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NCDC This Week: Utica Returns From Off Week To Win Three In A Row

Week of Oct. 19, 2022 

The Utica Jr. Comets were off from game action for the Columbus Day weekend while 12 of the league’s 14 teams competed at the Hitmen Classic. They came back with a vengeance. Their three-win run against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights at home pushed them from seventh in the South Division up to a tie for fourth. 

Additionally, the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs and Northern Cyclones were both 2-0, and the Monarchs climbed to first in the North Division with their week’s success. Additionally, the Jersey Hitmen helped themselves by winning their single game to remain at first place, while the Twin City Thunder’s single game with a win kept them in second in the North. 

Let’s take a look at each of the top-performing teams from the last week and where they stand now and what’s up ahead. 

 

Records Are For Games Since Oct. 12. 

 

Utica Jr. Comets (3-0) 

The Jr. Comets put up wins of 5-3, 3-2 (in overtime) and 3-2 against the WBS Knights over the weekend, giving them the six-point push they were looking for. With the wins, they pulled into fifth with 11 points, tied in that respect with the Mercer Chiefs. 

  • This past weekend marked the first time since the opening weekend of the 2021-22 season (Sept. 24-26) that the Jr. Comets have won three in a row, including against a single opponent. They defeated the Rockets Hockey Club in three straight on that opening weekend of last season.  
  • Veteran Medrick Bolduc is second in NCDC scoring with 14 points through nine games, while Michael Herrera is the league’s leading goal-scorer (nine). Herrera posted 2-3-5 over the three-game series, and Bolduc had a 1-4-5 line for the weekend.  
  • Michael Webster (‘02) posted four assists, including at least one in all three games, helping him to double his 2021-22 points total. 
  • Andrew Martino has played in four NCDC games this year – and has a goal in each, including Friday’s GWG. He was promoted from last year’s Premier squad, a symbol of #USPHLAdvancement In Action! 
  • Vladislav Pschenichnikov (another #USPHLAdvancement success story from the New York Aviators) put up a 1-4-5 line in the three games, and Quinton Gove put up a 2-1-3 line over the three games including the OT game-winner on Saturday. 
  • Waylon Esche stopped 81 of 86 shots over the weekend for a .942 save percentage. 

The Road Ahead: The Jr. Comets will have to wait 13 days between games as their next action begins Oct. 29 at the Fall Beantown Classic in Marlboro, Mass. 

 

New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs (2-0) 

The Monarchs came back from a bit of a rough go at the Hitmen Classic (1-2) to win two straight 2-1 victories in a row against North Division foes to stand alone at the top of the North circuit. On the home ice at the Ryan Frew Memorial Rink (named for their late, great NCDC Head Coach from 2017-20), they first sent the Islanders Hockey Club home empty-handed on Oct. 12 and six days later, it was the South Shore Kings by the same result on Oct. 18. 

  • That 2-1 score is the new norm for the Monarchs, as it’s been the score of four their last four games, with three being wins, going back to Oct. 6. 
  • Jed Baliotti made his return to the NCDC after playing elsewhere last year, stopping 28 of 29 shots on Oct. 12 for the victory. He had previously played for the Northern Cyclones in 2020-21. 
  • Jake Fillion improved to 6-1-0-0 on the season and earned his first victory in three contests, after starting 5-0. He remains second in goals against average (1.47) and fourth in save percentage (.947).

The Road Ahead: The Monarchs renew acquaintances with the Boston Junior Bruins at home on Friday, before making their first trip to the Lovell Arena to face the host Boston Advantage on Sunday. 

  • The Junior Bruins hold an all-time series lead of 11-8-0-0, while the Monarchs have the edge on the Advantage, 6-1-2-0. 

 

Northern Cyclones (2-0) 

The Cyclones, the other team besides the Utica Jr. Comets to not have competed at the Hitmen Classic, returned to action after 11 days to defeat the Boston Junior Bruins 4-3 in a shootout on Oct. 13. They also defeated the Boston Advantage, 5-4. Along with a 6-5 shootout win over the Connecticut Jr. Rangers back on Oct. 2 at the BJB Shootout, that puts the Cyclones on a 3-0 winning streak. 

  • This was the first time the Cyclones have won three straight one-goal games since Sept. 27 through Oct. 4, 2019, when they faced the former Boston Bandits twice and Connecticut once. 
  • The Cyclones last played in back-to-back shootout games on Jan. 28 and 30, 2022, splitting a home-and-home with New Hampshire in-state rivals the Jr. Monarchs. 
  • Sean Conlon, who was in both the recent shootouts, had the shootout GWG against the Junior Bruins. 
  • Colin Ronan stopped all three attempts in both shootouts, and Ronan stands at 5-0 overall. He is one of just three goaltenders still undefeated after at least three appearances, joining the Hitmen’s J.J. Cataldo (7-0) and Connecticut’s Mason Joseph (3-0). 
  • Second-year Cyclone Marko Giourof, who scored the GWG and also had a goal and an assist during regulation against Connecticut, also had goals against the Junior Bruins and Advantage for an active 3-1-4 scoring streak in his last three. Veteran Paden Hicks also scored goals in each of the three recent wins, including the GWG against the Advantage. 
  • Another veteran, Austin Rice, registered an assist – his first point of the season – against the Advantage, kicking off his fourth NCDC season with the Cyclones. 

