitmen, the Cyclones have defeated every other opponent they’ve faced this year at least once. 
  • No full strength, no problem – the Cyclones are second in penalty killing at 92.4 percent and tied for first in shorthanded goals for with five. 
  • The Cyclones duo of Marko Giourof and Paden Hicks registered their third full month of registering at least 18 points combined. Giourof posted a 5-4-9 and Hicks went 7-2-9 in December. One month earlier, Hicks had 10 points and Giourof posted nine. In October, during the winning streak, they posted 14 points apiece. It’s no surprise that Hicks and Giourof are tied for third with 34 points apiece. 
  • Hicks and captain Michael Felsing are tied for seventh in all-time Cyclones scoring at 56 points apiece. 

The Road Ahead: The Cyclones face the Boston Advantage Friday night (7:30 p.m.) at the Lovell Arena Center. A day later, they’ll face the Boston Junior Bruins at 2:30 p.m. 

  • The Cyclones have two wins against the Advantage this year, and one loss. Boston is 6-5-1-0 against the Cyclones all-time. 
  • The Junior Bruins are 14-8-1-2 against the Cyclones in their all-time series. 


Mercer Chiefs

The Chiefs continue to have the best season ever enjoyed by a first-year NCDC team that was not part of the inaugural season of 2017-18. With a record of 19-9-1-1 and 40 points, they are past where the 2018-19 New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs were after 29 games (17-10-1-1, 36 points). They won’t face the Jersey Hitmen again until Feb. 3, however, they do have the chance to pull past the perennial leaders and become the first team to lead the NCDC other than the Hitmen at a point after October 1 in several years. 

  • The Chiefs are a heavy-shooting team, standing just behind the Hitmen in shots on goal per game at 38.67 per game (vs. 39.81 for the Hitmen). 
  • Mercer has proven to be the best comeback team so far. They are a league-best 5-2-0-0 when trailing after the first period and 5-7-1-0 when trailing after two periods. No team comes close to that many wins when trailing after each period. 
  • Thomas Rockey’s seven points in six December games, gave him just the right amount of points to pull into first place on the Chiefs’ scoring leaderboard, with 25 points in 29 games. 
  • Ryan Keyes was one of only two goaltenders league-wide to go undefeated in three or more December appearances, the other being the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs’ Jake Fillion. He was 3-0 with a .923 save percentage en route to South Goaltender of the Month honors. 

The Road Ahead: Friday evening at 7:50 p.m. will see the Chiefs face the Rockets Hockey Club in Bridgewater, followed by Saturday night’s home game against the Connecticut Jr. Chiefs (7 p.m.)

  • All three of the Chiefs’ games against the Rockets have been one-goal decisions. The Rockets hold a 2-0-0-1 lead in the season series, though the Chiefs outlasted them in a 10-round shootout on Dec. 16 to win 6-5 
  • The Chiefs are 2-0 against the Rangers, including a 3-0 shutout win on Dec. 3, where Keyes made 35 saves. 


P.A.L. Jr. Islanders

The Jr. Islanders have an amazing penchant for consistency year to year. They hold 37 points after 29 games (thanks to a 17-9-1-2 record), which matches their previous best after the same amount of games twice. They registered 37 last year off an 18-10-0-1 record, and also in 2019-20 (16-8-3-2). They find themselves four points out of first this year, after being just one point back of the Hitmen at the break in 2021-22. 

  • Shootouts have been a strong point for P.A.L.’s shooters. They lead all teams with at least three shootout decisions with a 31.3 success rate on shooting, putting in five on 16 shots. That said, they’ve also struggled on the other end, giving up six goals on 16 shots. 
  • P.A.L. is the only undefeated team in regulation after scoring the first goal of a game, standing at 14-0-1-1. 
  • Captain Luca Leighton vaulted 14 spots in the scoring leaderboard between Dec. 1 and today, moving from a tie for 23rd with 22 points to a tie for eighth overall with 31 points. Leighton’s 76 career points in 73 games puts him in a tie for third all-time in Jr. Isles NCDC scoring with Brendan Prappas. 
  • St. Lawrence University recruit Cam Smith led all NCDC goalies in December with six wins, going 6-1 with 199 saves on 213 shots for a .934 save percentage last month. Smith’s .939 save percentage for the season is third in the league. 

The Road Ahead: Friday sees the aforementioned showdown with the Jersey Hitmen, while Sunday night, the Jr. Islanders go around the Sound to face the Connecticut Jr. Rangers for a 7:15 p.m. game. The Jr. Islanders hold a slim 16-12-1-0 all-time lead against the Jr. Rangers. 


