By Joshua Boyd / NCDCHockey.com
It’s hard to imagine any scenario in which the South Shore Kings would thank the very team that defeated them in the Dineen Cup Championship series last year. However, the Kings did get a big assist when the defending champion P.A.L. Jr. Islanders defeated the New England Division-leading Islanders Hockey Club in two games. For their own purposes, the Kings swept their two games against the Rockets Hockey Club. The Kings had started a big inter-divisional weekend in the East seven points back of IHC in what has really been a back-and-forth battle for that division this year. When the dust settled after the P.A.L. and Kings sweeps, it was South Shore that was back only three points. P.A.L. improved their own division lead with the sweep to an almost unimaginable 29 points.
The Mountain Division has seen its leader, the Ogden Mustangs, improve their current point streak to 5-0-1-0, a run bettered only by the defending champion’s 11-0-1-0 streak.
As always, we’ll focus on the teams that produced at least as many points as games played over the past week (since Jan. 24 in this case).
South Shore Takes Care Of Business To Remain In New England Hunt
The Kings got the defeat of the Rockets in Game 1 by a 5-2 score and then won 3-2 in overtime in their first visit to Bridgewater (N.J.) Sports Arena since Oct. 5-6, 2019. The Kings are looking to get back to the top of the New England Division, where they were last tied with the Islanders Hockey Club at the start of December.
- The Kings and P.A.L. Jr. Islanders are the only two teams undefeated in regulation and/or overtime when tied after two periods, as they are 3-0-0-1 (and the Jr. Isles are 3-0-0-1). This is following the Kings’ tiebreaking victory in overtime on Jan. 27 with the GWG by Kotaro Murase.
- South Shore continues to have the lowest shots against per game with 29.59 per game, showing just how strong the blueline corps is. Offensively, South Shore also is tied for the best offense in the league at 3.89 goals per game.
- The Kings have the best power play, but only by a fraction. They’ve scored 37 power play goals on 134 chances for a 27.6 percent success rate. That just ekes past Pueblo’s 27.5 percent off of the Bulls’ league-leading 44 power play goals.
- Mikka Kelechian and NCDC All-Star Nathan Stachowiak both had first goals in the wins against the Rockets, and no team has a better winning percentage when scoring first than the Kings. Their 20-0-1-0 record in that situation gives them a .976 winning percentage.
- Defenseman and NCDC All-Star Game Salvatore Cerrato is enjoying a four-game assist streak, with a 1-4-5 line in that stretch going back to Jan. 19. He is fourth in NCDC defenseman scoring with 31 points and third in assists with 24.
- Fellow NCDC All-Star Jake Kavanagh’s 17th of the year was his seventh GWG of the year, when he scored the Kings’ third goal in the 5-2 victory. That ties the Islanders Hockey Club’s Braxton Powers, who also has seven.
- NCDC All-Star Goaltender Ryan Keyes now has 21 wins, ranked second in the league, and his 2.04 is ranked fourth.
Jr. Islanders Goaltender Bevilacqua Commits To Bentley, Ties Goaltender Wins Record
On Tuesday, Jan. 30, NCDC All-Star goaltender Nick Bevilacqua committed to NCAA Division I Bentley University, becoming the team’s first Division I-committed player this year. This comes right after he tied for the NCDC record in career wins (48), going back to his first season with the former Boston Advantage in 2020-21. Look for an upcoming feature article on Bevilacqua on NCDCHockey.com!
Bevilacqua pulled off a 36-save shutout in the first faceoff between the league’s top two points leaders, P.A.L. and the Islanders Hockey Club, helping the league-leading P.A.L. to a 4-0 win. The next day, the Jr. Islanders defeated IHC by a 6-3 score. This improved the Islanders to a 12-game, 11-0-1-0 point streak and also to a league-leading 69 points. They are 29 points ahead of the Atlantic Division’s second place Mercer Chiefs, and 12 points ahead of the next two closest teams in the race for the Founders Cup. Long story short: P.A.L. is dominating.
- Bevilacqua is the NCDC’s co-leader in save percentage (.949) and leads alone in wins (26) and he was second in goals against average (1.92).
- P.A.L. lead after one period in both games, standing at 17-0-0-0 with a lead after 20 minutes, the only completely undefeated team in that situation. They are also 29-0-1-0 when leading after two periods, which they also achieved in the Islanders Hockey Club series.
