Forward: Jonah Mortenson, Tampa Bay Juniors
Mortenson (‘02/Champlin, Minn.) made an amazing debut with a pair of goals and four assists for six points in his first couple games with the Juniors.
Defense: Filip Kuba, Tampa Bay Juniors
The ‘04 Tampa-born player (and son of former Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Filip Kuba) continues to impress in his first Premier season after a fantastic Elite campaign in 2020-21. Most recently, Kuba posted a goal and two assists in the weekend sweep of Atlanta.
Goaltender: Sal Carabelli, Florida Jr. Blades
A second-year Premier goalie (he played for the now defunct Metro Hockey Club team last season), Carabelli has been a huge pickup for the Blades. The ‘02 from Shelby Township, Mich., started out 2-1 so far on the season, and earned a win against Palm Beach after a 33-save performance on Oct. 7.
Forward: Ethyn Hopp, Carolina Jr. Hurricanes
Hopp to it! Ethyn has done just that by scoring his first hat trick of the year and extending his current point streak to eight straight games. With two points in his next game, Hopp (‘02/Edmonton, Alb.) would bring his career points per game average with Carolina to an even 1.00 - certainly an impressive average over 49 games.
Defense: Tyler Fittro, Carolina Jr. Hurricanes
Fittro (‘01/Cedar Falls, Iowa), a second-year Premier Hurricanes player, made his season debut in the second weekend of October and posted a goal and three assists for four points. He played in 16 regular season games last year, plus two assists in seven playoff games which included the team’s Nationals run to the semifinals.
Goaltender: Nick Anderson, Charlotte Rush
Anderson (‘03/Rochester, N.Y.) improved to 5-0 on the season after stopping 74 of 76 shots faced and winning both of the Rush’s games against the Richmond Generals. He improved to a league-leading 5-0.
The United States Premier Hockey League is pleased to announce that the Bakersfield Roughnecks, of Bakersfield, Calif., will be joining the USPHL Premier league in the 2022-23 and joining the Pacific Division.
The founders and proprietors of the Bakersfield Roughnecks are Christian and Sara Gregory, longtime participants in the youth hockey community of Bakersfield. The name “Roughneck,” a slang term for an oil rig worker, pays tribute to the dominant industry of the southern edge of the San Fernando Valley.
“For the last three years, I’ve been the President of Bakersfield Jr. Condors Youth Hockey, and Sara is on the board. We have been involved with the organization for 15 years. I know this town can support this junior program, and we’re excited to bring a new level of hockey to town to join with the American Hockey League’s Bakersfield Condors, the Edmonton Oilers’ top farm team,” said Christian.
“The United States Premier Hockey League is thrilled to welcome the Bakersfield Roughnecks to start play in the USPHL Premier next season. We are excited to be part of the growth of junior hockey, and hockey as a whole, in the vibrant market that is California,” said USPHL Commissioner Bob Turow. “We are also excited to see another junior hockey team working alongside a fine professional team such as the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors.”
The Gregory family became involved with hockey through their sons, who began playing roller hockey and shortly thereafter turned to ice hockey.
“Our big thing is we pride ourselves on being involved, we had three boys that we started in youth hockey and moved on to juniors and college hockey. Our youngest son is at home, currently,” said Sara. “We were able to create new Learn to Play and Learn to Skate programs in town here, even during the worst of the COVID crisis. This is the next step for us.”
The Mechanics Bank Arena, home to the AHL’s Condors, which replaced an ECHL team of the same name, is located directly across from the Roughnecks’ home arena, Valley Children’s Ice Center, which was built in 2003.
“We met with [Mechanics Bank Arena], but feel that the smaller venue will make for more lively home games. We’ll get fans packed in and get that better home ice advantage at the Valley Children’s Ice Center,” said Christian.
The Roughnecks were originally looking at a potential start in 2021-22, but with the COVID crisis still raging on during their talks with USPHL league management, it was decided by all parties to delay a year.
“We actually started talks with [former USPHL Commissioner Richard Gallant], but we really needed the year to put the program together and make sure it’s successful. If you don’t put a good product together, it could backfire,” said Christian. “The last six, seven months, we’ve gone through all the paperwork and gone over all the numbers with [current Commissioner] Bob Turow. We’ve also reached out to other owners in the league to make sure we don’t miss anything.”
