A little less than three weeks after 12 of the 14 NCDC teams gathered for showcase hockey in the Hitmen Classic, no less than 10 will hit the ice from Saturday through Halloween Monday for the Fall Beantown Classic at the New England Sports Center in Marlborough, Mass. The top two teams in the North – the Northern Cyclones, on a 6-0 tear – and the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs (on a 3-0 run) will both be in the house trying to both break the tie with each other and keep their hot streaks going forward. Right here, we’ll spend a little time diving into the teams that have seen some upward progress in the standings the past week, starting with the Black-and-Red-Hot Cyclones.
Northern Cyclones (3-0)
The Cyclones took two from the South Shore Kings, one on either side of a shutout victory against the Twin City Thunder. They have not lost a game now since Oct. 1, 4-0 at the hands of the Jersey Hitmen. Pavel Grishin has come in as their new main man in net, earning two straight shutouts (7-0 over South Shore on Oct. 21 and 2-0 against Twin City on Oct. 22). They finished off their pre-Beantown schedule with an 8-2 defeat of South Shore on Oct. 25.
- The 6-0 run is the Cyclones’ best since going 8-0 between Nov. 1 and 22, 2019, literally all of their games in the month of November for that year. In fact, in 2021-22, their best run of wins was just two, of which they saw a handful of occurrences.
- The 8-2-0-0 record is officially the Cyclones’ best start ever after 10 games, besting their previous mark of 5-4-0-1 from the 2019-20 season.
- They have not shut out two opponents in a row since Oct. 29-30, 2017, in their inaugural NCDC season. Those were a 2-0 win over the former Syracuse Stars (now Utica Jr. Comets) and 5-0 over the Rockets Hockey Club, coincidentally at that year’s Fall Beantown Classic.
- The two-way threat Cyclones were second in the league in both goals for per game (3.78) and fewest shots against per game (28.00), going into tuesday’s game against South Shore.
- Grishin (‘03) became the first Cyclones goalie to earn shutouts in consecutive games, making a combined 59 saves, including 37 against Twin City. In 2017, Cyclones alumni Drennen Atherton and Tomas Kardinal each won in those back-to-back blankings.
- With a 2-1-3 game against South Shore on Oct. 21 being the big highlight, veteran Paden Hicks (‘02) is on a six-game goal-scoring streak, with seven in that stretch, in addition to one assist for a six-game point streak of 7-1-8 as well. That ties him with Utica’s Michael Herrera for most goals in consecutive games, as Herrera scored seven in four games between Sept. 23-Oct. 1.
The Road Ahead: The Cyclones start the Beantown with their second and final meeting of the season with the Rockets Hockey Club, who they defeated 4-3 at the BJB Shootout back on Sept. 30. The Cyclones hold an all-time series lead of 12-4-1-1.
From there, it’s on to face the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders and the first-year Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights. P.A.L. holds the all-time series lead at 11-4-1-1, and the Knights and Cyclones are playing their first-ever game against each other on Halloween Day.
Jersey Hitmen (2-0)
The Hitmen are looking like the Hitmen – healthily ahead of anyone else in the league. At 22 points, they are five points ahead of their closest competition. They are also both tearing it up offensively (4.50 goals per game, first in the NCDC) and absolutely shutting it down, defensively (1.00 goals against per game, first in the NCDC). They more than proved this over the past week, shutting out both the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders (4-0) and the Mercer Chiefs (7-0). These were their second and third straight shutouts overall, and all six belong to one goaltender, in returning veteran J.J. Cataldo. We’ll get back to the No. 1 goaltender in the nation in a moment. First, the team:
- Yes, the 11-1 start is very impressive but it still does not match the 13-0 start in 2019-20. They did match the same record of 11-1 after 12 games in 2020-21, their first of two straight Dineen Cup Championship seasons.
- The Hitmen’s streak of three straight shutout wins is extremely impressive, but not a first-time occurrence. They actually started the 2020-21 season with three straight blankings at the 2020 BJB Shootout (Oct. 3-5, 2020).
