If the race for first place in the North Division is this good now, what must be in store for the remainder of the season. The Battle for New Hampshire is raging between the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs and Northern Cyclones is fierce and getting fiercer by the day. The drama ratchets up every time one or the other happens to jump into first place, and that’s just what happened this past week. We’ll break down all that’s happened since the calendar flipped to December, looking at the teams that have started the month with at least a .500 performance thus far.
(Records reflect games played between Dec. 1-6)
New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs (2-0-0-1)
Five more points earned since the start of December, and the Monarchs are two points up in first place in the North, bypassing the Northern Cyclones (who went 1-1 since Dec. 1). They started the month off precisely on Dec. 1, when they defeated the Islanders Hockey Club in a shootout, 3-2. Next up on Friday was a 5-4 win against the Boston Junior Bruins. The week in review here ended for the Monarchs with a 3-2 shootout loss to the Boston Advantage.
Their current record is 15-7-1-2, and at 33 points, they are just ahead of – points-wise, at least – the Cyclones who are at 15-5-1-0 at 31 points.
- Now the Monarchs are back to their old tricks with regard to shootouts. Two in the last week bring their season total up to four, which is exactly where they were at this time last season en route to putting up nine 1-on-1 competitions towards a 7-2 record. They are currently 2-2 in the shootout.
- Matthew Sullivan scored his first shootout goal against the Islanders, and it proved to be the winner in two attempts. He finished with 16 points in 24 games.
- The Monarchs have pulled off an outstanding feat of registering 15 wins in 25 games with offense almost completely by committee. A very talented defensive team, allowing just 2.21 points per game, they are also one of five squads without 1.00 point per game. Bryce Bollman leads the team with 20 points in 25 games.
- Speaking of defense, no team allows fewer shots on goal than the Monarchs – they give up just 29.21 per game and they are the only squad giving up less than 30.
- Jake Fillion is tied for second in wins (12), he is second in goals against average (2.02) and fifth in save percentage (.932).
The Road Ahead: All this has been a perfect setup for the showdown this Friday between the Monarchs and Cyclones. The Monarchs have a 13-7-1-2 all-time record against the Cyclones, but it’s pretty much been dead even the last couple years. Both have a win this year, with the Monarchs winning most recently on Nov. 4, 4-3, in OT. Their 2021-22 records were also nearly identical. The Cyclones won the series by one point, going 3-0-1-2, while the Monarchs were 3-1-0-2.
Boston Advantage (2-0-0-0)
The Advantage took a couple points from the division-leading Monarchs by winning a Dec. 5 shootout, coming on the heels of a 3-1 victory over the South Shore Kings on Friday. Together with their two final November wins – which included a prior win against the Monarchs on Nov. 22 – the Advantage are enjoying a season-best four-game winning streak. This matches the Advantage’s team record of four wins between Oct. 15-24, 2021, so they’ll be hoping to break their all-time winning streak mark in their next game on Saturday at the Northern Cyclones.
The Cyclones remain in third place in the North Division, but they are just two points shy of the Cyclones and four points out of the first place spot currently held by the Monarchs.
- The Advantage’s 14 goals over their last four games marks the third time this season they’ve registered their season-high of 14 over that number of games.
- Boston has the best winning percentage beyond 60 minutes of hockey of all teams with at least their number of six times going beyond regulation. They are 3-1 in OT and now 2-0 in the shootout for an .833 winning percentage.
- Their two goals on five shot attempts is tied with the Cyclones for best shootout success rate among all NCDC teams (.400) and they also join the Cyclones for best goalie performance in the shootout, as both their teams’ goalies are perfect on six shot attempts in the 1v1 showdown.
- The Advantage tie the Jersey Hitmen and Mercer Chiefs for most wins (seven) when tied after the first period. The Advantage are 7-1-0-0 when tied after 20.
- Boston has been outshot more than any other team this year (16 times), but they keep a positive 8-7-1-0 record in that situation. Ironically, they are also fourth best in allowing the fewest shots against per game at 34.08.
- Second-leading scorer Arik Altman (26 points in 24 games) scored his first shootout game-winner on his first USPHL shootout attempt on Monday night.
- Luke Panchisin has tied for the longest point-scoring streak of the season at 12 games, in which he’s posted a line of 10-9-19 going back to Oct. 30. That is also good for the second most points on a scoring streak this year, behind Caden Cranston’s 20 points in 12 games, and he stands alone with the longest active scoring streak going beyond today. He has taken over the team points lead at 29 points in 24 games. He has two assists so far in his December games.