The Roughnecks will join a lively and growing Pacific Division, in which they will have a built-in rival just about a two-hour drive north in the Fresno Monsters. Then, turning south, they’ll face the Long Beach Shredders and Ontario Jr. Reign in the Los Angeles vicinity. Another couple hours south from there are the San Diego Sabers.
Further north and east from Bakersfield are the Lake Tahoe Lakers and the Las Vegas Thunderbirds. The Lakers, Jr. Reign and Shredders are all new teams for 2021-22.
They know that competition for top talent will be fierce, not just with their fellow Pacific Division members but in junior hockey as a whole. They’ll be getting out in full force over the next year and off-season to find the right players and personalities to make the first-year Roughnecks successful on and off the ice.
“We’ll have tryout camps and scouting events. We’ll be going with our own Jr. Condors AA team to some showcases, where we will be able to scout players, as well as at Globals in Las Vegas,” said Sara. “We also have contacts in different leagues and scouting areas and we are affiliated with different teams. We may try to align ourselves with another USPHL team to hold a joint tryout camp.”
The United States Premier Hockey League is excited and proud to welcome the Bakersfield Roughnecks for the 2022-23 season and beyond.
Aaron Schwartz and his family had a good inkling when he was still in elementary school that working with then-future Islanders Hockey Club NCDC Head Coach Tim Kyrkostas was the right move.
“Playing for Tim was something I wanted to do since playing for him back in Florida, when I was probably 6 or 7 years old,” said Schwartz, who grew up with Tim’s son Jackson Kyrkostas. “Last year was a really good year developmentally and recruiting-wise.”
Brown University first watched him while with the Islanders USPHL 16U National Championship team last season, and kept watching over his first few games of the new season, Schwartz’ first in the NCDC with the Islanders. With a goal and four assists in his first five NCDC games, Brown was sold. Schwartz committed for a year still to be fully determined, but as of right now probably the 2023-24 season.
“I’ve been in contact with them the last couple weeks. I visited campus on Sunday, got the offer Monday [Oct. 11] and took it,” said Schwartz. “The first thing I liked was their coaching staff - the way they handled the whole process was very professional. They talked to me like a regular person and not just another recruit. The school is unbelievable, it’s a tight-bond community.”
He became at first intrigued with the Ivy League and then completely determined to make it there after working with his personal trainer Ryan Vesce.
“Ryan graduated from Cornell, and just seeing how far an Ivy League degree can take you helped me focus on school the last couple years, to make sure I had the marks that can make it into an Ivy League school,” Schwartz added.
“I am so happy and proud of Aaron and his entire family,” added Kyrkostas. “I have watched this young man since he first started to play all those years back in Florida. To see him go through a lot of highs and lows over the years and for him to finally see all of his hard work pay off with this commitment is just awesome! He's a great young hockey player.
“He's really bought into the process of becoming a well-rounded 200-foot player,” Kyrkostas said. “He has a great hockey mind as he loves to watch the game and then analyze every aspect of it. I think Brown University is getting a great one.”
After playing with the Kyrkostas’ at Palm Beach, Kyrkostas later moved on to the Florida Alliance youth program, including representing the Alliance at the prestigious Quebec International Peewee Tournament in 2017.
After he turned 15 and living in both Fort Myers and Fort Lauderdale, he played his first year fully away from home with the Shattuck-St. Mary’s 15U squad.
“I got the whole being away from home experience, and then the whole thing of playing for Tim fell into place last year, and I thought that was a good place to be,” said Schwartz.
“This is truly a great success for the IHC and the USPHL model - he was a Futures draft pick who played one year in our Midget program and now in the NCDC garnering his commitment,” added Kyrkostas. “The model works for those that have the talent and are willing to trust us in how we develop players.”
Midget hockey was a mess in the main COVID season of 2020-21, and he only got into seven regular season games for the IHC’s 16U team, posting a 4-11-15 line in that short time. He also got a game with the USPHL 18U Islanders. In the 16U playoffs, Schwartz was a prime mover for the Islanders team that won the championship, scoring a 3-2-5 line in four playoff games. As Tim Kyrkostas does double duty as the Islanders’ 16U National and NCDC coach, the transition to the higher junior level was seamless. And Schwartz has loved every minute of it so far.