- Cataldo has long since passed the high mark of shutouts in the league from last year, which was four shared by Jacob Torgner (of the former Philadelphia Hockey Club) and Colin Winn (of the Junior Bruins). He is one doughnut away from tying the all-time single season mark set by former Hitman Damon Beaver in 2020-21. Cataldo joins Beaver in becoming only the second NCDC goalie to earn three straight shutouts.
- His 9-0 run has already passed last year’s leader in consecutive wins, as he bested the 8-0 streak put up last year by the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders’ Cam Smith.
- It will take other goalies potentially forever and never to match his numbers – as he has a 0.44 goals against average and a .982 save percentage.
- Cataldo is of course the big show right now for the Hitmen, but not the only one carrying big numbers from game to game. Panayioiti Efraimidis has scored in every game this year, putting up three assists for a 3-8-11 line through eight games, the longest point streak in the NCDC so far this year.
The Road Ahead: The Hitmen bring in the South Shore Kings of the North Division for a pair. THey hold an all-time series lead of 12-3-2-0 against the Kings, who have won their last three games going back to Feb. 3, 2021.
New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs (2-0)
The Monarchs continue to keep the pace in the North Division, keeping just a bit ahead of the surging Cyclones, their Granite State rivals just a little further south in New Hampshire. They have enjoyed a four-game winning streak that they will put to the test against three South Division teams this weekend at the Beantown Classic.
Over the last week, the Monarchs have defeated the Boston Junior Bruins, 5-2, and the Boston Advantage, 4-1. This marked the first time this season that the Monarchs were able to defeat opponents by at least three goals – six of their nine victories have been by one goal.
Riding the razor’s edge so often earlier in the season sees the Monarchs with the lowest positive goal differential in the North Division, at just +8. Amazingly, given six one-goal victories and two one-goal losses out of 12 total games, they’ve still not gone beyond 60 minutes, making them the last team in the NCDC to have decided all of their games in regulation so far.
- Newcomer goalie Jed Baliotti, a veteran of the NCDC from 2020-21, has been impressive in picking up wins in his first two Monarchs starts on Oct. 13 and 23, the latter the 4-1 win over the Advantage.
- Not to be outdone, his creasemate Jake Fillion has also won his last two, and the two have a combined save percentage of .951.
The Road Ahead: The Monarchs have rematches at the Beantown Classic against two teams they have defeated already this year. They’ll start Saturday with the Utica Jr. Comets, whom they beat 4-2 on Oct. 2 at the BJB Shootout, and the Mercer Chiefs, a team they defeated 2-1 on Oct. 6 at the Hitmen Classic. New Hampshire holds a one point advantage in their all-time series with Utica, as they are 6-4-2-1 vs. Utica’s 7-6 mark in the series.
The Monarchs also play their first game ever this weekend against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights on Sunday.
Rockets Hockey Club (2-1-0-0)
The Rockets faced the WBS Knights themselves for the first three times this past weekend, bringing the Knights into Bridgewater Sports Arena and emerging with a 2-1 record. The Knights took the first game by a 7-3 score, but the Rockets turned the series around the next two days with victories of 7-3 and 6-0 to close out the weekend.
- Those first two games actually marked the second time in two seasons that the Rockets and their opponent have beaten each other by the same score in back-to-back games. They saw the same 1-1 result with carbon copy scores against the former Philadelphia Hockey Club in a pair of 4-1 games on Oct. 22-23, 2021.
- The Rockets were happy to shut out an opponent as early as Oct. 23, 2022, as they didn’t register a shutout win last season until Dec. 18 (3-0 vs. Connecticut).
- Zackary Ferris (‘05) improved to 5-2-0-1 on the strength of the shutout win, his first in the NCDC, and a current 3-0 winning streak. His 43 saves on 43 shots were the most he’s made in a victory this year.
- Veteran Rocket Cam Bergeman (‘03) is on a hot streak with two goals and nine assists over his last four games, as he hopes to extend that run at the Beantown Classic.
- Jonah Copre (‘03) leads the Rockets in scoring with 17 points in 12 games. He has produced multiple points in each of the seven games in which he has scored.
