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NCDC This Week: Utica Jr. Comets Take Place In Top Five After Three-Game Road Sweep

By Joshua Boyd / NCDCHockey.com 

The NCDC is pretty much anyone’s game from week to week, as the league has seen different teams moving in and out of its top five overall on just about a weekly basis. Sure, the defending Dineen Cup Champion P.A.L. Jr. Islanders are continuing to hold onto the top spot following their 10th straight win and fifth weekend sweep. The South Shore Kings and Islanders Hockey Club have created a great rivalry for the top spot in the New England Division, and the Ogden Mustangs’ 2-0 weekend helped keep them atop the Mountain Division. Then, around the bend comes the Utica Jr. Comets, hot off a 3-0 road sweep of the Twin City Thunder, helping them to jump into the top five with a record of 11-5-2-1, good for 25 points. 

We’ll jump into breaking down the recent action and highlights for those teams that finished with at least as many points as games played between Nov. 8-13.

Utica Jr. Comets Take Three W’s In Maine 

The Utica Jr. Comets have officially matched their best point total at the 19-game mark of the season, just a little bit past one-third of their season. Their 25 points so far are equal to when they hit 25 points in their first 19 games of 2021-22. After splitting a pair of games against the Islanders Hockey Club at home, the Jr. Comets hit the road to Auburn, Maine, to face the Twin City Thunder. It started with a 3-2 overtime win on Friday, and that was followed Saturday by a 2-0 victory. The series wrapped up on Sunday with a 4-2 win. 

  • The three consecutive wins in a row against the same opponent marked the first time the Jr. Comets were able to accomplish that feat since hosting the WBS Knights between Oct. 14-16, 2022. 
  • The Jr. Comets’ 3-2 win on Nov. 10 was their 10th one-goal game of the year, giving them a 5-2-2-1 record, which is second in the NCDC for one-goal games. They also won their third and fourth two-goal decisions, giving them a tie for most wins by two goals (four). 
  • Utica was down 1-0 after one period twice on the weekend – Friday and Sunday – and won both games for a league-best four wins when trailing after the first period (4-2-1-0). 
  • Utica’s team defense has been a strongpoint this year, and their 32.58 shots against per game is the third lowest in the league. 
  • A strong power play team has kept Utica right in the top mix this year, as they are showing a 26 percent success rate off of 20 goals in 77 opportunities. 
  • Louie Kamienski’s five-game scoring streak going back to Oct. 29 (4-4-8) is tied for third-longest in the NCDC, and is also a career best for the two-year NCDC veteran. 
  • Nick Dimatos’ seven power play assists this year are tied for first among NCDC defensemen. 
  • Goaltender Waylon Esche stopped 33 shots on Nov. 11 for his second shutout of the season, tying him for the league lead with P.A.L.’s Nick Bevilacqua. Esche is second in minutes played only to Bevilacqua (912-859). 
  • With three goals this weekend, Robert Gatewood now has 13 to move into a four-way tie for first overall in that category. He also passed his 2022-23 full season goals total of 11, also with the Jr. Comets. His five PPG’s are tied for second in the league. 

Two-Game Sweep For Ogden Mustangs Pushes Mountain Points Lead To Four

The Provo Predators keep nipping at the heels of the Ogden Mustangs, but the Mustangs seem to be just a step or two ahead after each weekend. The Mustangs defeated the visiting Pueblo Bulls twice in a row, 5-1, and 7-5, both at their home Weber County Ice Sheet. This gives them a record of 12-2-1-1 for 26 points, four ahead of the Provo Predators’ 22 points. The Mustangs are 4-0 against the Bulls this season so far, and Pueblo joins Rock Springs as the only two Mountain teams without a win over Ogden yet this year. 