- Nicholas Bevilacqua has extended his goaltender winning streak to four games, going back to Nov. 17. His 4-0 record since Nov. 17 is best in the league and his .955 save percentage in that stretch of just over two weeks is second best.
The Road Ahead: The Advantage face the Cyclones on Friday, and then the Twin City Thunder next Tuesday. The Advantage lead their all-time series with the Cyclones 6-4-1-0, and the teams are 1-1 so far this season.
- Twin City holds a 7-3-0-0 all-time record over the Advantage, including a pair of 4-2 wins this season.
P.A.L. Jr. Islanders (2-0-0-0)
Just like the Advantage, the Jr. Islanders carry on with a 4-0 winning streak, a game short of their season-best 5-0 run from Oct. 2-8, which included their last two BJB Shootout games and the entirety of the Hitmen Classic.
Their 6-3 win on Dec. 4 against the Jersey Hitmen was their first victory against the league leaders and two-time defending Dineen Cup champions in 10 regular season match-ups. The Hitmen had won the prior two meetings this season. Before that game, the P.A.L. had also defeated Mercer on Dec. 2, 4-3. The two wins bumped them from fourth place to third in the South Division, as they pulled to within five points of Mercer (making that a strong proverbial “four-point” win).
- The six goals in Sunday’s win were the most scored for P.A.L. against the Hitmen since Sept. 23, 2018, which was also a 6-3 Jr. Islanders win.
- Heikki Virtanen scored the first goal, which helped keep the Jr. Islanders undefeated in regulation when scoring the first goal, at 12-0-1-1. Only the Jersey Hitmen and New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs are also undefeated in 60 when scoring first.
- P.A.L. also joins the Monarchs and the Connecticut Jr. Rangers as the only three teams to not give up a shorthanded goal this year.
- Three more assists in the last two games for D.J. Walsh gives him helpers in each of his last nine games for an overall streak of 3-11-14 in nine games. His assist streak is one game longer than Mercer’s Thomas Rockey, who’s on an active assist streak of eight games with 10 helpers. Walsh’s streak is the longest since former Rocket Ben Perkins went 10 games with 11 assists in 2019-20.
- Shane Zarcone’s scoring streak of two goals and five assists for seven points in six games is a career-best for the third-year NCDC veteran, who just passed his 100th NCDC game on Nov. 16 when he scored the OT game-winner against the Boston Junior Bruins at the IHC Showcase.
The Road Ahead: The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights come to town for three straight from Friday through Sunday at Northwell Health Ice Center. These will be the Knights’ first games since their three IHC Showcase games. P.A.L. will in turn visit the Knights March 10-12 to end the regular season.
Utica Jr. Comets (2-1-0-0)
The Jr. Comets wrapped a couple wins around a single loss to the Rockets Hockey Club making for a largely successful trip to New Jersey last weekend. The Jr. Comets won their third straight on Friday with a 4-2 victory, which was followed by a 6-4 defeat on Saturday. Right back at it on Sunday, the Jr. Comets earned the 7-2 win to pull back above .500 with a 10-9-3-1 record. They remain just four points back of the fourth-place Connecticut Jr. Rangers nearing the midseason mark.
- The 2-1-0-0 performance was the Jr. Comets’ best this year in a three-game set on the road. They had swept the WBS Knights Oct. 14-16 in Utica.
- The Jr. Comets enjoyed a season-high in goals when they scored seven on Sunday. It was their best offensive output since a 7-4 win over the Islanders Hockey Club on Feb. 2, 2021, at Hub City Tampa.
- In going 4-1-0-0 in their last five games, they’ve scored at least four goals in each of those games. It’s the first time they’ve done so since Feb. 8-15, when they also went 4-1 in a five-game stretch of scoring four goals or more.
- Former USPHL Premier standouts are getting it done lately for Utica. Vladislav Pshenichnikov, a former New York Aviator (2020-21), has an active 5-4-9 streak in his last six games. Former Premier Jr. Comet Andrew Martino, an All-Star at that level whos cored 130 points in 118 career Premier games, is enjoying a 3-6-9 run in his last five games.