- P.A.L. and Utica are both tied for the longest winning streak at four games apiece.
- The Jr. Isles have the best offense (3.89, tied with South Shore), the best defense (1.95 goals against per game, and they are the only team under 2.00) and the most shots on goal per game (42.21).
- Ty Broad (with his 21st) and Heikki Virtanen (with his 23rd) had the first goals in both games, and P.A.L. leads with most wins after scoring the first goal with 24, and most points with 49, a record of 24-1-1-0.
- Broad’s big weekend of a 2-4-6 line helped keep him in front of the league in points (58) and assists (37). Ryan Kearney and Carter Hanrahan were also in the top five of scoring, tied at third with 45 points. Carter Hanrahan is second in assists with 36 and Coleson Hanrahan is third with 35.
- Since rejoining the team after two earlier games this season, Premier call-up and NCDC Young Guns game participant Tomas Smetanka is on a seven-game point streak, tied for the second longest point streak in the league. He has a 4-5-9 line in seven games.
- NCDC All-Star Coleson Hanrahan scored a power play goal and two power play assists over the weekend, keeping him in the lead for both those categories among defensemen as well as total power play points with six goals, 18 assists and 24 points. His 42 total points and 35 assists also lead all NCDC blueliners.
Pueblo Bulls Earn Home Sweep To Remain In Fourth Place In Mountain Division
The Bulls are in a real battle down the stretch, as they currently stand in fourth place but have the Idaho Falls Spud Kings just nipping at their heels three points back at fifth. It seems likely that little will be decided until potentially March. It helped Pueblo, of course, to have swept this past weekend’s games, one against that same Spud Kings team (4-1) and the other against the Mountain Division-leading Ogden Mustangs (4-3 OT). Also, while they’re battling to maintain at least fourth, third place is still in the realm of possibility with Provo just nine points ahead.
- The Pueblo Bulls have scored the league’s most power play goals (44), thanks in part to a 2-for-7 performance this past weekend. Their 27.5 percent is just one-one-thousandth of a point off the South Shore Kings’ leading 27.6.
- Will Sinclair and Nate Farrell each registered a goal and two assists this past weekend, which puts them at second and third in goals, with 11 and eight, respectively. Farrell is fifth overall at 29 points.
- Hayes’ goal on Jan. 26 was his ninth goal that was part of a seven-game goal-scoring streak. It also helped him rank in a tie for third league-wide with 25 goals.
- Eddie Paulissian’s ninth power play goal this past weekend put him in a tie for third in power play goals league-wide.
- Jack Hanson posted his 18th and 19th power play assists this past weekend, putting him in second place for power play assists. His 24 power play points are third in the league.
Powered By Kreidler, Twin City Thunder Sweep Helps Keep Them In Playoff Hunt
A pair of victories against the host Connecticut Jr. Rangers, winning 1-0 and 6-5 in overtime in two very different games. Jeffrey Kreidler stopped all 52 shots he faced in the 1-0 win, and then he survived the back-and-forth second game of the weekend with 46 saves on 51 shots. They are seven points back of fifth place, which is the last available playoff spot in the form of a berth in a single fourth seed vs. fifth seed play-in game. There’s still plenty of basketball left in terms of runway to push up to that spot, and their sweep against a team that was recently tied for second in the Atlantic Division is a good indicator they’ll be able to make that move.
- Acquired from Mercer on Halloween, Kreidler had to take some time to get used to the new competition in the New England Division, but beginning at the start of January, he’s absolutely been on fire. This month, he’s gone 4-2-0-0, with 252 saves on 266 shots with the league’s best two shutouts in terms of saves made. He made the big 52 on Jan. 26 and also made 46 saves in a shutout on Jan. 5.
- Jack MacDonald put up the only goal in the 1-0 victory and also had a 1-1-2 line against Connecticut in the 6-5 win. His 1-2-3 weekend was his best weekend and represented a third of his nine points on the season.
- NCDC All-Star Game selection James Tatro scored twice in the 6-5 victory, giving him his first two-goal game of his career.
- Edvin Robertsson scored his second game-winner of his career, this time in overtime. Last year, he scored the only goal in a game against the WBS Knights, so both of his career game-winners are against Atlantic Division teams.