The Road Ahead: The Rockets will face the red-hot Cyclones first on Saturday, followed by a Sunday showdown with the Islanders Hockey Club and Monday against the Boston Advantage. The Islanders hold a 14-4-0-0 in their all-time series, while the Rockets are 4-1-0-0 against the Advantage, with three of those four wins coming in overtime or shootout.
Connecticut Jr. Rangers (1-0-1)
After taking their first loss in a game against the new Mercer Chiefs, 5-4 in overtime on Oct. 21, the Jr. Rangers rebounded the next day with a 4-0 shutout win of the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders to earn three points on the weekend. The win over the Jr. Islanders helped the Jr. Rangers to leapfrog them into second place in the South Division, with 17 points off a 7-3-2-1 record early in the season.
The win over the P.A.L. squad was even sweeter considering the Jr. Isles had handed the Jr. Rangers their last regulation loss back on Oct. 16.
- Mason Joseph, a former 16U Jr. Ranger (2018-19), earned the team’s first shutout win of the season, making 33 saves. At 4-0 on the season, the ‘03 from Harrisville, R.I., joins the Hitmen’s J.J. Cataldo (9-0) and the Cyclones’ Colin Ronan (5-0) as the only three completely undefeated goalies in the league. He currently stands second in both goals against average (1.25) and save percentage (.966).
- Veteran Billy Shields jumped into sole possession of the team scoring lead with 18 points through 13 games, as he posted a 1-1-2 line in each of the two games last weekend.
The Road Ahead: Or is it the “home ahead”? The Jr. Rangers remain at Chelsea Piers in Stamford, Conn., for three more in a row and four out of their next five. This weekend, they bring in Maine’s Twin City Thunder for a pair of cross-divisional games. This is anyone’s all-time series, as both teams are tied 3-3-0-0 since the Thunder’s inaugural campaign of 2019-20.
- The Rangers were the first team the Thunder ever saw twice in a row, playing in Chelsea Piers Sept. 14-15, 2019, just after the Thunder opened their NCDC existence with a Sept. 13, 2019, win over the former Boston Bandits.
Mercer Chiefs (1-1-0-0)
The Chiefs have started an impressive 6-4-1-0 in this inaugural season, and remained with the same winning percentage as a week earlier after defeating the Jr. Rangers 5-4 and then taking a tough, one-sided loss to J.J. Cataldo and the Jersey Hitmen on Saturday.
- The team’s leading scorers Ryder Nienhuis (‘03) and Trevor Davis (‘02) both had three-point games against Connecticut, with Nienhuis going 2-1-3 and Davis putting up three assists. Both now have 10 points in 11 games.
The Road Ahead: The Chiefs are at their first Beantown Classic, and will take on the Islanders Hockey Club, the host Boston Junior Bruins and the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs in order. The Chiefs suffered a 2-1 loss to New Hampshire on Oct. 6 at the Hitmen Classic, and have never played the Islanders or Junior Bruins.
Twin City Thunder (1-1-0-0)
On back-to-back days, the Thunder were on the two ends of shutouts. Trey Miller was the leader in net, stopping all 39 shots he faced in a 5-0 win over the host Islanders Hockey Club. On Saturday, though, it was the Northern Cyclones capturing the 2-0 victory. The Thunder remained as a .646 team in winning percentage by going from 6-3 to 7-4-0-0. With 14 points, they stand at third overall in the North Division.
- The Thunder have, on three occasions, been either back-to-back recipients of shutouts or back-to-back victims of shutouts. They had never, before last weekend, seen different results from back-to-back shutout games.
- After three times keeping opponents to just one goal in wins this year, the win against the Islanders was the first out of their seven victories that was of the shutout variety.
- Miller (‘02), who first played in the NCDC in 2020-21, has returned with a vengeance this year, going 3-2-0-0 with a .933 save percentage.
- Veteran Trace Norwell (‘02) leads in scoring an 8-5-11 line in 10 games. Most of his points came from a five-game, 10-point scoring streak halted by the Hitmen.
The Road Ahead: The Thunder make the aforementioned trip to Connecticut this weekend.
Drop The Pucks!