The Road Ahead: A little busy road stretch coming up for the Cyclones, as they face the South Shore Kings Friday and the Twin City Thunder on Saturday, before going right back to Foxboro Sports Center on Tuesday against the Kings, against whom the Cyclones are 15-6-0-1 all-time, and they are 7-4-0-0 against the Thunder. 

 

Jersey Hitmen (1-0)

After the grind of two straight three-game showcases, the Hitmen rested up to a point – they did have one game over the last week, taking on the Mercer Chiefs for the first time ever and coming away with a 7-0 win. It was the Hitmen’s and goaltender J.J. Cataldo’s fourth shutout of the season, and second by that score. The defending Dineen Cup Champion Hitmen are not only putting up strong defensive performances, but pushing the offense to give teams headaches on both sides of the puck. 

  • Cataldo continues to put up the best save percentage (.981) of any Tier II goaltender in North America, and his four shutouts are testament to his game-dominating performances out of the gate. He made 26 saves against Mercer, stopping between 26 and 28 in all four of his shutouts so far. 
  • Panayioti Efraimidis (2-1-3), Nicholas Zocco (1-2-3) and the league’s leading scorer Tyler McNeil (0-3-3) led the team offensively, and the team’s scoring depth is now evident in that 23 players have registered a point already for the Hitmen. 
  • McNeil improved to six goals and 11 assists for 17 points, and is another #USPHLAdvancement success story after being a USPHL Premier All-Star last year with the Fresno Monsters. 

The Road Ahead: On Friday, the Hitmen make their first visit of the year to Northwell Health Ice Center to face the host P.A.L. Jr. Islanders, before returning to the Ice Vault to host the Mercer Chiefs for the first time. 

  • The Hitmen stand at 19-6-0-0 all-time against the Jr. Islanders. 

 

Twin City Thunder (1-0) 

The Thunder spent a few days back in Maine after a strong 2-1-0-0 showing at the Hitmen Classic before revving up the game engines again on Oct. 12, hosting the Boston Advantage in The Dan K Show’s first-ever ScoutCast, a state-of-the-art broadcast specifically targeted to NCAA scouts looking at the players in the game. 

The Thunder stand in a tie for second place in the North Division with the Boston Advantage. 

It was certainly a success in the standings for the Thunder, who came away with a 4-2 victory to close it out. The team’s veteran leading scorer Trace Norwell scored twice as the Thunder got an early 2-1 lead after a period and built forward from there. 

  • After scoring three points in his first two games in September, Norwell has quadrupled that earlier total by putting up 6-3-9 totals over each of his last four games, including the GWG against the Advantage. 
  • Defenseman Kadsen Johnson has a goal and three assists for four points in his last three games, carrying a young scoring streak into his next action.
  • Goaltender Christopher Jackson is on a three-game winning streak, in which he’s given up just four goals on 74 shots for a .946 save percentage. 

The Road Ahead: The Thunder are on the road Friday afternoon for a 1 p.m. game against the Islanders Hockey Club, and they return home Saturday night to take on the Northern Cyclones. 

  • The Thunder are 8-4-1-0 since beginning their all-time series with the Thunder’s inaugural NCDC season in 2019-20. Also, since then, the Thunder are 4-6-1-0 against the Cyclones. 

 

Boston Advantage (2-2-0-0)

It was definitely a busy week for the Advantage, moreso than any other NCDC team between Oct. 12 and 18. They started their four-game stretch with the 4-2 loss to the Twin City Thunder on the road, and they fell 5-4 to the Cyclones in Hudson, N.H. 

The Advantage opened up the new Lovell Arena in Rockland, Mass., on Sunday and came away with a historic first victory in the building, defeating the Islanders Hockey Club 4-3 in overtime. The week of four games ended Tuesday when the Advantage got their second straight win to pull even on the four-game stretch with a 4-3 regulation win in Marlborough, Mass., against the host Boston Junior Bruins. 

The squad started out 3-0 after 25 seconds into the second period against the Junior Bruins and extended it to 4-2 by the end of the second before the Junior Bruins scored one final goal. In the overtime game, the Advantage were down 3-0 to the Islanders after two periods, but a third period outburst tied the game and Noah-David Dayan scored the overtime winner. 