“We have a great team with a good shot at winning the championship in the end,” said Schwartz. “We have a lot of guys who just want to be here and they’re good, hard workers with skill and grit. We really have what it takes [to win the title].
“The NCDC as a league is on the rise, especially last year seeing and practicing with the team and the good players who came through the team,” Schwartz added. “The league is just going up, and I have only good things to say about it.”
It’s a couple years away yet, but Schwartz believes he will pursue a business track once he arrives on the campus of Brown University. For now, the main order of business is to bring the Dineen Cup back to the Islanders Hockey Club for the first time in four years.
The USPHL congratulates Aaron Schwartz, his family, the Islanders Hockey Club and Brown University for his commitment.
The Hitmen Classic is in the books, with 12 games from that fantastic event in the books. The Hitmen Classic games were held in addition to an intriguing split weekend between the South Division leaders the Utica Jr. Comets and their hosts Connecticut Jr. Rangers, and top performances up north as well, including the burgeoning Northern Cyclones team.
The Rockets Hockey Club won all three of its Hitmen Classic games. When you combine that with winning their final two contests at the BJB Shootout one week earlier, they currently lead the NCDC with the best winning streak of 5-0.
The Northern Cyclones won Sunday and Monday, coming back from a tough pill of an overtime loss the prior Wednesday against the Islanders Hockey Club.
To close out the Hitmen Classic NCDC schedule, fans were treated to an “Instant Classic” when the Boston Junior Bruins and host Hitmen took to the ice in a showdown between a 2021 semifinalist and the defending Dineen Cup Champion. The Junior Bruins took the game in a close 3-2 victory to get back on the winning side for what ended up as a 1-1-1 visit to New Jersey. The Hitmen, for their part, also finished 1-1-1 as event hosts.
With the first two North vs. South showcases in the books, teams return for another month of divisional play this week and weekend. Let’s get into the nitty gritty of where we’ve been and where we’re going.
Rockets Hockey Club On 5-0 Run
The Rockets defeated the Boston Junior Bruins 5-3, followed by beating the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs 4-2 and the South Shore Kings 4-3 in overtime. For their final two games, those were both rematches six days since their previous clashes with the Monarchs and Kings, respectively. The Rockets are hoping to at least equal their best run of the 2020-21 season, which saw them go 9-0 at Hub City Tampa, as well as one game prior to their arrival in Florida.
Including their Dineen Cup semifinals match, the Rockets are currently on a 4-0 run against the Boston Junior Bruins, while they jumped one in front of the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs with a 6-5-2 all-time series score. They are on a 5-0 run against the Monarchs.
The Rockets have won their last three against the Kings, and two of their last five match-ups have gone to overtime.
• Evan Brown (‘03) scored the overtime goal to seal the Hitmen Classic sweep. Brown is a homegrown product of the Rockets, having played for their USPHL 15U and USPHL 16U teams between 2018 and 2020, including helping the Rockets win the USPHL 16U National Championship in 2020. With a 1-1-2 mark against the Kings and earlier three-point and one-point efforts, Brown put himself at better than point-per-game pace with seven points through six games.
• Providence recruit Ryan Schelling (‘04) is another Rockets 16U alum who scored a game-winner, his coming in a 1-1-2 effort against the Junior Bruins in the Classic opener.
• Schelling’s future Providence teammate Cole Vallese (‘02) was the only Rocket to score points in all three Classic games, coming out with a 1-3-4 line.
• University of Minnesota recruit Geno Pichora won his fourth game in a row and his first in which he was called upon to make 30 or more saves (33 to be exact).
Northern Cyclones On Three-Game Point Streak
The series between the Islanders Hockey Club and Northern Cyclones will definitely be an exciting one to watch this year as both of their first two meetings were each decided by one goal.
On Wednesday, Oct. 6, the Islanders defeated the Cyclones in a 4-3 shootout, countered four days later by a 3-2 victory for the Cyclones. On Oct. 11, the Cyclones made the trip north to face the Twin City Thunder.
Separated by eight miles as the crow flies, the Islanders and Cyclones are traditional rivals, but currently the Cyclones are the team that is on a four-game point streak encapsulating their two games of 2020-21 as well as these two early-season matchups.
