By Joshua Boyd / USPHL.com
Tuesday is just hours away and the new day will bring us the beginning of the Islanders Hockey Club Showcase, the only one of five showcases all season to feature all 14 of the National Collegiate Development Conference teams.
Some teams will go on runs that could set the tone for the rest of the season. Other teams might stumble and suddenly become more vulnerable in the standings than they might currently show. Twenty-one games in three days could see some tremors, or flags of kings could be planted deeper on the hill. That’s why they play the games.
Currently, we’ll look at the teams going into the event .500 or better since Nov. 8.
Records shown for teams indicate their performances between Nov. 8-13.
Connecticut Jr. Rangers (2-0-0-0)
The Jr. Rangers picked up wins on Friday (2-1 against the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders) and Saturday (6-5 against the Rockets Hockey Club) to maintain their hold on third place in the South Division and they are in a tie for fourth in the NCDC.
- The Jr. Rangers hit a three-way tie for most goals scored by both opponents in a game this season, with 11. Each of the three times, it was by a 6-5 score, though this was the first win by that score. In addition to the recent game against the Rockets on Nov. 12, the previous two were Oct. 7 in a 6-5 OT loss to the Boston Junior Bruins and Oct. 2 in a 6-5 shootout loss to the Northern Cyclones.
- The Jr. Rangers got sweet vengeance on the Rockets, who had beaten them 3-0 just two games earlier on Nov. 5.
- With three points over the past weekend against the Islanders and Rockets, scoring leader Billy Shields (‘03) officially doubled his points output of 2021-22, when he had 10 points in 36 games. He currently stands with 22 points through 18 games this year.
- After taking his only two losses on Nov. 4-5, goaltender Mason Joseph (‘03) got back-to-back wins and now stands at 7-2-0-0. He remains one of the NCDC’s best goaltenders, ranking second in save percentage (.953), in a tie for third in wins and fourth in goals against average (1.80).
The Road Ahead: The Jr. Rangers kick off the IHC Showcase Tuesday against the Junior Bruins, followed by the host Islanders Hockey Club on Wednesday and the Boston Advantage on Thursday.
The Junior Bruins lead their all-time regular season series 11-7-1-0, while the Jr. Rangers have an all-time lead of 14-3-0-0 against the Islanders. Their series against the Advantage is completely even with five points apiece earned – the Jr. Rangers are at 2-1-0-1 and the Advantage are 2-1-1-0 against the Jr. Rangers.
South Shore Kings (2-0-0-0)
Four is the magic number for the Kings. In each of their three games this month of November, they’ve won by scoring four goals. After starting with a 4-0 shutout of Twin City on Nov. 4, they followed that up with a Nov. 8 4-2 win over the Boston Advantage and a 4-3 win over the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs in a shootout on Nov. 10. Winning all three games this month has helped the Kings insofar as pulling close to the .500 mark (at 7-8-1-0, they are currently at .438), but week over week they remain in fifth place, right where they were on Nov. 7.
- This three-game winning streak marks the first time in their NCDC history that the Kings have won three games in a row with the same amount of goals scored in each victory.
- Scoring four goals per game this month has helped bump the Kings’ goals for average slightly from 2.79 to 2.94, so the offense is coming along.
- Goaltender Ben Williams (‘03) is thankful for this new month of November, in which he’s gone 3-0 with a 1.62 goals against average and a .947 save percentage (after previously going 3-4-1-0 in September and October).
The Road Ahead: It’s the showcase showdown! Tuesday’s opponent the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders hold their all-time series lead against the Kings at 10-7-1-0, while the Kings hold a 12-7-1-0 all-time record against Wednesday’s opponents the Rockets Hockey Club.
The Kings and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights will play their first-ever matchup at the IHC Showcase, resuming their two-game season series in February at the Kings’ own Presidents Day weekend showcase event.