  • The Advantage have exactly equaled their record after 10 games in 2021-22 (6-4-0-0), equaling their best start at the one-fifth mark – they started out 5-5-0-0 in their inaugural season of 2020-21. 
  • Returning goaltender Nick Bevilaqua is off to a great 4-1 start this year, standing with a .926 save percentage after going 2-1 in three of the four games over the last week. 
  • Arik Altman has been on fire lately, with five goals (including the GWG against the Junior Bruins). The former Las Vegas Thunderbird (another #USPHLAdvancement success story) has posted a 7-5-12 line in 10 games this year. 

The Road Ahead: It’s just a single game over the next week for the Advantage, as they play Sunday against the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs, who hold a 6-1-2-0 record in their all-time series. 

 

Islanders Hockey Club (1-1-1-0)

The second busiest week was had by the Islanders, who eked out three points from their most recent three games. They started out with a 2-1 regulation loss to the Monarchs, followed three days later by a 4-3 overtime loss to the Advantage and it all wrapped up on the positive side with a 3-2 regulation win against the Boston Junior Bruins. 

  • The overtime loss and the win – their second of the season – marked the first time this season that the IHC was able to earn points in two straight games. 
  • Brayton Frick, the ‘05 from Pittsburgh who was the IHC’s First Overall Draft Pick in the 2022 NCDC Entry Draft, scored his first two NCDC goals (and points) in these past two games. His second goal was the GWG in the third period against the Junior Bruins. 

The Road Ahead: The Islanders’ only action this week is a Friday afternoon home game against the Thunder, against whom the IHC is even all-time at 5-5-3-0.  

 

Connecticut Jr. Rangers (1-1-0-0) 

The Rangers continue to make a good name for themselves early on here in 2022-23, moving into third place in the South Division at 6-3-1-1, an improvement on their 5-6-0-0 record after 11 games last year.  

Recently, the Jr. Rangers picked up a Friday 4-3 win against the Rockets Hockey Club, but were subsequently defeated by the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders on Sunday, 3-1. Their loss to the Islanders evened their all-time record against the P.A.L. at 11-11-4-1. 

  • Continuing the theme of #USPHLAdvancement success stories, former Premier Jr. Ranger Payton Miller is enjoying a four-game assist and point streak entering their upcoming action. He is one of five ‘03’s in the top five of scoring for the Jr. Rangers, led by veteran Billy Shields (14 points in 11 games). Shields scored eight of his 14 points in a six-game scoring streak that ended with the win against the Rockets.

The Road Ahead: The Jr. Rangers make their first trip to face the Mercer Chiefs on Friday night at 7:30 p.m., and they host the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders on Saturday at 7:15 p.m.  

 

Rockets Hockey Club (1-1-0-0)

The Rockets hit some trouble in losing their third game in a row on Friday against the Jr. Rangers, but they rebounded nicely with a 5-4 come-from-behind victory after going down early 2-1 against Mercer on Saturday. Jonah Copre scored the first and last goals of the game for the Rockets to earn a GWG in the process. 

  • Veteran Cam Bergeman’s four-point (1-3-4) game against Mercer was a career-high for him. His previous high, attained several times, was two points. 
  • With a five-point run in the two most recent games, defenseman Jonah Copre (‘03) became the leading scorer among NCDC defensemen with his 4-8-12 line in nine games. He scored his first NCDC GWG against Mercer. He joins the Islanders Hockey Club’s Sam Nichols (3-5-8 in 10 games) as the only blueliners leading their NCDC team in scoring. 

The Road Ahead: From Friday through Sunday, the Rockets will play a three-game set against the visiting Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights in their first-ever NCDC matchups. 

 

P.A.L. Jr. Islanders (1-1-0-0)  

The Jr. Islanders took their first regulation loss last Friday when the Mercer Chiefs defeated them 5-2. P.A.L. came back two days later by defeating the Connecticut Jr. Rangers. The Jr. Islanders remain in second place in the South Division with a 7-1-0-2, and remain just two points behind the Hitmen. This has still been the P.A.L.’s best start after 10 games, bypassing their previous best of 5-2-2-1 in 2019-20. 

  • After missing the scoresheet in his first five games, Ty Broad (‘03) hasn’t missed it once – nor the goal twine – since then, scoring six goals and one assist in his last five. His goal against the Jr. Rangers on Sunday was his first career shorthanded goal in 48 career NCDC games over two years. 
  • Despite taking his first loss of the season against Mercer, St. Lawrence University commit Cam Smith remains a top four goaltender in the NCDC. He is third in save percentage (.952), fourth in goals against average (1.82) and tied for third in wins with five (5-1-0-2). 

The Road Ahead: The Jr. Islanders bring in the Jersey Hitmen on Friday at 2:45 p.m., and go back up against the Connecticut Jr. Rangers on Saturday night at 7:15 p.m. 

 

Drop the Pucks! 

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