- In winning the Sunday game in net, Cameron Manley is a combined 7-2-0-0 and has a .952 save percentage in nine Premier and NCDC games, including a 2-0 record at the NCDC level.
The Road Ahead: The Jr. Comets are off this weekend, but will be on the road to face the Jersey Hitmen on Wednesday, Dec. 14.
The Islanders have the second best active points streak in the league, going 3-0-0-1 back to Nov. 17 at their hosted showcase. The run has helped them move out of seventh and into sixth place, with the lowest playoff spot – fourth – just three points away. The IHC took a 3-2 shootout loss to the division-leading New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs, before claiming a 6-5 regulation win on Tuesday, Dec. 6, against the South Shore Kings.
- The Islanders scored six goals twice in the space of four games, the last being their big upset 6-1 victory over the Jersey Hitmen on Nov. 17. It was the first time since 2020-21 that they’ve scored at least six goals twice, a feat they did not accomplish in 2021-22 (they scored 10 goals once last season, but did not score above five in any other game). The last time they scored at least six goals twice was the start of the 2020-21 season at the Hitmen Classic, when they posted a 6-3 win and a 7-4 win on either side of a 6-2 loss. They hit 6+ or better three times that season.
- Between a Nov. 22 2-1 win and their 3-2 loss to the Monarchs, the Islanders were in back-to-back shootouts for the first time since Feb. 14-15, 2019, at the South Shore Kings Presidents Day Showcase – a pair of 4-3 games in which the Isles went 1-1.
- Max Lundgren, an ‘03 from Sweden who joined in November, has missed the scoresheet only once – in his Nov. 5 debut, giving him a 2-5-7 line in seven straight games.
- With the win over the Kings on Dec. 6, Dunford DeLoss put together consecutive wins for the first time in his career. His other win in the streak was also against the Kings on Nov. 22.
The Road Ahead: The Islanders will host the Junior Bruins on Friday, and then pay a visit to the Monarchs on Monday and the Cyclones on Wednesday.
- The Junior Bruins hold an all-time series lead of 16-8-1-1, but the IHC have won both their meetings so far this year (3-2 on Oct. 17, and 2-1 in a shootout on Nov. 5)
- The Monarchs are 13-4-1-3 all-time against the IHC and won their first three meetings this year.
- The all-time series between the Islanders and their rivals the Cyclones – just 10 miles away as the crow flies – is so even that both teams have earned 25 points all time. The Cyclones’ record in the series is 11-9-1-2 and the Islanders hold a 12-10-1-0 mark.
Boston Junior Bruins (1-1-0-0)
The Junior Bruins came back from a 5-4 loss to the North first place Monarchs on Dec. 2 to capture a 5-2 win over the second place Cyclones on Dec. 4. Scoring nine goals in two games was a great relief to a team that had scored just a single goal in each of their prior two games, which ended their IHC Showcase with a 1-1-1-0 record. They opened that event with a 5-1 win over the Connecticut Jr Rangers.
- With 24 points in 25 games, the team’s leading scorer Easton Ryan is close to a 1.00 point per game average on his career, with 71 points in 73 games. With 34 goals in his two seasons, he trails only Army recruit Barron Woodring (Rockets Hockey Club) who has 42, among active two-year NCDC players.
The Road Ahead: The Junior Bruins visit the Islanders on Friday, and then come home for a Saturday game against the Monarchs and a Tuesday game against the South Shore Kings, for their first match-up of the season.
- The Junior Bruins are 16-8-1-1 all-time against the Islanders, 11-9-0-0 all-time against the Monarchs and they are 18-5-3-0 against the Kings. The Junior Bruins and Kings split last year’s season series winning three games apiece.
Jersey Hitmen (1-1-0-0)
The Hitmen earned a 3-2 overtime win on Friday against the Connecticut Jr. Rangers and then came back the next day only to fall 6-3 against the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders. Although the Mercer Chiefs continue to challenge them for South Division superiority, the Chiefs also went 1-1 last week so the top two spots remain the same and remain two points separated.
- At 18-4-0-0, the Hitmen remain in first place overall in the NCDC after 22 games, the way they have at the same milepost every season since 2018-19. Last year, they were tied in points with the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders and in 2018-19, they had the same amount of points (36) and the Boston Junior Bruins were second with 34, just as Mercer stands second with 34 this year.