Twin City Thunder (2-0-0-0)
Two games and four points in the books for the Thunder in their home weekend series against the Boston Junior Bruins. After a 3-1 Friday win, they did see the Junior Bruins leave Auburn, Maine, with a point from their Saturday 4-3 OT victory, but the Thunder can certainly revel in moving up a standings spot from fourth to third, leapfrogging the Boston Advantage. At 21 points, they still have some ground to make up against the top two in the North, the Northern Cyclones (25) and the leading New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs (26). The Thunder are enjoying a 3-0-1-0 points streak since their aforementioned loss to the South Shore Kings to start their November schedule.
- The Thunder added two more power play goals this past weekend to stay atop the league in power play percentage, at 27.5 (14 goals in 51 attempts). As strong as they are one man-up, they are hoping to improve their penalty kill, which ranks 12th in the league.
- The Thunder avenged a loss in their only other OT game this year, a 2-1 Junior Bruins win on Nov. 6. This is the third season in a row in which the Thunder have had multiple OT games against the same opponent. They also split a pair of OT contests against New Hampshire in 2021-22, and won both of their OT games against the Islanders Hockey Club in 2020-21.
- Nicholas Pomerleau (‘03) continues to impress in his first full NCDC season, after jumping up from the 2021-22 Premier Thunder. He has assists in each of his last four games and 12 points in 18 games to lead all Thunder blueliners. He joins Trace Norwell and Nolan Leonard as the only Thunder to play in all games so far this season. #USPHLAdvancement In Action!
- Like the team overall, goaltender Chris Jackson (‘02) is on a 3-0-1-0 streak of going unbeaten in regulation. Out of 157 shots faced since Nov. 1, he’s stopped 149 for a .949 save percentage thus far in the 11th month. In the league overall, he is fifth in goals against average (2.17) and sixth in save percentage (.933).
The Road Ahead: The Thunder start this week’s showcase against the Jersey Hitmen on Tuesday – the Hitmen hold a 6-3-0-0 all-time series lead. After facing Mercer for the first time ever on Wednesday, the Thunder will finish Thursday against the Utica Jr. Comets in their first meeting of this season (the other will be at the Kings’ February showcase). The Thunder are 6-2-0-0 all time against the Jr. Comets.
Jersey Hitmen (1-0-0-0)
The Hitmen took a bit of a light week game-wise in preparation for their trip to the IHC Showcase. On Nov. 10, they played their only game against the Utica Jr. Comets and came away with a 7-2 win, part of The Dan K Show ScoutCast series of broadcasts specifically targeted towards NHL and NCAA scouts.
In doing so, the Hitmen extended their overall winning streak to 4-0 going back to Oct. 29. As has been the case since 2018-19, the Hitmen continue to be the standard-bearers, leading the league in points (30) and winning percentage (.882). At 15-2-0-0, they also have the most wins and fewest losses, though they have a stiff challenge from the first-year Mercer Chiefs in the South standings, as the Chiefs are only two points away after a five-point weekend in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (see more on that below).
- Logan Abric (‘04) stopped 30 of the 32 shots he faced against the Jr. Comets, and is now 4-1-0-0 with a 2.21 goals against average and a .936 save percentage, giving the Hitmen two great options in net every game. His creasemate, of course, is the all-around No. 1 goalie in the NCDC, J.J. Cataldo, he of the 11-1-0-0 record and seven shutouts.
- Seven skaters earned multiple points in the game against Utica, including ‘05 Kristofers Krumins in his first NCDC game up from the Hitmen 18U squad. Another first-time 18U call-up, Nicky Romeo, posted a 1-1-2 line in his debut. Nicholas Zocco and Nick Braun (both with 2-1-3 lines) joined Krumins (1-2-3) in posting three points on the day.
The Road Ahead: As mentioned above, the Hitmen start the IHC Showcase against the Twin City Thunder, followed by matchups with the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs and the host Islanders Hockey Club.
