(Summaries by Joshua Boyd)
Forward: Marko Giourof, Northern Cyclones
Giourof (‘03/Torrance, Calif.) has helped the NCDC’s actively hottest team to a close second overall to the leading Jersey Hitmen, especially after a 9-0 run that was still going as November dawned. During the nine-game run, Giourof has put up 14 of his 16 total points, and he also scored the shootout goal on Oct. 2 that began the run with a 6-5 shootout victory against the Connecticut Jr. Rangers at the BJB Shootout.
A career Anaheim Jr. Duck as a youth player, Giourof joined the Cyclones in 2021-22 and put up a strong 19 points in 42 games – a total he is on pace to blow past by 40 points with a full season in 2022-23. At an even 7-9-16 with his scoring line, he can dish it out as easily as he can take the puck and score. The two-way threat is also leading the Cyclones in plus-minus at +12, part of a four-way tie for third in the league in that category.
Forward: Paden Hicks, Northern Cyclones
Sometimes it’s Hicks to Giourof and sometimes Giourof to Hicks. One way or another, the Cyclones have been able to greatly benefit from having two of their veteran leaders on the same forward unit.
Hicks has scored 15 points in 13 games, and he is tied for second in goals scored in the NCDC with 10 markers this year, already tying his 2021-22 total. During the Cyclones’ nine-win streak, he scored all 10 of his goals, missing that mark just once. He had a six-game, seven-goal scoring streak, tied with Utica’s Michael Herrera for the most goals in a scoring streak.
Hicks remains on a nine-game point-scoring streak, with 14 of his 15 points scored during the winning streak, including four of his five assists. He also has two game-winning goals, both occurring in one goal games including the only goal in a 1-0 win over the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders on Oct. 30 to help keep the Cyclones’ – and his own – streak alive.
Arik Altman, Boston Advantage
The veterans carried their teams in September and October, as the second-year Advantage Altman (‘03/Scottsdale, Ariz.) put up 17 points in 14 games to lead Boston to its current third-place standing in the North Division.
He jumped right out with a 1-2-3 line in Game 1 of the season and has scored some very important goals among his eight, including two game-winners in one-goal games. His first GWG broke what had been an eight-game winning streak for the Hitmen – and in their own rink – at the close of the NCDC portion of the Hitmen Classic. Altman is a great example of #USPHLAdvancement in action, as he was previously a USPHL Premier Pacific Division All-Star in 2020-21 as a member of the first Las Vegas Thunderbirds team to skate in the USPHL.
Blake Tierney, Twin City Thunder
Tierney, an ‘03 veteran for the Thunder, is back and absolutely crushing it on the blue line for the Thunder. As a result, the Thunder are right in the tight pack of the top four in the North. The Chicago native has posted nine points in 11 games and an impressive +11 for the Thunder, for whom he is also serving as team Captain.
Tierney is also putting his body on the line, with 23 blocked shots this season, second only to teammate Nick Pomerleau’s 24. Five of Tierney’s nine points came in a three-game stretch between Oct. 8-21, when he put up a 1-4-5 line amidst a three-game winning streak for the Thunder. This included a shorthanded goal against the Rockets Hockey Club on Oct. 8, one of just four scored by an NCDC defenseman this year.
Sam Nichols, Islanders Hockey Club
The story hasn’t been sunshine and roses for the Islanders Hockey Club early on, but they know they can always count on Sam Nichols to lift them up. The second-year IHC ‘02-born defenseman from North Tonawanda, N.Y., has been every ounce the leader a young team like the IHC (the fifth-youngest overall) absolutely needs as they continue to find their feet in an ever-improving NCDC North Division.
Nichols left October as one of just two defensemen leading his NCDC team in scoring (joining the Mercer Chiefs’ Trevor Davis in that respect), and he has done so with 11 points in 14 games. After scoring five points in 32 games last year with the squad, he already more than doubled that by Halloween of this year. While primarily an offensive force from the blue line, he’s been strong defensively as well with 65 takeaways and nine blocked shots on the season.
Jake Fillion, New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs
At No. 2 in the wins leaderboard and rising, the ‘03 from Granby, Mass., is having a heck of a first NCDC season. So far, he is 8-2-0-0, second only to the Hitmen’s J.J. Cataldo (9-1-0-0) in victories, and in the top five league-wide in goals against average (1.58, third) and save percentage (.943, fourth).
He was among the big storylines at the BJB Shootout as September turned to October, posting back-to-back 24-save shutouts on Oct. 1 and 2 against the Connecticut Jr. Rangers and Rockets Hockey Club. These were part of an overall five-game winning streak from his Sept. 27 debut through Oct. 6 at the start of the Hitmen Classic. He also had three W’s in a row between Oct. 18 and 29.
* = This first Players of the Month installment includes stats from games of September 2022.