Utica Jr. Comets On 4-0 Run As They Continue Charge Towards New England’s Top Two
The Jr. Comets defeated the host Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights by scores of 4-1 and 5-2 last weekend, which came on the heels of a road sweep against the host Twin City Thunder one weekend prior. The Jr. Comets’ 4-0 winning streak is the best active streak in the New England Division, and that is also tied with the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders for best overall active winning streak. The Jr. Comets are well-situated in the third place, but that doesn’t mean that’s where they will end the season. They have a 16-point lead above the fourth-place Junior Bruins, but they also still have to bridge seven points to reach the second place South Shore Kings.
- The Jr. Comets trailed 1-0 against the Knights on Jan. 28 before a taking a 2-1 lead by the end of the second period. No NCDC team has come back from being down after 20 minutes more than Utica, with a league-best 9-6-1-0 record in that situation.
- Utica has the league’s second best penalty killing, at 86.4 percent. They’ve given up just 19 power play goals on 140 opponent opportunities this year. They join Ogden, Utah and the league-leading Northern Cyclones as four teams all averaging better than 86 percent, with Ogden and Utah at 86.1 and the Cyclones at 86.7.
- Defenseman Nick Dimatos, an NCDC All-Star, scored his first shorthanded goal of the season on Jan. 28, and along with two shorthanded assists earlier in the season, he is now tied for most SH points in the league with two others, at three shorthanded points apiece. Dimatos’ 22 assists also place him in a tie for fourth among NCDC defensemen.
- NCDC All-Star goalie Waylon Esche stopped 50 of 53 shots against the Knights this past weekend. He remains No. 2 in NCDC minutes played this year with 1,640.
Jersey Hitmen Go 2-1 Over Week To Keep Themselves In Playoff Race
No one is anywhere close to being fully mathematically out of the Atlantic Division race, even if the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders can’t be caught up to at first place by more than two teams. The Jersey Hitmen are still in the hunt to at the very least challenge for fourth place, but with mathematical possibilities still existing to get as high as second if they’re to make a massive run down the stretch. They stand with 27 points, which is one point behind the WBS Knights for the fifth seed, which carries a single fourth-vs.-fifth play-in game after the regular season. They are also only five points back of fourth place. Third and second are further off, at 11 and 13 points, respectively, but with 15 games remaining, a lot can happen.
The Hitmen last week defeated the Rockets Hockey Club, 5-3, and then beat the Northern Cyclones in the first of two home games, 6-1. The Cyclones came back to shut out the Hitmen on Sunday, 2-0.
- The Hitmen remain a heavy-shooting team, as they are currently third in shots on goal per game at 40.86, one of four teams league-wide averaging over 40.
- Jameson O’Flynn and Tyler Fogu scored back-to-back shorthanded goals on Jan. 24 against the Rockets Hockey Club, and that pushed the Hitmen to the top of the shorthanded goals leaderboard as a team with eight.
Mercer Chiefs’ 2-1 Week Gives Them Slightly Increased Second Place Lead
Every point matters at this time of year, especially with close races for playoff positioning down the stretch. A week ago, Mercer held a one-point lead over Connecticut for second in the Atlantic Division and after a 2-1 weekend (and following a sweep of Connecticut by Twin City), the Chiefs hold a slim two-point lead over the Jr. Rangers, 40-38. Mercer fell to Connecticut, 4-1, on Jan. 24, then bounced back to sweep their series with the Boston Junior Bruins by scores of 6-3 and 4-1.
- The Chiefs have been involved in four straight games decided by three goals, going 3-1 over that stretch back to a Jan. 20 4-1 win over the Rockets Hockey Club. Their eight wins (8-6-0-0) in three-goal games is second only to the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders’ 11.
- Goaltender Peter Pirone played his first two games since last appearing on Dec. 8, and won both the games against the Junior Bruins by stopping 62 of 66 shots.
- NCDC rookies Anthony Sparo and Will Rassier each scored two goals for the first time in the league to help the Chiefs win 4-1.
Ogden Mustangs Earn Three Points In Road Trip To Hold Onto Mountain Lead
The Mustangs came out with a shootout win and an overtime loss as they made a loop trip out to Rock Springs and Pueblo last weekend. In their Wyoming stop, they registered an historic first NCDC shootout win by a 4-3 score, before falling in overtime in Pueblo by the same mark. Back to Ogden, they were able to maintain their Mountain Division lead and even extend it by a point from the same spot a week earlier. They now hold 57 points, four above the Utah Outliers’ 53 in the two rivals’ ongoing push for division dominance.