- Tyler McNeil, a former Fresno Monster (and shining example of #USPHLAdvancement In Action) continues to lead the team in scoring with 27 points in 22 games, for an average of 1.23. McNeil also remains the league leader in GWGs with four winners, as well as first goals (four).
- Panayioti Efraimidis continues to lead the league in points per game average at 1.35 off 23 points in 17 games.
- Sean Melso, who had become the league’s all-time leading scorer among defensemen, scored the game-tying and the overtime game-winning goals against Connecticut. Out of his six career game-winning goals, that was his first in OT. He now has 92 career points in 111 games.
- Goalie J.J. Cataldo remains No. 1 in wins (14), goals against average (1.06) and save percentage (.968), as well as shutouts (seven).
The Road Ahead: The Hitmen go up against the Mercer Chiefs on Friday, and then return to the Ice Vault Saturday versus Connecticut, whom they just faced also at home on Dec. 2. The Hitmen faced Mercer on Oct. 12 and 22, both resulting in Hitmen shutout wins (J.J. Cataldo’s fourth and sixth shutouts).
- The Hitmen improved to 23-3-1-1 all-time against the Jr. Rangers, but the Rangers did earn at least a point against the Hitmen for the ninth time in their history.
Mercer Chiefs (1-1-0-0)
As mentioned above, the Hitmen and Chiefs both going 1-1 meant there was no change at the top of the South Division ranks. The Chiefs took a 4-3 loss to the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders on Dec. 2, followed the next night by a 3-0 shutout win against the Connecticut Jr. Rangers.
- The Chiefs enjoyed their second #ShutoutShoutout (this going to Ryan Keyes) in their existence. The last was Oct. 1 against the Boston Advantage.
- Both their shutouts have come in the friendly confines of their home ProSkate Arena, where they are 6-1-1-0. They also have a 3-1-0-0 record as the “home” team at showcase games away from ProSkate Arena.
- Ryan Keyes stopped 35 of 36 shots for the shutout victory, and he has not lost a game in regulation since the start of November, going 4-0-0-1 with a .927 save percentage in that time.
- Three players extended scoring streaks to four games or better. Thomas Rockey’s eight-game assist streak is second only to the P.A.L.’s D.J. Walsh (nine games), over which Rockey has 10. He has a 2-10-12 line in eight games. Keaton Lipsett has 5-3-8 in his last five, and Elowan Orme-Lynch has 3-3-6 in four games.
The Road Ahead: The Chiefs will hope to pick up their first win (and first goals) against the Jersey Hitmen this season, when they meet on Friday at ProSkate. Then the Chiefs go to Bridgewater on Saturday to face the Rockets Hockey Club. The Rockets met them only once before, on Oct. 15, a 5-4 Rockets victory. The two teams meet six days later as well, on Dec. 16.
Northern Cyclones (1-1-0-0)
The Cyclones opened December with a 6-4 victory over the Twin City Thunder, and then took a 5-2 loss to the Junior Bruins on Sunday. Both were the first two games in a five-game home stand. Their loss on Sunday was only their second at Cyclones Arena this year, and first since a 6-3 defeat against South Shore way back on Sept. 24 putting them at 7-2 in their barn. They are 9-3 overall as the home team with a 2-1 record as the home team at showcases.
- With eight goals in their last two games, the Cyclones now have the league’s best offense at 4.05 goals per game, leapfrogging the Jersey Hitmen (4.00) into the top spot.
- The team is also second in fewest shots against with 30.14.
- The Cyclones have only been outscored six times in 21 games, and they’ve only been outshot once for a league-best 5-1-0-0 record and .833 winning percentage when being outshot.
- Paden Hicks, whose earlier 12-game point streak is tied for the league’s best this year, is back at it with an active four-game, 3-5-8 run.
- Captain Michael Felsing is the new owner of the team’s best active points streak, extending to nine games now with 5-12-17 in his last nine games. It is the league’s second most productive active streak and fourth most productive overall this season.
The Road Ahead: The Cyclones will face the Monarchs as part of their continuing Battle of New Hampshire and concurrent battle for first place in the North Division. The Monarchs have a 13-7-1-2 all-time record against the Cyclones, but it’s pretty much been dead even the last couple years, including one win apiece so far this season.
- On Sunday, the Cyclones will face the Boston Advantage. The Advantage lead their all-time series with the Cyclones 6-4-1-0, and the teams are 1-1 so far this season.
Drop The Pucks!