How was everyone’s Thanksgiving? We hope everyone enjoyed time with family and friends and, especially for the players, got a chance to heal up any lingering injuries. Now, it’s back to hockey, at least for three very busy weeks before the Christmas break comes. From there, it’s on to the stretch drive and playoffs beyond.
Some teams will come back this weekend and hit their mid-season mark, while others may hit it a week later. It’s a good time to just see where teams are at, and which players are firing on all cylinders for those teams. We take an in-depth look at the top eight squads in the league and also see what every team has coming up in their December return to action.
(Records shown are for 2022-23 season through Nov. 29)
Jersey Hitmen (17-3-0-0, 34 points)
Nothing surprising about this – the Hitmen are in first place. Coming off a 2-1 performance at the Islanders Hockey Club showcase, they remain ahead of the Mercer Chiefs by just two points.
- Going back to the start of 2021-22 and looking at winning percentage, the Hitmen have been in first place alone or in a tie with others at the start of every month. They held first in the league side by side with P.A.L. on Dec. 1, 2021, both standing at .643. They were in a three-way tie at .679 on Nov. 1, 2021, with P.A.L. and Utica. On Oct. 1, 2021, very early in that season, they were in a five-way tie of undefeated teams at 1.000 after either two or three games played going into that year’s BJB Shootout.
- Playing clean pays huge dividends, as the Hitmen are the least-penalized team in the NCDC, averaging just 8.8 penalty minutes per game. They are the only team without a major penalty and one of only two teams without any game misconducts.
- The Hitmen have scored the first goal of a game 14 times and are perfect when up 1-0, going 14-0. Utica, at 5-0, is the only other undefeated team after scoring the first goal.
- The Hitmen lead in penalty killing at 93.9 percent.
- Jersey also has the best offense and defense of any team in the league, averaging 4.10 goals for and 1.55 goals against per game.
- A big reason for that stingy goals against is the play of goaltender J.J. Cataldo. He stands at 13-1-0-0 on the season and leads in wins, goals against average (0.99), save percentage (.970) and shutouts (seven, a league record).
- The team’s last game, a 6-1 loss to the Islanders Hockey Club, snapped some scoring streaks, but the Hitmen still have the most players averaging better than one point per game at the break, with six who have played at least 10 games. Their I-287 rival Rockets Hockey Club are second with five.
- Sean Melso became the all-time leading scorer among NCDC defensemen at the Islanders Hockey Club Showcase.
- Melso currently has 90 points in 109 NCDC games. On Nov. 16, with two assists, he broke a tie with former Hitman and current Dartmouth College Captain Tanner Palocsik, who had 88 points in his NCDC career.
- Panayioti Efraimidis, acquired from the Junior Bruins in October, had the team’s best November offensively at nine points in six games.
- Leading scorer Tyler McNeil is No. 1 in the NCDC for game-winning goals with four.
The Road Ahead: The Hitmen play host to the Connecticut Jr. Rangers on Friday at 1 p.m., and then head to face the P.A.L. on Saturday night at 7:15 p.m. The Hitmen hold a 22-3-1-1 record against the Rangers, and they are 21-6-0-0 all-time against the Jr. Islanders.
Mercer Chiefs (15-7-1-1, 32 points)
No learning curve for this first-year team. The Chiefs have more than established themselves not just as a team that can compete well in the NCDC, but they are now challenging for first in the whole league. Like the Hitmen, the Chiefs went 2-1 at the IHC Showcase, so they just missed their chance to tie the four-time Founders Cup champion Hitmen in the points race. On to December, when they’ll try again.
- The Chiefs have the all-time best record after 24 games for a new NCDC team (i.e, all those who did not compete in the inaugural 2017-18 campaign). Their 32 points are three better than the 29 points picked up by both the 2018-19 New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs (14-9-0-1) and the 2019-20 Twin City Thunder (2019-20).
- Mercer fires at will, and stands third in the league in shots on goal per game at 37.21.
- Being down after two periods has still been productive points-wise for Mercer, as their nine points (4-6-0-1) when trailing after 40 minutes is a league best.
- Having to come back as much as they’ve had, it’s no surprise that more than half (13) of the Chiefs’ games this year have been one-goal decisions. They are tied with the Monarchs for most points in one-goal games with matching 8-3-1-1 records. They’re also tied for the most three-goal decisions in the league, but have the best record there alone (4-1-0-0).
- Keaton Lipsett’s four goals over three games straight is the second-longest active goal-scoring streak in the league. He has 16 points in 17 games.
- Thomas Rockey’s six-game 2-8-10 streak is the league’s second-longest active points streak.