- The two one-goal games this past weekend – and mainly the win in the shootout – gave the Mustangs a tie for most wins in one goal games, with 11. They are 11-3-2-1 in one-goal decisions. The Islanders Hockey Club also has 11 one-goal wins.
- Ogden is second in shots on goal per game with 41.97.
- The Mustangs have the second best goal success rate among teams with more than one shootout. They’ve gone 4-for-9 on their attempts for a .444 percentage.
- A few Mustangs have been impossible to stop recently, with three showing up on the top active streak leaderboards. Parker Osborn had six goals in his last four games going back to Jan. 19. On the assist side, Brody Simko and Dimitri Voyatzis are among the leaders. Simko has six helpers over his last five games back to Jan. 13, and Voyatzis (holder of the league’s longest overall scoring streak of 16 games) has four assists over each of his last four games.
- Simko’s shootout winner on Friday gave him his second shootout goal, which ties him for the league lead in that category.
- Osborn, who also scored in the shootout, has utilized that recent goal-scoring streak to become the NCDC’s goals leader with 28. He is second in league scoring with 51 points.
- Teddie Hember’s goal and assist against Rock Springs saw him extend a scoring streak to six games, where it was snapped at 2-7-9. However, he also remains tied for the third-most goals by an NCDC defenseman with eight.
- Ben Dardis, a goalie with NAHL and Saskatchewan Junior League experience, made his NCDC debut on Jan. 26 and earned a win in the shootout. He stopped 26 of 29 in 65 minutes and two of three in the shootout.
Around The Boards
The Connecticut Jr. Rangers played in three games over the past week and came out with a win (4-1 over Mercer on Jan. 24), a regulation loss (1-0 to Twin City) and an overtime loss (6-5 against Twin City). Their three-point week is enough to keep them in third place in the Atlantic Division and they even improved their lead over the fourth-place Rockets to six points (38-32).
- Goaltender Primo Baldassarre continues to be the main man in net and played every minute of the last three games for CJR. He remains No. 1 in save percentage (in a tie with Nicholas Bevilacqua) at .949, and his 1.93 is good for third in GAA. He is one of just three goaltenders averaging under 2.00 in the league.
The Northern Cyclones also went 1-1-1-0 over the past week, taking a 3-2 overtime loss to the Boston Junior Bruins on Jan. 24, followed by a 6-1 loss to the Jersey Hitmen and a 2-0 shutout victory, also against the Hitmen.
- The Cyclones’ opponents this past week went only 1-for-17 on the power play, and the Cyclones remain with the league’s best penalty kill. They have given up just 22 power play goals on 166 opponent power plays, for a league-best 86.7 percent.
- Logan Abric stopped all 40 shots he faced from the Hitmen on Jan. 28, giving him his second shutout this season and for his NCDC career. Abric played in 10 games for the Hitmen during the 2022-23 season.
In the Mountain Division, the Idaho Falls Spud Kings, Provo Predators and Utah Outliers all went 1-1 for last weekend.
The Spud Kings went the opposite direction of Ogden, first playing Pueblo and falling 4-1, and then going to Rock Springs and earning a 4-1 victory.
- Defenseman D.J. MacLeish had three assists over the weekend, but still remains the league’s top goal-scoring defenseman with 13. He’s also third in league scoring at 32 points. Along with Matteo Mitrovic (25 points, eighth), MacLeish makes Idaho Falls one of only two teams in the league with two defensemen in the top 10 of scoring for that position, alongside South Shore.
- Tucker Inabinet, winner of two of his last three starts, leads the league in saves made at 1,096.
Provo and Utah split their series with a Friday night 2-1 Utah win preceding a 5-3 Predators victory on Saturday, both at the Outliers’ home Accord Ice Arena in West Valley City, Utah. Provo and Utah remain third and second, respectively, in the Mountain Division. Provo is at third with 46 points and Utah is second at 53.
- Provo has played in a league-high 10 games decided by two goals, and they have a 7-3-0-0 record, giving them the second most victories by that margin (P.A.L. lead at 8-0-0-0).
- Utah is a league-best 7-2-0-0 after being tied following two periods, coming after Michael Schwartz’ GWG broke a 1-1 tie after 40 minutes.
- Utah’s Philip Rondina was in net for both games of the split weekend and remains the leader in goals against average (1.90) and he’s third in save percentage (.938).