  • Dimitri Voyatzis, an All-Star at the Premier level with the Mustangs last year, continued on his league-best scoring streak, extending it to 15 games (6-16-22). No other player is within seven games of Voyatzis’ streak. Voyatzis’ 16 assists is good for third in the league. 
  • Voyatzis isn’t the only hot hand. Brody Smirko’s four-game goal-scoring streak is the longest current streak, with four goals over that stretch. Parker Osborn’s five-game point-scoring streak (6-2-8) is tied for third longest active in the league, and Turner Richards’ three-game assist streak with four assists is tied for second longest. 
  • Ogden was tied after the first period both times this past weekend, 0-0 in the first win against Pueblo and 2-2 in the second game. Their six wins is tied for the most W’s when tied after the first period (6-0-0-1). South Shore is 6-2-0-1 when tied after the first. 
  • While they may have been tied after 20 minutes seven times this year, the Mustangs are the only team in the NCDC to have not yet trailed after one period. 
  • Standing at fourth overall in points (26) and second in winning percentage (.813), it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that the Mustangs are a top three team in overall offense with 4.06 goals per game, good for second, and defense with 2.44 goals allowed per game, ranking third. 
  • Vladislav Bryzgalov remains in the top four in both goals against average (2.13, third) and save percentage (.938). 
  • Payton Struck, with 23 points, and Parker Osborn, with 20, are 1-2 in rookie scoring for the entire NCDC. Struck is also second in game-winning goals with four, after sending home the GWG on Nov. 11 in the 7-5 win against Pueblo. 

The Winner (Of Two This Weekend) And Still ‘Kings Of The Hill’ Are… P.A.L. 

The P.A.L. Jr. Islanders broke a team record by winning nine straight with their win on Nov. 10, a 2-1 victory over the Mercer Chiefs. They bettered that record with consecutive win No. 10 on Nov. 11, 4-2, also against Mercer. The 10 straight wins – and also a record five straight weekend sweeps – continues to give the defending Dineen Cup Champion Jr. Islanders the No. 1 overall spot in both points (32, from a 15-1-1-1 record) and winning percentage (.832). Everything from here on in, wins-wise, is just frosting on the cake, and who doesn’t love frosting? 

  • The Jr. Islanders joined the Islanders Hockey Club in winning 10 games in a row this season, as IHC did it between Sept. 29 and Oct. 20. Both teams now have the longest winning streak in the league since the Jersey Hitmen went 11-0 during the 2020-21 season, from Nov. 22, 2020, until Jan. 8, 2021, just after the start of the six-week Hub City Tampa event. 
  • P.A.L. was up after the first and second periods of their 2-1 win and after the second period of their 4-2 win (a game in which they trailed 1-0 after the first). They remain undefeated when up after one period at 10-0 and they are 15-0 when up after two periods. They are also undefeated in regulation when trailing after one period at 2-0-0-1.
  • They have scored the first goal in 14 of their 18 games, and they have a league-leading 12-1-1-0 record and 25 points in that situation. Ryan Kearney has a league-leading four first goals. 
  • The Jr. Islanders lead the league in shots on goal at 43.78 per game, and they also have the best defense in the league at 1.94, standing as the only team allowing less than two goals per game on average. 
  • Goaltender Nicholas Bevilacqua’s win in the 2-1 victory gave him 12 W’s for the season, tying him with South Shore’s Ryan Keyes in that category. Bevilacqua is first in the league in save percentage (.952), and he also leads in minutes played (912) and saves (558) and he is second in goals against average (1.58). Bevilacqua’s 69 career games is third in the NCDC, and the win put him in a tie for fifth all time with 34. 
  • Ty Broad continues to lead the league in scoring with 30 points after two more assists this weekend, giving him a league-leading 23 helpers. Broad also leads in power play assists and points, with 12 in both columns. The two assists gave Broad sole possession of fourth all-time in points for the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders. It’s a mighty long way to third, where former teammate and Long Island University player Luca Leighton put up 108 between 2021-23. 
  • Coleson Hanrahan registered two more assists this weekend, helping him match South Shore’s Salvatore Cerrato for a league-leading 15 helpers by defensemen. A 1-2-3 weekend against Mercer also helped him tie for the league lead in points with Nate Farrell of Pueblo. He is also tied for the league lead in power play goals (three) and is second in power play points (eight) among defensemen. 
  • Dino Mannetta’s shorthanded assist on Ryan Kearney’s second goal in the 4-2 win was his second of the year, giving him a share of the league lead for shorthanded assists with the WBS Knights’ Michael Gravina. 
  • Rookie Devin Niles has the second-longest assists streak in the league, with four helpers in his last three games going back to Nov. 4. 