• Marko Giourof (‘03) had himself a strong pair of games Sunday and Monday, earning points in back-to-back games for the first time. After registering an assist on Sunday’s opening goal, he posted a 1-2-3 line to get in on all three goals Monday.
• Big Rhett Evjen (‘02), all 6-5, 200 pounds of him, is on a three-game goal streak, with two goals in the 4-3 shootout loss, and one goal on each of Sunday and Monday. All five of his points through six games are goals.
• Paden Hicks (‘02) had the game-winner against the Cyclones and three points in his last two.
• William Goumas (‘03) has won both of his first two starts, giving up just four goals on 63 shots for a .937 save percentage, second in the NCDC among goalies with at least two games played.
P.A.L. Jr. Islanders Earn Four Points At Hitmen Classic
The Jr. Islanders had taken losses a week earlier to both the South Shore Kings and New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs at the BJB Shootout. They put those losses on the mental bulletin board, and came back to see both those teams a second time in four days since their last matchups - and win this time.
First, it was a Thursday night rematch with a Monarchs team that was a 3-2 shootout winner on Oct. 3, four days earlier. The P.A.L. took the rematch with a 2-1 regulation victory.
Next up, it was the Kings on Friday. The Kings had won 4-3 on Monday, but the Islanders took a second 2-1 regulation victory in New Jersey. The last three games between these teams, going back to Hub City Tampa, have been decided by one goal. Three of the last four between the Jr. Islanders and Monarchs have also been one-goal games.
• The Jr. Islanders’ four straight one-goal games was their most since a stretch of six one-goal contests between Jan. 7 and Feb. 2, 2019 (1-3-2-0).
• In the team’s 4-2 loss to the Boston Advantage on Oct. 9, Luca Leighton (‘03) registered his first goal of the season, and he had assists in each of his prior three games - he ended up as the only Jr. Islander to register points in all three Hitmen Classic contests. Leighton came up to the NCDC from last year’s P.A.L. USPHL 18U squad, joining some of the aforementioned Rockets as USPHL Development Model success stories. He currently has a 1-5-6 line in eight games.
• Tyler Crist (‘01) scored his first game-winning goal of the season in the third period against the Kings, giving him three in his career and making him the active leader in career GWGs for the P.A.L. squad. His five goals on the season have him tied for seventh league-wide.
• Second-year NCDC veteran and first-year Jr. Islander Ryan Mahlmeister (‘01) saw his first goal of the season - scored in the second vs. New Hampshire - stand up as the game-winner.
Philadelphia Hockey Club Wins First Two At Hitmen Classic
The PHC squad made its showcase debut for the 2021-22 season and enjoyed the party at first, winning their first two against the Boston Advantage (2-0) and the Junior Bruins (3-2 in overtime) before falling to the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs in the finale. PHC is now 2-1 with one OT win against the Junior Bruins in their two seasons, both of their last two contests being one-goal PHC wins. PHC and the Advantage, both first-year NCDC teams in 2020-21, evened their all-time series at 2-2.
• In the first game, Jacob Torgner (‘03) became just the fourth NCDC goalie this season to register a shutout, stopping all 31 shots against him. He went 2-0 at the Classic, stopping 65 of 67 on the weekend.
• With four assists spread out over three games, returning PHC veteran and third-year NCDC player Chip Hamlett (‘01) was the only Philadelphia player to score in all three Classic contests. He leads all PHC defensemen with five points - all assists - in five games.
• After making his debut against the Advantage, Liam Cox-Smith (‘03) scored the OT game-winner and had two assists in the PHC victory over the Junior Bruins.
Utica, Connecticut Each Take A Win At Chelsea Piers
• Away from the Hitmen Classic, the Utica Jr. Comets and Connecticut Jr. Rangers split a Rangers home series in Stamford, Conn. It was almost looking like a CJR sweep before Utica came back from being down 2-0 to win 3-2 in Game 2, following a CJR 5-2 win on Friday.
• Utica veteran John Gutt (‘01) scored the game-tying and game-winning goals in the second game. With 11 points, he stands in a tie for fifth in league scoring. He has missed the scoresheet only once in his eight games thus far.