The Hitmen lead the Monarchs in their all-time series with a 9-4-0-0 record. In the all-time regular season series between two of the three organizations to win the Dineen Cup in the NCDC, the Hitmen are 13-5-1-1 and have not lost to the IHC in regulation since the NCDC’s inaugural season of 2017-18. That year’s Dineen Cup champs the IHC went 5-0 against the Hitmen.
New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs (1-0-0-1)
Last week, the Monarchs were on the winning and losing ends of two games, though they did take three points away from the two contests. They defeated the Islanders Hockey Club 3-0 in a visit to Tyngsboro, Mass., and then went to Foxboro and fell 4-3 in a shootout to the South Shore Kings.
The Monarchs utilized that extra point from the shootout loss to good effect as it gives them a one-point lead in the North points race over the Northern Cyclones. The Monarchs have a 12-4-1-1 record against the Cyclones’ 12-3-1-0 mark. Both teams will have to root on South Division teams to give them breathing room over their Granite State rivals this week at the IHC Showcase. The Cyclones and Monarchs don’t meet again until Dec. 9.
- The Monarchs had their first shootout of the season, after going into the shootout for an NCDC record nine times (“niiiine times” if you’re Principal Ed Rooney) in 2021-22.
- However, the Monarchs accomplished something they didn’t do in any of those nine shootouts – Michael Roby scored a shootout goal in the loss, which didn’t happen in either of the Monarchs’ two shootout losses last year. The last time was Feb. 2, 2021, at Hub City Tampa, when current Providence College player Grant Porter scored in an eventual 4-3 shootout win for Connecticut.
- The shutout win over the Islanders gave a chance for NCDC veteran Jed Baliotti to shine. The ‘02 from New Canaan, Conn., returned to the NCDC after playing in British Columbia last season. He remains undefeated in regulation this season at 3-0-1-0 with a 1.23 goals against average and a .952 save percentage.
- The Monarchs are the only team with two goalies in the top five of save percentage. Like the Jersey Hitmen, New Hampshire is another team that can’t go wrong in net – along with Baliotti’s great performances so far, they also have Jake Fillion who is second in wins in the league and fifth in save percentage .939.
The Road Ahead: For the Monarchs, the IHC Showcase starts Tuesday afternoon against the WBS Knights, who beat New Hampshire 3-2 in overtime on Oct. 30 in the Fall Beantown Classic.
From there, they face the Jersey Hitmen and close on Thursday against the Rockets Hockey Club, against whom the Monarchs hold an all-time series lead of 9-5-0-0.
Mercer Chiefs (2-1-0-1)
Certainly the busiest team over the last week were the Chiefs, playing in four games and earning points in three. The Utica Jr. Comets came to the Chiefs’ home rink on Nov. 9 and put up a 1-0 shutout win over the Chiefs, which broke what had been a four-game winning streak and avenged a Chiefs sweep over Utica the prior weekend.
From there, the Chiefs ventured to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for their first three games against the Knights, who joined them in becoming the NCDC’s newest members this year. Mercer won the first two, 4-3 (in a shootout) and 3-2, before the Knights were able to come away with their own shootout win by a 3-2 score on Sunday. They remain second in the NCDC and in the South Division, where they are just two points behind the Jersey Hitmen (30-28).
- The four games between Nov. 9 and 13 mark the first time Mercer has played in four straight one-goal decisions. The Chiefs are 7-3-1-1 in these games.
- They also played their second and third shootout, and are tied with both the Knights and the Boston Junior Bruins for most times going beyond regulation this year, at seven apiece. At 3-1 in OT and 2-1 in the shootout, the Chiefs have by far the best winning percentage out of the three teams at .714 (versus .429 for both the Junior Bruins and Knights).