- Goalie Ryan Keyes went undefeated in regulation in his four games in November, going 3-0-0-1, and was one of just three goalies league-wide to go undefeated through 65 minutes in the league.
- Trevor Davis remains second in scoring by NCDC defensemen with 19 points.
The Road Ahead: Mercer has the reverse of the Hitmen’s opponents schedule. They start with P.A.L. on Friday at 2:45 p.m., and then face Connecticut at 8:30 p.m. Saturday night. Both are road games. They are 2-0 against P.A.L. including a 3-2 shootout win in their inaugural game on Sept. 23. The Chiefs are 1-0 against Connecticut after beating them 5-4 in overtime on Oct. 21.
Northern Cyclones (14-4-1-0)
Nine of the Cyclones’ wins came in a massive winning streak that spanned nearly all of October. After a 4-0 loss to the Hitmen on Oct. 1, the Northern squad never lost again in the 10th month of the year. They went into the break going 2-1 like many other teams, and are enjoying a slim one-point lead on the New Hampshire in-state rivals the Monarchs in the North Division.
- Although the Cyclones are third in points, they are second in winning percentage at .763.
- Their nine-game winning streak was the longest in the NCDC in two years, beating three eight-game winning streaks in 2021-22 by the Hitmen, Boston Junior Bruins and P.A.L. Jr. Islanders.
- The Cyclones are the league leaders in shorthanded goals scored, with five. Jordan Gualtieri is one of four players in the NCDC with a pair of shorties so far this season. The Monarchs are again right on their tail in this category with four.
- The Cyclones are just .05 of a goal behind the league-leading Hitmen in goals for per game, at 4.05 to the Hitmen’s 4.10.
- Both Paden Hicks (13 goals, tied for second) and Marko Giourof (12 goals, tied for fifth) are in the top five of NCDC goal-scoring. Hicks’ 25 points is tied for third on that end.
- Hicks also holds the season record for longest point streak at 12 games between Oct. 2-Nov. 12, posting 12-7-19. Teammate Michael Felsing’s seven-game points streak of 4-10-14 is the league’s longest active streak.
- Colin Ronan is the only NCDC goalie to have two shootout wins so far this season.
The Road Ahead: The Cyclones are home this weekend, with games Saturday against the Twin City Thunder and Sunday against the Boston Junior Bruins.
- The Cyclones moved closer to evening up their all-time series with the Junior Bruins with their 4-3 win over the Marlboro-based squad on Oct. 13, the second of their nine straight W’s. They are now 11-12-1-0 all-time against the Black and Gold in the regular season.
- The Cyclones doubled up their wins against the Thunder, going 8-4-0-0 all-time with a 2-0 win on Oct. 22 (win No. 5 of nine straight).
New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs (13-7-1-1)
The Monarchs have hit some mid-season struggles, going 0-3 recently. They’ll start back up with a chip on their shoulder and an eye on taking over first in the North from their Granite State rivals the Northern Cyclones. They also have to look over their shoulders as the Boston Advantage are just three points back of the Monarchs.
- The Monarchs being in first or second in the North is just as familiar a sight over the last year as is the Hitmen leading the South. They have been in the top two positions in the North every month going back to Dec. 1, 2021.
- Going shorthanded has worked out pretty well for the Monarchs, as they’ve scored four shorthanded goals when down in strength. It hasn’t happened to them, either, as they are one of three teams with no shorthanded goals against.
- The Monarchs have the best defensive corps in terms of keeping teams away from their goal – they have a league-low 28.23 shots against per game, the only team under 30 per match. They are also second in goals against average at 2.14.
- New Hampshire is tied with Jersey in being the only two teams undefeated when tied after one period, as the Monarchs are 5-0 in that situation and the Hitmen are 7-0.
- Goaltender Jake Fillion is second in goals against average at 1.91, and tied for second in wins with 10. He’s also fifth in save percentage at .933.
- Matthew Sullivan has a 2-2-4 line for an active scoring streak heading into his next game, and he has 15 points in 22 games.
The Road Ahead: The Monarchs and Islanders Hockey Club are the first two teams back in action when they play on Thursday, Dec. 1, at noon. They’ll face the Junior Bruins on Friday at 2:40 p.m. and then on Monday at 11:40 a.m., they face the Boston Advantage at home.
- The Monarchs are 13-4-1-3 all-time against the Islanders. They are one win away from evening their all-time series against the Junior Bruins, against whom they are 9-10-1-0.
- New Hampshire is 7-2-0-2 all-time against the Advantage. The two teams split 4-1 games this season on Oct. 23 and Nov. 22, both teams’ most recent action.