• Five different goal-scorers tallied for the Rangers in the first game, in which Connecticut came back to win after being down 1-0. It was already the second time this season that Connecticut had five different goal-scorers in a game, after accomplishing that feat of depth just once last season (Jan. 13, 2021, a 7-3 victory over Northern Cyclones featuring seven different goal-scorers).
Around The Boards
• The Boston Advantage’s third period comeback win against the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders was their best in their NCDC history. They had never scored as many goals in a third period of a game in which they were behind going into that last stanza. It was also a “rescue win,” as they had originally led the game 1-0. Second-year veteran Chance Heaphy (‘02) scored his first goal of the season which stood as the GWG.
• The Islanders Hockey Club’s shootout win on Oct. 6 against the Cyclones saw them start 3-0 before falling in their next two against Twin City (7-4) and the Cyclones (3-2). That 3-0 start was their best in as many games since their epic 47-3 season in the NCDC’s inaugural year of 2017-18. It was also the first time that IHC ever started with three one-goal games.
• William Laychur (‘02) scored the shootout game-winning goal on Oct. 6 for the Islanders, and also added an assist which gave him points in three straight to start his NCDC career (1-4-5).
• The Hitmen sandwiched a decisive victory against the Boston Advantage between a pair of one-goal losses as Hitmen Classic hosts. They last hit double digits on Feb. 16 at Hub City Tampa, their final contest in Florida. Patriks Marcinkevics (‘01) and Mateo Dixon (‘02) each had 2-2-4 lines to lead the way in that game. It was Marcinkevics’ fourth four-point game in his NCDC career, as he returns to the league after previously having played with the Islanders Hockey Club in 2019-20. It was the rookie Dixon’s first four-point game, and also capped a five-game point streak in which he scored all 4-5-9 of his scoring line thus far.
• The Junior Bruins rebounded from losses to the Rockets and Philadelphia at the Classic by beating the hosts 3-2 in the finale of the NCDC portion of the Hitmen Classic. Ikki Kogawa (‘03)’s fourth goal of the season was the regulation game-winner, in a game in which the Hitmen had an early 1-0 lead.
• The New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs also won their final Hitmen Classic game after a couple losses. Former Premier Monarchs standout Tanner Hartman (‘01) scored the first and last goal of their 4-1 win against Philadelphia - both shorthanded! Three of his four goals on the season are shorties, giving him a clear NCDC lead in that category. It is the first time any Monarch has ever scored more than one SHG not just in a single game, but in an entire NCDC season!
• Hartman’s two shorthanded goals tied an NCDC record for most SHG’s in a game with former Boston Bandit Logan Drevitch, now a senior at Merrimack College, who had a pair on Jan. 24, 2018, against the Northern Cyclones.
• The South Shore Kings left the Hitmen Classic with three points off a 1-1-1 record, starting the proceedings with a 5-4 overtime win against the hosts. It was the Kings’ third straight win over the Hitmen, and all three wins decided by one goal. The one-goal game streak between the teams extends to a 1-0 Hitmen win on Oct. 3, 2020 at last year’s BJB Shootout.
• The 5-4 game saw three lead changes, including the Kings’ OT win off the stick of ‘02 rookie defenseman Pierce Patterson playing in his very first game. Those three lead changes tied the two organizations’ 6-5 OT win for the Kings played at Hub City Tampa, widely considered one of the greatest NCDC games in Florida and an absolute all-time classic.
• The Twin City Thunder’s second win of the year, a 7-4 victory over the Islanders Hockey Club, saw their most goals since they set their NCDC record of nine in a win against South Shore on Feb. 16, 2020. They hit six goals three times last season.
• The Thunder were down 4-3 to the Islanders when they scored four in the third period. It was their most third period goals in a comeback win since Jan. 22, when they scored four to rebound from a 4-1 deficit to Connecticut in Hub City Tampa.
• Thunder NCDC veteran and Lewiston, Maine native Dom Chasse (‘02) scored a pair to lead the way in the win and now has three goals on the season, tying his 2020-21 season output through 21 games.
• Boston Advantage at Twin City Thunder, Oct. 13: The Advantage lead the series 2-1 off of their 2020-21 games, including the Advantage’s first ever NCDC game, a 2-0 win on Oct. 11, 2020.
