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NCDC Players Of The Month – February 2023: South Division

South Division 

 

Summaries by Joshua Boyd / USPHL.com

 

Forwards

Caden Cranston, Rockets Hockey Club 

No way was Cranston letting go of his lead in the NCDC scoring race. He put up a line of three goals and an eye-popping 16 assists, over the course of just nine February games. He also entered March on the league’s second-longest active and overall scoring streak, of 14 games across which he has scored 25 of his 65 total points. The former Buffalo Stampede, a shining example of #USPHLAdvancement, also played in the NCDC All-Star Best of the Best Game and just last week made his NCAA Division I commitment to Bentley University. 

 

Brandon Sacchetti, Jersey Hitmen 

Sacchetti (‘02/Montreal, Que.) has been a huge addition to an already dangerous Hitmen offensive attack. In his 16 games, he has posted 23 points since joining in January. He put up an 8-8-16 line over 10 February contests – and just to show how good of a two-way threat he is, he also led the NCDC in plus-minus last month with a +11. Sacchetti missed the scoresheet just once in February, and closed the month on an eight-game scoring streak of 8-7-15. He posted a season-high 2-2-4 on Feb. 22 against Utica, including the insurance marker in the Hitmen’s fifth of seven straight wins. 

 

Heikki Virtanen, P.A.L. Jr. Islanders

Virtanen (‘03/Pori, Finland) was the most productive player in terms of points per game during the month of February, putting up a 5-10-15 line in seven games, or 2.14 points per game. Even just playing seven games, he still ranked in a tie for third in February scoring. Virtanen is not only on a scoring streak, but on a streak of multi-point games, over which he put up six straight two-point efforts and then ended February with a three-point performance against Connecticut on Feb. 26. Overall, Virtanen has posted a 15-21-34 line in 41 games for a P.A.L. hungry to prove themselves in the Dineen Cup Playoffs. 

 

Defense

Sean Melso, Jersey Hitmen

Melso (‘02/Philadelphia, Pa.) certainly won’t be satisfied until he can get a shot at raising the Dineen Cup a third straight time. He continues to play out of his mind, putting together a 5-10-15 line in February in 10 games. He had already become the NCDC’s all-time leading scorer in November and then passed the 100-point mark in December. Now, he’s the sixth-leading scorer all-time in the NCDC with 123 points, and second only to the Rockets’ Barron Woodring among active players for career scoring (127). Melso was a +6 with 58 takeaways and 10 blocked shots in February. 

 

C.J. Beals, Connecticut Jr. Rangers

The Jr. Rangers keep battling it out for a playoff spot among three teams fighting for two spots. If they get there eventually, it’ll have a lot to do with the play of their ‘04 from Chelmsford, Mass., C.J. Beals. He put up a 2-6-8 line in the Jr. Rangers’ nine games over the course of February. He took away 49 pucks from opposition sticks as well during the month and blocked five shots along the way. Beals was part of the NCDC All-Star Young Guns game on Feb. 21, as well. He has 17 points in 45 games. 

 

Goaltender

Matthew O’Donnell, Rockets Hockey Club

No NCDC goaltender skated to the crease more in February – or earned more wins in doing so – than the ‘02 from Waterbury, Conn. O’Donnell, who had last played with the Rockets during Hub City Tampa in 2020-21, won seven of his eight appearances last month. In his second game back, he put up a 33-save shutout over the WBS Knights. He also put up 43 saves in a win over the league-leading Hitmen and stopped 47 of 49 shots in a win against the Junior Bruins. Overall, for February (and in his NCDC season so far), he posted a 2.67 GAA, .932 save percentage and 7-1-0-0 record.

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