One game is what it comes down to for the Twin City Thunder and Boston Advantage, who will drop the puck on Wednesday, March 15, at 12:30 p.m. to see which squad will be the No. 4 seed in the North going up against the division winners the Northern Cyclones.
The Thunder go into the game coming off a 25-21-2-2 record and while Head Coach Dan Hodge sees some spots where the play could certainly have been better, he was overall happy with the 2022-23 outcome.
“I think we had a pretty successful season overall. We had a good start but hit a rough patch in October. We were able to make some adjustments and bring in some new players that helped us turn things around. We are excited to have earned this opportunity to play in this game.”
The Advantage finished at 27-17-5-1, which gave them just four wins less this year than their first two NCDC campaigns combined. The Advantage earned wins against 13 of the 14 teams, including their first win against the five-time Dineen Cup Champion Hitmen Classic, and at their own showcase in Wayne, N.J.
Only the Rockets Hockey Club defeated the Advantage in both their meetings, and one of those was in OT, so that the Advantage were able to earn points against every single team this year.
The Thunder went 3-2-0-1 against the Advantage – and Boston’s record against Twin City was 3-2-1-0. Dead even in points at seven apiece.
Most recently, on March 8 – just a week before their postseason play-in game – the Thunder defeated the Advantage in OT. Four games this season ended as 4-2 scores, and the other two were 4-3 decisions – one in a shootout in the Advantage’s favor and the aforementioned Thunder OT win.
19 goals for Thunder, 19 goals for the Advantage in the season series.
“We had some great games with the Advantage this season. Every contest was tightly contested and had lots of emotion. We know they are a talented hockey team with outstanding goaltending and offensively gifted defensemen,” said Hodge. “We will need to be prepared for – and are looking forward to – another great game on Wednesday.”
The Advantage went to overtime more than any other team this year, 10 times, and came out even at 5-5. They were also 3-1 in shootouts, so going beyond regulation accounted for fully 28 percent of their regular season. The New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs also went beyond regulation as much, but were two points shy of the Advantage’s totals, with 20 points. It was actually the Mercer Chiefs, in 13 games, who equaled the Advantage’s 22 points earned beyond regulation.
The Thunder for their part went beyond regulation 10 times, going 2-2 in the OT’s and 4-2 in shootouts.
“We have a tight knit group that has great depth. Over the course of the season we have had contributions up and down the line up so we don’t count on one particular line to do all our scoring,” said Hodge. “We will focus on tightening up our systems in practice and stress the importance of not taking unnecessary penalties as we know they have a talented power play group.”
The Advantage had several players who showed up on the league leaderboard, with Luke Panchisin clocking in at fourth in league scoring with 61 points. He was also tied for the league lead in game-winning goals with six.
Goaltender Nick Bevilacqua finished in the top 10 for goals against average at 2.83, and tied for second in wins with the Hitmen’s J.J. Cataldo with 21 apiece. Bevilacqua was second in minutes played on the season (2,080) and had the second best shootout performance of the season, making four saves on five attempts.
On the D side, Conor Lally tied for third in blueliner scoring with 40 points, and he was second in assists with 33.
The Thunder’s Trace Norwell finished in a tie for fourth in goals with 26 this season, and tied for first in shorthanded goals with three. He was also second in power play markers with nine. Norwell’s name was widespread, as he also tied for the league lead in shootout-winning goals with two, and he was second overall in shootout goals with three.
Twin City was the only team with two goaltenders in the top 10 of NCDC goals against average, posting almost identical numbers, as Christopher Jackson put up a 2.71 and Trey Miller was at 2.74. Miller was third in shutouts (three) and second in shootout wins (three).
On the D side, Nick Pomerleau placed in the top five for both power play assists (13) and points (14), and Blake Tierney tied for the league lead in shorthanded points by a blueliner with three.
“We will be looking for leadership from everyone on the team,” said Hodge. “We have always been a team that doesn’t rely on just a few players. We have guys who have been here for multiple seasons and others who have played in the playoffs in other leagues. We will be counting on every player in the lineup to be leaders and we will need the whole group playing for each other if we want to make a deep playoff run.”