New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs 

At 17-9-1-3, the Jr. Monarchs are actually the point leaders for the North Division, and they are third overall in the league in that category. Winning percentage-wise, they are No. 5 at .633. They’ve proven they are in it to the end, that fight for the North Division lead and ultimately a run in the playoffs. No NCDC teams have 100 percent clinched yet, but it’s coming soon and the Jr. Monarchs are working to position themselves as a tough draw for anyone. 

  • The Monarchs stand as the No. 1 penalty-killing team with a 93.3 percent success rate, giving up seven goals on 104 times shorthanded. They are also tied with the Cyclones for most shorthanded goals at five apiece. 
  • Defense is Rule No. 1 for the Monarchs – they give up the fewest shots on goal (29.83, the only team under 30 per game) and they are second in goals against (2.40). 
  • Having Jake Fillion in net goes a long way towards those defensive stats, as he holds a personal GAA of 2.11 and is second in league wins with 13 and tied for fifth in save percentage (.929). 
  • The Jr. Monarchs are one of four teams in the top 10 of winning percentage to not feature a top scorer averaging at least one point per game. Bryce Bollman leads the way with 25 points through 30 games 

The Road Ahead: The Jr. Monarchs fell 3-2 to the South Shore Kings on Thursday 

After the Kings game, up next will be an eight-day break and then it’s the Kings again on Friday, Jan. 13. 


Boston Advantage 

Standing with a 15-11-2-0 mark, the Advantage are enjoying their best season so far. After 28 games in their inaugural season of 2020-21, they’d registered 17 points. Last year, they boosted that to 26 points, but could not break their way into the playoffs. Right now, the Advantage are third in the North, with a great opportunity at 32 points to clinch – if they can continue their pace so far and keep their closest challengers at bay such as the South Shore Kings (28 points) and the fifth-place Twin City Thunder (25). 

  • The Advantage join the Monarchs with the best record when leading after two periods – they get a lead and just hold on, as they’ve done 11 times for an 11-0-0-0 mark when up after 40. 
  • They are tied for second best winning percentage in the league when scoring the first goal, standing at 11-1-0-0, with the Jersey Hitmen for a .917 winning percentage. 
  • Conor Lally remains fourth in scoring among NCDC defensemen with a 5-19-24 line. Teammate Luke Panchisin is seventh overall in the league with 32 points. 

The Road Ahead: The Advantage suffered a 2-1 overtime loss to the Islanders Hockey Club in their 2023 return to action on Jan. 4. Up next, they take on the Northern Cyclones on Friday at 7:30 pm., and the Twin City Thunder on Saturday at the same time, both at the Lovell Arena. 

Next Wednesday, they venture out to Foxboro to face the South Shore Kings. 

  • The Advantage are 6-5-1-0 against the Cyclones since their 2020-21 inaugural season, while the Twin City Thunder hold an 8-4-0-0 all-time lead. 


Connecticut Jr. Rangers

The Jr. Rangers find themselves at fourth place in the South Division, at 14-10-3-2. Like pretty much every team, it’s still mathematically possible for them to climb to the very top, but time will get tight quickly over the course of January. After all, they’re not only shooting for the top, but also having to defend their current playoff position as the Rockets Hockey Club are just two points back. After 29 games, the Jr. Rangers are slightly ahead of where they’ve been the last two seasons, even after a tough 2-3-1-1 December. 

  • The Jr. Rangers are top five in both goals against average (2.90, fourth) and shots on goal per game (38.41, third). 
  • They have had fairly similar results when out-shooting opponents (8-6-1-1) and when being outshot (6-4-1-1). 
  • Veteran Billy Shields continues to lead the team in scoring with 26 points in 28 games.
  • Goalie Mason Joseph is second in the NCDC with a .941 save percentage and fourth with a 2.24 goals against average.

The Road Ahead: The Jr. Rangers will visit the Mercer Chiefs on Saturday and they will play host to the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders on Sunday. 

  • The Chiefs are 2-0 against the Jr. Rangers, and P.A.L. leads that season series 16-12-1-0. 


South Shore Kings 

The Kings are undefeated in 2023, after winning their first game of the new year by a 3-2 score against the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs on Jan. 5. At 14-12-1-1, the Kings are holding onto the No. 4 spot in the North with a five-point margin on their nearest competition, the Twin City Thunder. At 4-3-0-0 in December, the Kings were tied with Mercer for the fourth-most points earned in the last month. With 30 points after 28 games, the Kings are right about where they’ve been the last couple years, when they had 33 and 32 points at the same measuring point. Don’t expect them to stand pat. Getting an important win over the division points-leader may just be the first salvo in an assault on the higher reaches of the division. 