- Luke Stevens, a first-year NCDC defenseman who had 64 points with the Lake Tahoe Lakers in the USPHL Premier last year, scored his first USPHL shootout goal and it stood up as the game-winner on Friday. It was his second game-winning goal in November, as he also had a GWG against Utica on Nov. 5. Stevens posted four GWG’s with Lake Tahoe last season. #USPHLAdvancement In Action!
- Goaltender Ryan Keyes is unbeaten in regulation so far in November at 2-0-0-1. A second-year NCDC goalie, he’s already matched his victory total from last season at 3-2-0-1, following last year’s 3-5-1-0 record with Philadelphia.
The Road Ahead: Three more games at the IHC Showcase, then the Chiefs get a well-earned rest until Dec. 2. For now, they’re focused on the Northern Cyclones on Tuesday, the Twin City Thunder on Wednesday and the Junior Bruins on Thursday. Of the three teams, they’ve only seen the Junior Bruins and that was just over two weeks ago. On Oct. 30, they fell 3-0 to the Junior Bruins, their last loss before the aforementioned four-game winning streak.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights (1-1-0-1)
The Knights were off from game action after the Fall Beantown Classic that ended on Halloween Day, and came back to face the Mercer Chiefs for the first time. As seen above, the Knights saw three different results – they closed with the 3-2 shootout win, after falling in regulation 3-2 and the opener, the 3-2 shootout loss.
- The Knights’ three points from the three games moved them into a tie for fifth place in the South Division, tied with the Rockets Hockey Club.
- For the first time in their NCDC existence, the Knights played in three straight one-goal games, all in the same weekend against the Chiefs.
- With two shootouts against the Chiefs, the WBS Knights tied for the league lead in shootouts with four so far this season, along with the Junior Bruins. They also tie with with the Chiefs and Northern Cyclones with two shootout wins apiece as the Knights are 2-2.
- The Knights called up their leading scorer of the USPHL Premier squad, Justin Ryan, and he scored a goal in his NCDC debut on Nov. 12. In Premier play, he has 25 points in 18 games.
The Road Ahead: The Knights are getting used to this showcase thing, as they’re playing in their third of four total multi-team events. They start out on Tuesday against the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs, followed by the Northern Cyclones and the South Shore Kings. They faced both the first two teams on successive days a couple weeks ago at the Fall Beantown Classic. They defeated the Monarchs 3-2 in overtime, and the Cyclones defeated them on Halloween by a 5-3 score.
Boston Advantage (1-1-0-0)
The Advantage split the last week against different opponents, falling to the South Shore Kings 4-2 on Nov. 8 and then defeating the Northern Cyclones 2-1. The two-point week, countered by other teams’ success, pushed the Advantage down a spot from third to fourth place. They remain at 10-8-0-0 on the season so far.
- The Advantage have one more win, but have equaled their points from the same time of last year, when they also had 20 after 18 games (9-7-2-0).
- Luke Panchisin (‘02) has the fourth-longest active scoring streak with 11 points in his last six games (5-6-11). With 21 points in 18 games, Panchisin has blown past last year’s six points in 19 games.
The Road Ahead: The Advantage start with the Rockets Hockey Club on Tuesday, then it’s the Utica Jr. Comets on Wednesday and on Thursday, they face the Connecticut Jr. Rangers. The Rockets had defeated the Advantage 5-2 on Halloween at the Fall Beantown, one day after the Advantage beat the Jr. Comets 6-5 in overtime.
The Rockets are 5-1-0-0 all-time against the Advantage, while the Advantage and Comets are nearly even all-time. The Advantage hold a 3-3-0-0 record and the Jr. Comets are one point ahead at 2-1-3-0. The Advantage and Jr. Rangers are completely even at five points apiece (2-1-1-0 vs. 2-1-0-1).
Utica Jr. Comets (1-1-0-0)
As seen above, the Jr. Comets came out and got their revenge against the Mercer Chiefs by defeating them 1-0 on Nov. 9, a day before taking a tough pill against the Jersey Hitmen, a 7-2 defeat on Thursday, Nov. 10.