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights Earn Sweep To Maintain Hold On Second In Atlantic

The Knights are enjoying a three-game winning streak after they took wins this weekend against the Rockets Hockey Club, with two very different results. First, they squeezed by with a 2-1 victory on Nov. 11 and then put up a league-high 10 goals on Sunday in a 10-2 win on Nov. 12. They are now 10-6-1-0 after 17 games, roughly the one-third mark of their season. They tied with Utica, who won three in a row this past weekend, for second longest active winning streak in the NCDC. 

  • The Knights are six points ahead of where they were in their inaugural season of 2022-23, when they stood at 6-8-2-1 for 15 points. 
  • Wilkes-Barre/Scranton put 28 shots on goal in the third period of their 10-2 victory, setting a season high for the NCDC (corroborated by Hudl/InStat’s advanced analytics package available to the teams). 
  • The eight-goal margin matches the season high from 2022-23, which was attained by the Jersey Hitmen twice and P.A.L. Jr. Islanders once. The Hitmen and Islanders Hockey Club registered nine-goal wins in 2021-22. 
  • When the Rockets outshot the Knights 40-27 in the 2-1 game on Nov. 11, that gave the Knights their league-leading sixth win when being outshot by an opponent, which has happened nine times (6-3-0-0). 
  • Individually, William Jasmin’s five-point game (3-2-5) matched the league high previously set by Pueblo’s Thomas Soucy on Nov. 3 and P.A.L.’s Carter Hanrahan on Sept. 22. Jasmin is second in league scoring with 26 points, along with ranking second (tied) in goals with 13. 
  • Andrew Uturo’s three assists in three straight games is second in the league for longest active assist streaks. 
  • NCDC veteran Chance Uzzell’s two assists this weekend were both on the power play, giving him seven total for a share of the league lead among defensemen. 

Islanders Hockey Club Take Win, Shootout Loss For Three Points, Pull To Within A Point Of New England Lead

The IHC is unbeaten in regulation over their last four games, going 2-0-1-1 for the month of November so far. They lost to the Boston Junior Bruins, 5-4, in a shootout on Nov. 10 and then defeated the Junior Bruins, 2-1, in overtime on Nov. 12. The Islanders moved to 12-2-3-1 on the season for 28 points, just one point behind the New England Division-leading South Shore Kings and four points behind the league-leading P.A.L. Jr. Islanders at 32. 

  • When the IHC won 2-1 in OT, on the back of a game-winner by Maksim Tsegelnik, they set a new league-high for wins by one goal this year, with a 6-0-3-1 record in one-goal games. They’re one of three teams undefeated in regulation in one-goal games, joining P.A.L. (4-0-1-1) and Provo (4-0-0-2). The Islanders Hockey Club is tied with Utica (5-2-2-1) in total one-goal games at 10 apiece. 
  • The Islanders also lead in games beyond regulation with eight this year. They’ve gone to OT six times, with a 3-3 record there, and they’ve split shootouts 1-1. Their three OT wins and 12 points earned beyond regulation both lead the league. 
  • Samuel Larsson, who was already co-leading the league in power play assists with seven, jumped to the top of power play scoring by defensemen with his goal in the 2-1 win, giving him nine points on the man-advantage. 
  • Frank Murphy is second in shootout percentage by a goalie, stopping 10 of 11 attempts for a .909 save percentage in the 1v1 showdowns. In full team play, he is fifth in save percentage with a .933 mark. 
  • Tikhon Ashikhmin’s power play goal in the 5-4 shootout loss was his fifth of the year, good for third league-wide. He’s also fifth in total league scoring with 23 points in 18 games. 
  • Tsegelnik’s overtime goal was the first of his two-year NCDC career, and his second game-winner overall. Like Ashikhmin, he has also already bypassed his 2022-23 season totals. Tsegelnik also scored IHC’s only shootout goal in the 5-4 shootout loss on Nov. 10. At 19 points, he is well beyond the 14 points he put up in 32 games last year. 