• Northern Cyclones at Boston Junior Bruins, Oct. 14: The first match-up for these teams this season, with the Cyclones having won the 2020-21 season series 2-1 (one win in OT).
• Twin City Thunder at South Shore Kings, Oct. 15: After the Thunder won their first two meetings last season, the Kings got a couple points in a shootout win. The Thunder lead the all-time series 5-1-1.
• Boston Advantage at Northern Cyclones, Oct. 15: The Cyclones are out for revenge after the Advantage opened this season’s series with a 4-0 victory on Oct. 1.
• Connecticut Jr. Rangers vs. Rockets Hockey Club, Oct. 15-16: The home-and-home series begins at Bridgewater and moves to Chelsea Piers for Saturday. These teams faced each other six times in 2020-21, with the Rockets going 5-1, with one win coming in OT.
• Utica Jr. Comets at Jersey Hitmen, Oct. 16-17: The defending Dineen Cup Champions play host to the current South Division front-runners, tied with the Junior Bruins for first overall in both points (13) and winning percentage (.813).
• Islanders Hockey Club at Boston Advantage, Oct. 16: The Islanders won their 2020-21 season series 6-1, all decided in regulation.
• New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs at Twin City Thunder, Oct. 16: The Monarchs won the 2020-21 season series 4-2, including a stretch of five straight games in November and December.
• P.A.L. Jr. Islanders vs. Philadelphia Hockey Club, Oct. 16-17: A South Division home-and-home and resumption of a series led 5-1 by P.A.L. after an initial PHC win.
• Boston Junior Bruins at Islanders Hockey Club, Oct. 17: Junior Bruins won the 2020-21 season series 5-1, with their last game in Tampa going to OT.
For goaltender Brandon Kasel, walking into the Adirondack Bank Center was a reminder of his younger days playing high school hockey, battling it out for the State Championship.
Brandon is just one example of someone who climbed the ladder of youth hockey in the Mohawk Valley and made it to its biggest stage. Now, in the American Hockey League camp for the Utica Comets, the level of hockey has taken a big leap since his younger days as a kid growing up in Ithaca, New York. For Brandon, this experience is almost surreal.
“Honesty, it’s incredible. Since I got here, it’s been a dream. I wasn’t expecting this opportunity and it came up. I played in this rink a few times growing up. Being here at this level is just amazing. Growing up in Syracuse I had great memories playing at the Aud. I played a little bit of high school hockey in the State Championships here. That was a good memory going to the State finals. It’s always been an incredible experience here.”
Brandon is a kid who knows all about the area of Utica and after the merger of the Syracuse Stars junior program two seasons ago. The Stars program started in 1985 and includes former NHL goaltender and President of the Utica Comets, Robert Esche as an alumnus.
Brandon played USPHL Midgets in 2014-2015 and one year of USPHL Premier (at the time the forerunner of today's NCDC) for the Stars in 2015-2016. He truly climbed the ladder within the organization from youth hockey to the pros.
All of the Stars alumni are now part of the Utica Jr. Comets program which encompasses the Midget, Premier and NCDC teams.
When you grow up in hockey and begin your professional journey, usually you must leave family far behind. But for Brandon, his family is a quick drive away.
“I love having family close. I played college hockey in Saratoga. Everything kind of connects and I’m very tied to this area. So, it’s nice having that support. I grew up watching the Buffalo Sabres. Ryan Miller was one of my go-to guys,” remarked Kasel.
Brandon hopes his career can take the same trajectory as other great American-born goalies. If it does, it will be because of his work ethic that even years later isn’t forgotten on those who watched him as an amateur.
Nicole Kelly, Vice President of Business of Development and Director of Junior Hockey remembers Brandon well.
“He was a standout goalie in the program. Extremely hard-working kid. Seeing him rise to this level is a testament to not only the program but also Brandon as a person and player,” said Kelly.
The former Syracuse Star is ready for the next step in his career, built on the foundation of great competition in the Upstate New York area. Despite missing last season, he’s thrilled with the experience thus far.
“It was definitely an adjustment. It was my first real practice in over a year. I am just getting a feel for it. So, it was an incredible experience,” said Kasel.