- The Jr. Comets got their first shutout win of the season when Waylon Esche stopped all 40 shots faced from the Mercer Chiefs. That was the team’s first blanking of this season, and first since Jan. 30, 2022 (Sebastian Woods registered both of the Jr. Comets’ 2021-22 shutouts).
- The Jr. Comets’ Michael Herrera has kept up his hot scoring streak, extending to seven games with a line of 4-7-11 over that stretch going back to Oct. 30, his second Fall Beantown Classic game. Overall, Herrera has 23 points in 16 games and the points per game average for his overall NCDC career – which includes stints from call-ups in 2020-21 and 2021-22 – is at exactly 1.00 with 25 points in 25 career games.
The Road Ahead: The Jr. Comets start out with a Tuesday game against the host Islanders Hockey Club, followed by Wednesday against the Boston Advantage and Thursday against the Twin City Thunder.
The Islanders hold the lead in their all-time series at 10-6-0-1. The Advantage hold a 3-3-0-0 record against Utica, and the Jr. Comets are just one point ahead at 2-1-3-0. The Thunder are 6-2-0-0 all time against the Jr. Comets.
Northern Cyclones (1-1-0-0)
Time to start a new streak. The Cyclones are off to a good start. After their 9-0-1 points streak ended this past week in a 2-1 loss to the Boston Advantage on Nov. 11, the Cyclones turned right around with a 6-4 win the next night against the Islanders Hockey Club.
- The Cyclones’ nine-game winning streak from Oct. 2-31 is still the league’s best, and nobody is currently close to catching up.
- Speaking of bests in the league, forward Paden Hicks (‘02) remains a scoring threat in every game as he has pushed his scoring streak to a league-best 12 games. Since that first win in the streak on Oct. 2, Hicks has posted 12 goals and six assists for 18 points in 12 games.
- Veteran Michael Felsing (‘03) has a nice streak going as well, back to Oct. 31. He has three goals and four assists for seven points in four games.
- Goaltender Colin Ronan (‘03) remains undefeated in regulation at 7-0-1-0.
The Road Ahead: The week ahead sees the Cyclones take on the Mercer Chiefs and WBS Knights followed Thursday by the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders. The Cyclones defeated the Knights 5-3 in their first-ever meeting on Halloween, and they have never faced Mercer.
P.A.L. holds the all-time series lead at 11-6-1-1, even after a 1-0 Cyclones win on Oct. 30 at the Fall Beantown (win No. 8 in the nine-game streak).
P.A.L. Jr. Islanders (1-1-0-0)
Over the past weekend, the Islanders dropped a close 2-1 game to Connecticut on Friday, and then picked up a 7-2 win on Nov. 13 against the Rockets Hockey Club to go into the IHC Showcase feeling pretty good. After all, twice this month now they’ve hit their season high of the seven-goal mark, the last time being Nov. 4 in a 7-5 victory against the Rockets.
With points in three of their four November games so far, they stand at fourth with a 9-7-1-2 record in the South, holding a three-point lead over the two teams tied for fifth place.
- Newcomer D.J. Walsh is having himself a great month so far. Along with an active four-assist streak over his last four games, he has also put up three goals for seven points since Nov. 4. He jumped from four points on the season to 11 in 15 games with the recent streak.
The Road Ahead: The Jr. Islanders start out Tuesday with the South Shore Kings, they face the Junior Bruins on Wednesday and close with the Northern Cyclones on Thursday.
P.A.L. is 10-7-1-0 all-time against the Kings. P.A.L. also holds their all-time series against the Cyclones at 11-6-1-1.
The Jr. Islanders got their first win over the Junior Bruins since 2019-20 on Oct. 3 at the BJB Shootout, winning 6-4. Overall, though, the Junior Bruins are up 18-1-1-0 in the all-time series.
Drop The Pucks!