Boston Junior Bruins Take Three Points To Break Into Top Half

The Junior Bruins 5-4 shootout win and 2-1 overtime loss to the Islanders Hockey Club put the team at 8-7-1-0, good for 17 points and in a tie for ninth overall in the NCDC. At fourth place in the New England Division, they actually have breathing room with five points over the Twin City Thunder. They’re also eight points back of the Utica Jr. Comets, who stand in third place. The Junior Bruins do have a strong 3-0-1-0 record against the 28-point rich Islanders Hockey Club going for them. They also stand at 21-9-3-1 over the IHC after 34 games, one of the NCDC’s longest running series. 

  • Nine of the Junior Bruins’ 17 points, or more than half, have come from their five forays beyond regulation. They are 2-1 in OT and 2-0 in the shootout. 
  • The Junior Bruins have the lowest penalty minutes per game by a lot, at 7.63 worth of sitting time per game. The next closest is Twin City at 11 penalty minutes per game. They are the only team without a major penalty, and one of only two without a 10-minute misconduct. 
  • The Junior Bruins and Idaho Falls Spud Kings are the only two teams to not have allowed a shorthanded goal this season. 
  • Garrett Simpson stopped three of four in the shootout, surrendering his first goal in a shootout this season. Opponents are 1-for-7 against Simpson, giving him and the Junior Bruins a league-leading 14.3 percent opposition success rate, tied with the WBS Knights (whose opponents are also 1-for-7) among teams with more than one shootout. He joins three other goaltenders as league leaders in shootout wins with two apiece. 
  • Third-year NCDC veteran Coleman Jenkins put up two goals and three assists on the weekend, and he also added the shootout winner on Nov. 10. Those five points are part of an eight-game scoring streak of six goals and eight assists for 14 points, the second longest and most productive active scoring streak right now. Jenkins ranks in a tie for third in the league in points per game at 1.44. 
  • Shane Baker became the fifth player in the NCDC to have a four-assist game this season, matching that season high. No one has hit five helpers since former Jersey Hitmen defenseman Sean Melso and former Rockets Hockey Club Cade Baker each made that mark last season. Baker’s five assists this weekend gives him 47 and moves him from a tie for 10th all-time for the Junior Bruins to eighth, and he also moved from eighth to sixth in all-time Junior Bruins NCDC points with 84. Baker is also fifth in games played (113) 

 

Utah Outliers’ Three-Point Weekend Extends Point Streak To Three Games

After falling in a shootout, 3-2, to the Provo Predators, the Outliers turned right around and picked up their historic first NCDC shutout victory against the same Predators, 4-0, on Nov. 11. The shootout loss had come after an overtime win against Pueblo on Nov. 4. That was the second time this year that the Outliers had a shootout following an overtime game, though they won both on Oct. 13, 3-2 against Idaho Falls in OT, and on Oct. 14, a 4-3 win against Provo in the shootout. 

  • David Utkin has scored 13 goals, including one on Nov. 9, and that is good for a three-way tie for second. However, Utkin’s 13 goals in 15 games is a higher goals per game percentage (86.7 percent) than any of the other two second-ranked goal-scorers or even the leader (14 goals in 19 games, 73.7 percent). 
  • Jean-Sebastian Pack’s shorthanded goal scored on Nov. 9 in the 3-2 shootout loss was his first of the season and made him one of just two defensemen this season to score a shorthanded goal this season – IHC’s Andrew Miller was the other. 
  • Garrett Joss put up two goals and three assists this past weekend, and his three assists are part of a four-game assist streak that he started on Nov. 3, and it is the longest current assist streak in the league. He had put up five assists in that stretch and has added three goals. 

