The United States Premier Hockey League and its Tuition-Free Tier II National Collegiate Development Conference congratulate the Jersey Hitmen’s Sean Melso on winning his second straight NCDC Defenseman Of The Year Award.
“It is an incredible honor to be recognized in consecutive years as a top defenseman, especially with all the talent on the back end throughout the league this year,” said the 2002-born Philadelphia, Pa., native, closing out a career in which he set multiple scoring records for NCDC defensemen.
Originally joining 2020-21, Melso closed out his career with the Hitmen with 139 games, over which he posted 30 goals and 95 assists for 125 points. He became the league’s all-time highest scoring defenseman in November at the Islanders Hockey Club Showcase, and is the only blueliner in the all-time top 10 of the NCDC points leaderboard. His 30 goals and 95 assists are also an all-time high for those categories among defensemen. He is fourth in regular season games played by a defenseman at 139.
He commented in an e-mail about becoming the all-time top blueline scorer and the first to eclipse 100 points.
“It’s a great accomplishment to be able to do so, but it’s more than just a personal accomplishment,” Melso added. “Without my coaches pushing me year in and year out as well as playing with some of the top talent in the league every year, I owe a lot of it to my teammates making it easy for me to find them in the open areas to get the scoring chances.”
In 2022-23, Melso was the highest scoring defenseman with 15 goals and 36 assists for 51 points in 50 games. He was the only regular season-long blueliner to post more than a point per game on average, and he also stayed strong defensively by finishing third among NCDC defensemen with a +18 rating, and he was top 20 in takeaways with 369 on the year.
“I think throughout this season I rounded out my game by focusing on the details of the defensive side of the game and solidifying myself to coaches and scouts as a more complete player all around,” said Melso.
The Hitmen captured their fifth straight Founders Cup title as regular season champions, but then struggled in the first round of the playoffs against a tough first-year Mercer Chiefs team. The Chiefs won their playoff series, 2-0, so looking back on this year is bittersweet for Melso.
“This season was a little different for us as a club. We had some really high and some really low points throughout the year,” said Melso. “I think this team was something special. Being able to fight through those low points of the season and still be able to win the FoundersCcup showed our team was mentally tough.
“Overall my career with the Hitmen was great and I wouldn’t trade that experience or relationships I’ve made throughout my time there for the world,” he added.
Melso experienced a ton in just three years – COVID cancellations, the six-week move to Florida for Hub City Tampa, three Founders Cups – out of five straight for the Hitmen – and especially the two straight Dineen Cup Championships in 2021 and 2022.
“I mean obviously winning those two Dineen Cups back to back was something special and something not a lot of people get to say they’ve done, I’ll cherish those moments forever,” said Melso. “I guess the main memory I bring out of my career would have to be Hub City Tampa. Living with the whole team in the same area was the most fun I’ve had. Whether it was a couple of us on the golf course, or all of us by the pool just hanging out, it was an absolute blast.”
Although looking back on three years with the Hitmen has been a great experience, he is also looking forward to the opportunities that await him. He’s hoping to be able to move on to the best NCAA opportunity that is meant for him.
“The conversations I’ve had with schools have been more on the side of trying to explain how I can be an asset for their team in the next four years and what I can bring to the table,” he added. “There are a few Division I schools in the mix at the moment.”
Congratulations and best of luck to our two-time NCDC Defenseman Of The Year Sean Melso.