  • The win over the Monarchs was the Kings’ eighth on the road, giving them an 8-8-1-1 record where their 18 points is third best earned on the road in the NCDC this year. 
  • The Kings give up the third fewest shots per game at 32.68. 
  • NCDC veteran Ben Jenkinson leads the team in scoring with 23 points after posting nine through seven December games. 
  • Speaking of veterans, the Kings also signed veteran goalie Jacob Torgner this past fall and it’s worked like a charm. He is 5-3-0-1 with a .943 save percentage and a 1.83 goals against average. 

The Road Ahead: The Junior Bruins next face the Boston Junior Bruins on Sunday afternoon at the New England Sports Center and then host the Boston Advantage next Wednesday afternoon in Foxboro. 

  • The Junior Bruins hold a 19-5-3-0 all-time lead against the Kings, while South Shore lead the Advantage with a 9-4-0-0 all-time record. 


Rockets Hockey Club

The Rockets are continuing to make trouble for anyone they face, and in December claimed wins against both of the league’s top two teams. Not only that, but they scored the most goals (eight) against the Jersey Hitmen since the Jr. Rangers scored a 7-4 win over the perennial regular season and two-time Dineen Cup champions. On the other side, the Rockets took losses in December to the Utica Jr. Comets, who are five points behind them, and to the Connecticut Jr. Rangers, who are two points ahead of them. In the end it was a 3-3-0-1 month for the Rockets, who are hoping for a much better month to start 2023. 

  • True to their accomplishment of putting up eight against the Hitmen, the Rockets are third overall in offense with 3.76 goals per game. 
  • The Rockets are second to the Hitmen in power play percentage, putting up 22.2 so far off 27 goals on 120 power play attempts. 
  • Caden Cranston continues to lead the NCDC in scoring with 40 points. The former Buffalo Stampede player earned NCDC Forward of the Month honors by posting 11 points in seven games, the second most points for any NCDC player last month.
  • Jack Barbro was named a Defenseman of the Month, as he matched Cranston’s totals perfectly at 2-9-11 in seven games. He leads all NCDC defensemen with 27 points in 29 games. 

The Road Ahead: On Friday, the Mercer Chiefs will make a visit to Bridgewater, and then the Rockets face the Jersey Hitmen on Saturday. The Rockets have won December games in both these matchups, so these will be big – and entertaining. 

  • The Hitmen are 24-3-1-1 all-time against the Rockets – however, the Rockets hold a closer 5-5-3-0 record in the matchup during the Kersner Brothers Era of the last three seasons, including an 8-5 win on Dec. 17. 
  • The Rockets are 2-0-0-1 against the Chiefs in that team’s first season so far. 


Utica Jr. Comets

The Comets stand at 11-11-3-1 (including a 5-5-0-0 record in their last 10 games). Currently at sixth in the South Division, they would have to bridge a current seven-point gap between themselves and the fourth-place Connecticut Jr. Rangers to reach fourth place – for right now. Every game seems to change every scenario and will for the next two and a half months until playoffs. 

  • The Jr. Comets’ 26 points earned is right in the middle of what they earned after 26 games in 2021-22 (29 points) and 2020-21 (24 points). 
  • Special teams work well for Utica, as they are third in power play percentage (21.1) and fourth in penalty killing (86.8). 
  • Michael Herrera leads the team in scoring with 28 points in 24 games. 

The Road Ahead: The Jr. Comets start a three-game series with the WBS Knights on Friday, and will go right through Sunday. Utica won all three of their last games against WBS Oct. 14-16, with one going to OT.


In Other Action 

The Twin City Thunder won their first game of 2023 by a 6-2 score against the Islanders Hockey Club. They will next face the Boston Advantage on Saturday. With their Friday win, the Thunder closed the gap between fifth and fourth place to just three points. 

The Boston Junior Bruins face the Northern Cyclones on Saturday afternoon, in the midst of their Northern Cyclones Showcase, in which they’re hosting Premier and Elite squads from Friday through Monday. The Junior Bruins then face the South Shore Kings on Sunday afternoon. 

The Islanders scored a 2-1 OT win on Wednesday against the Boston Advantage, before falling to the Twin City Thunder by a 6-2 score on Friday. They are off for the rest of the weekend and get back to action on Wednesday evening at Cyclones Arena against the Northern Cyclones. 

As mentioned above, the WBS Knights will play host to Utica for three games, their first action after going 2-1 against the Connecticut Jr. Rangers to end the 2022 portion of their schedule. 


Drop The Pucks!