Connecticut Jr. Rangers (12-7-2-1)
The Rangers stand at third in the South with 27 points, five behind Mercer. Connecticut went 1-2 at the IHC Showcase, and an almost even 6-4 in their last 10, so they’re hoping to come back with oomph, especially against the Hitmen on Friday.
- The Rangers join the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs and P.A.L. Jr. Islanders as the only three teams to have not given up a shorthanded goal this year.
- Connecticut fires the most shots on goal of any NCDC team, with a league high of 38.41. They are fifth in goals for at 3.27.
- It hasn’t happened very often, but even when the Jr. Rangers are outshot, they still generally win, going 5-2-0-1.
- Second-year Jr. Ranger Cameron Grillo’s first career NCDC goal, a shorthanded goal, was the team’s only marker in their November finale on Nov. 17, a 4-1 loss to the Boston Advantage.
- With four points in November, leading scorer and second-year veteran Billy Shields (23 points in 21 games) doubled his 2021-22 output of 10 points in 36 games. Shields’ 23 points have him tied for ninth in league scoring.
- Jack Arizo’s 12 goals is tied for fifth in the NCDC, and he is tied for second in power play goals with five, and he’s tied for second in GWG’s as well with three.
- Goalie Mason Joseph is second in the NCDC in save percentage (.949) and third in goals against average (2.09).
The Road Ahead: It’s the HItmen on Friday, and the Mercer Chiefs on Saturday, the 1-2 punch that the Jr. Rangers hope they’ll meet and defeat.
Boston Advantage (12-9-1-0, 25 points)
The Advantage are, after 22 games, having their best season so far. Their 12 wins and 25 points eclipse the 22 points they had after 22 contests in 2021-22 (10-10-2-0) and far outweigh their six wins in their inaugural season at the same mark. Not bad for a 2022-23 season in which they’ve been unable to win more than two games in a row. After going 1-1-1-0 at the IHC Showcase, they played one more on Nov. 22 that resulted in a 4-1 win over the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs, closing the gap behind the second-place North team to three points.
- Of the Advantage’s 25 points, 17 of those have come when being outshot by opponents, a league-best record when on the lower side of the shots count (8-7-1-0).
- The Advantage have not been beyond regulation the most in the league, but of those teams going past 60 minutes at least three times, they have the best winning percentage at .800. They are 3-1 in overtime and won their only shootout.
- Advantage goalie Nicholas Bevilacqua is tied for second in the league in wins with 10, and in line with the team’s penchant for being out-shot, he has faced the fourth-most shots (489). Nevertheless, he is top 10 in both save percentage (.926, ninth) and goals against average (2.56).
- With Luke Panchisin and Arik Altman both holding 25 points, good for a share of a four-way tie for fourth place in the league’s points race, the Advantage are the only team with two players in the top five of scoring. Panchisin’s 13 goals are tied for second in the NCDC, and Altman’s 16 assists are tied for third.
- Defenseman Conor Lally is tied for second in points by NCDC blueliners with 19. He’s also tied with Altman for third in league assists. He is on an active five-game point-scoring streak of 1-4-5.
The Road Ahead: The Advantage face the South Shore Kings on Friday evening at home at 7:30 p.m., followed by a Monday 11:40 a.m. game in New Hampshire against the Monarchs.
The Kings are 9-3-0-0 all-time against the Advantage, their closest geographical rivals, but with their 4-1 win over the Monarchs, the Advantage evened their all-time series there at 4-4-0-3.
P.A.L. Jr. Islanders (11-8-1-2, 25 points)
Another 2-1 team at the IHC Showcase, the Jr. Islanders can put together a frightening run, as seen by their five games in a row between Oct. 2-8, including all three of their games at the Hitmen Classic. But for now, the Jr. Isles are on the chase, trying to catch up (and certainly at least keep up) with the Jr. Rangers, Mercer Chiefs and Hitmen all above them in the South standings. All are within 10 points, the equivalent of the aforementioned five-game run.
- Defense has been a strong point for the Jr. Islanders over the season so far, placing them third in that category with 2.77 goals against per game.
- The Jr. Islanders have proven to be a strong third period force. They have the best record in the league for teams tied after two periods at 5-2-0-2, and have scored 28 goals in third periods, the most in any of the three stanzas.
- As good a third period team as the Jr. Islanders have been, they are also tied with the Jersey Hitmen for most wins when leading after one period (9-1).
- After posting four points in his first eight games, D.J. Walsh was a breakout player in November, scoring 11 points in seven straight. He has the league’s longest active assist streak, going back to Nov. 4. One more helper in his next game and he’ll have the longest for the season. It’s not just assists either, as he also is tied the longest active points streak at seven games (with the Cyclones’ Michael Felsing). Walsh carries a 4-7-11 line into December.