Around The Boards

The Connecticut Jr. Rangers split with the Jersey Hitmen, winning 2-1 before falling 6-1 in their second game. It was the second split weekend this season between the two original founding NCDC members. The Jr. Rangers hold more points in the season series, with 2-1-1-0 for five points vs. four points for the 2-2 Hitmen. 

  • Mason Joseph, who stopped 48 of 49 saves in the Rangers’ victory on Nov. 10, ranks second in the NCDC with a .942 save percentage. 

The Idaho Falls Spud Kings split with the Rock Springs Grizzlies last weekend, falling 5-4 on Nov. 10 and rebounding with a 3-1 defeat of Rock Springs on Nov. 11. It was the Spud Kings’ first loss to the Grizzlies, and their record in the match-up stands at 4-1-0-0. They have one more together before Thanksgiving, playing this Saturday, Nov. 18. 

  • Defenseman Matteo Mitrovic registered a goal and an assist in the weekend series, extending his point-scoring streak to five games (2-4-6). That is the longest active point streak by a defenseman. He would have a ways to go to match Salvatore Cerrato, of South Shore, who put up 15 points in 10 games out of the gate. 
  • Idaho Falls ranks second in shots on goal per game, at 42.93 per game. 

The Hitmen, as aforementioned, came right back from a 2-1 defeat to win 6-1 against the Connecticut Jr. Rangers. At 6-11-1-0, they have 13 points and are in sixth, but are only three points out of third place. 

  • Jersey’s six goals in the 6-1 were a season-high. Their four goals scored in the first period also matched a league best this season. 

The Northern Cyclones took a split against the South Shore Kings, rebounding from 5-1 loss on their home ice to win 4-3 on Saturday in Foxboro. 

  • Their comeback victory, winning 4-3 after being down 3-2 entering the third period, marked the first time this season that the Cyclones won a game they were trailing after 40 minutes. 
  • Northern continues to have the best penalty kill in the league, stopping teams on all but 12 of 92 power plays, equal to an 87 percent success rate.  

The Provo Predators were able to defeat the Utah Outliers, 3-2, in a shootout, but then fell by a shutout, 4-0, in their next game. 

  • The Preds played in a league-high fourth shootout, and they are 2-2 in the 1v1 sessions this year. Not surprisingly, their five shootout goals also lead the league. Evan Stirling had the only shootout goal in a seven-round showdown, and it put him into a group of five defensemen as the only league blueliners to score a shootout winner this year. 
  • Michael Polston won his second shootout, stopping all seven shots that Utah took against him, putting him into a shared league lead with three other goalies. Polston is also fourth in goals against in the league with 2.23. 

The Rock Springs Grizzlies had their first weekend split of the season against a common opponent, by defeating Idaho Falls 5-4 on Friday and then falling 3-1 on Saturday. 

  • The Grizzlies led 4-3 after two periods in their eventual 5-4 win, and they are currently undefeated in regulation when up after 40 minutes (2-0-1-0). 

The South Shore Kings 5-1 win over the Northern Cyclones on Friday at their home rink was answered with a 4-3 Cyclones victory on Saturday. 

  • Their Friday win was their sixth victory by four goals. They’re undefeated with that margin (6-0-0-0) while no other team has been in more than four such decisions. 
  • South Shore remains the toughest defensive corps, giving up just 28.33 shots per game, the only team averaging under 30 per contest. They’re second in overall defense at 2.04 goals against per game, and first in offense at 4.17 goals for per game. 
  • Two of the Kings’ goals in their 4-3 loss were on the power play, and the Kings remain No. 1 with the man advantage at 32.9 percent (26-for-79). 
  • Ryan Keyes’ win on Nov. 10 was his 12th, tying for the league lead with P.A.L.’s Nicholas Bevilacqua. 
  • Jake Kavanagh’s second of two goals on Nov. 10 was the game-winner, his league-leading fifth of the year. 
  • Xavier Vaillancourt scored his league-leading eighth power play goal of the season in the 4-3 loss on Nov. 11. 

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