- Goaltender Cameron Smith, a St. Lawrence University recruit, is fourth in the league in save percentage at .939 and is tied for first in most appearances (17) with Jake Fillion.
The Road Ahead: P.A.L. starts a five-game home stand at Northwell Health Ice Center on Friday night against Mercer at 2:45 p.m., and against the Hitmen on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m.
- Mercer is 2-0 against the Jr. Islanders, including the season-opening 3-2 shootout winner for the Chiefs.
- THe Hitmen lead their series with the Jr. Islanders by a 21-6-0-0 all-time mark. They won the most recent meeting 3-2 in overtime on Nov. 5.
Rockets Hockey Club (11-9-1-1, 24 points)
The Rockets got the most out of the Islanders Hockey Club Showcase, coming out of the event as the only 3-0 team there. Although technically in the non-playoff position of fifth right this second, pulled just three points out of third place. The IHC Showcase marked the first time this season the Rockets were able to pull together three W’s in a row, so first-year Head Coach Jared Kersner is hoping this is the start of a massive midseason push for the upper echelons of the South Division.
- The 3-0 run at the IHC Showcase was the Rockets’ first showcase sweep since their BJB Shootout 3-0 run in 2021-22, the first showcase of that campaign.
- The Rockets have the league’s third-best offense, clicking at 3.68 goals per game.
- Special teams have worked well for the Rockets. They come out of the Thanksgiving break No. 1 in power play percentage at 21.6 (21-for-97), and fifth in penalty killing (87.1, 12 goals against on 93 times shorthanded).
- Caden Cranston utilized a huge November to take over the scoring lead in the NCDC, as he has put up 30 points in 22 games off 10 goals and a league-best 20 assists. The former Buffalo Stampede (USPHL Premier) standout put together the league’s most productive scoring streak, posting 21 points in 11 games between Oct. 22 and Nov. 16. He posted a 3-19-12 line in November’s seven games, giving him a league-best points per game rate of 1.7. For the season, his 1.36 points per game is second to the Hitmen’s Panayioti Efraimidis’ 1.38.
- Army recruit Barron Woodring is also in the top 10 for league scoring with 24 points in 22 games this year. He passed both the 100-game and 100-point marks in November, as he now has 105 points in 106 contests since first joining the NCDC Rockets in 2020-21. In the Rockets’ six-year NCDC history, he is second in scoring behind Niagara University’s Johnny Wescoe (115 points in 91 games).
- Quinnipiac University recruit Jonah Copre leads all NCDC defensemen with 22 points in 22 games. With Jack Barbro posting 16 points in 22 games for fourth, the Rockets are the only team with two blueliners in the top five league-wide. Barbro leads the league in goals by a defenseman with nine.
The Road Ahead: The Rockets host the Utica Jr. Comets for three games Dec. 2-4, with 7:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m. and 12:30 p.m. starts in that order.
- The Rockets hold an all-time series lead of 14-10-0-1 (and the Comets are even on their end at 11-11-2-1 all-time).
In Other Action
The Islanders Hockey Club finished their November with a huge 6-1 victory against the league-leading Jersey Hitmen, their first since a 3-2 shootout win at Hub City Tampa on Jan. 14, 2021. They draw the Monarchs on Thursday, Dec. 1, at noon, and they’ll face the South Shore Kings at 12:30 p.m. next Tuesday. The Monarchs hold a 13-4-1-3 all-time record over the Islanders, but the Islanders have the heavy lead against the Kings at 20-8-1-0, including two wins this season.
The Boston Junior Bruins went 1-1-1-0 at the IHC Showcase, and they’ll pick up games again on Friday against the Monarchs and Sunday against the Northern Cyclones. The Junior Bruins hold an 11-9-0-0 lead all-time against the Monarchs, and they are 13-8-1-2 against the Cyclones.
The South Shore Kings face the Boston Advantage on Friday and the Islanders Hockey Club on Tuesday. They are down in their all-time series against the Islanders, but they hold a 9-3-0-0 record against the Advantage.
The Twin City Thunder have just one game in coming back from the break, facing the Northern Cyclones on Saturday. The Cyclones hold an 8-4-0-0 all-time series lead.
As mentioned above, Utica faces the Rockets Hockey Club in three straight this weekend, and they bring in an all-time mark of 11-11-2-1 against the Rockets.
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights are idle from game action this weekend before coming back Dec. 10-12 for three against the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders.
Drop The Pucks!