The Jersey Hitmen will welcome teams from the National Collegiate Development Conference, USPHL 18U, USPHL 16U and USPHL 15U Divisions to the Ice Vault in Wayne, N.J., for their annual Hitmen Classic event, part of the USPHL Showcase Series.
The full schedule kicks off on Thursday with four NCDC games, followed by a full schedule of NCDC and Midget hockey on each of Friday and Saturday. Sunday and Monday will see a full slate of USPHL Midget games, with a slightly shorter schedule on Monday to close out the five-day event.
Tune into all of the NCDC games on HockeyTV, where The Dan K Show, USPHL’s Official Broadcasting Team, will have the call on several contests from Thursday through Saturday. See the Hitmen Classic page as well for a full schedule of action at the Ice Vault.
USPHL Premier, Elite Action Hits Ice Further Down I-287
The Hitmen Classic is being held in conjunction with a full four days of USPHL Premier and Elite league action at nearby Bridgewater Sports Arena in Bridgewater, N.J., hosted by the Rockets Hockey Club. You can find all of those games on the USPHL Premier and USPHL Elite schedules.
Keep tabs on all of the USPHL social media accounts for fantastic content - photos, interviews and plenty of fun - across both locations over the course of the weekend.
For a full list of teams in action in New Jersey this weekend, please see below:
The Boston Junior Bruins came out of their own event, the BJB Shootout, standing right where they want as a 5-0 team, following a 3-0 run at the Shootout.
Meantime, in Philadelphia, the Utica Jr. Comets took their first blemish - giving up a point to the hosts in an OT defeat - but the Jr. Comets are still undefeated in 60 minutes at 5-0-1 following two three-game sets to start their season.
Elsewhere around the league, the Rockets Hockey Club earned their first two victories - going back-to-back to finish the shootout, while the Boston Advantage, Twin City Thunder and Philadelphia Hockey Club (as aforementioned) picked up their first wins of the 2021-22 season.
Junior Bruins Off To Best Start In NCDC Tenure
The Junior Bruins’ 5-0 record out of the gate is their best start after five games in their five-year NCDC history. They’ve started 4-1 in their first three seasons, and then were 3-2 after five contests in 2020-21.
They’ve also outscored their opponents at a 2-1 clip so far, with 18 goals for and nine against. That’s actually a closer differential than a few of their 4-1 starts. They outscored their 2017-18 opponents in their first five games 23-8, almost a 3:1 ratio, and in 2019-20, they were at a 5:2 ratio (25-10).
• Holy Cross recruit Joe Solimine ('02) leads the team in scoring with a 2-7-9 line through five games, and he’s not only well past his 2020-21 points total in 14 games, but he’s one point away from doubling that. He posted a 3-2-5 line last year. Solimine is currently on a five-game point streak, and has two three-point performances to his name, including three assists in Monday’s BJB Shootout win against Connecticut.
• Not only has Colin Winn ('04) played every minute for the Junior Bruins so far, he’s also the first Junior Bruin goaltender to ever start 5-0, and to win all of his first five starts.
• U.S. Military Academy recruit Jude Brower ('01) leads all NCDC defensemen with seven points, all assists, in five games.
Utica Jr. Comets Stay Undefeated In Regulation
The Jr. Comets are still red hot and remain on top of the South Division at 5-0-1. They suffered their first defeat of a type by falling to the Philadelphia Hockey Club 4-3 in OT, but they rebounded with back-to-back one-goal wins. It is their best start in their NCDC tenure, ahead of their 2017-18 start of 4-1-1.
Oddly enough, this wasn’t the first time the Jr. Comets had three straight one-goal games against the same opponent. It last happened in October 2018, when they had three one-goal outings with the Jersey Hitmen, but those all went the Hitmen’s way.
• The third-year USPHL veteran Dhillon Wilde (‘02) has surpassed his 2020-21 points total already and currently leads the NCDC with 10 points (7-3) through six games. His career high was 14 points with the 2019-20 Islanders Hockey Club.
• Sebastian Woods (‘01) joins the Junior Bruins’ Winn as the only two goaltenders without a loss through at least three games - and among only five goalies getting the nod thus far for at least three contests. Woods is 3-0-1 with a 2.99 goals against average and a .912 save percentage.
Rockets Hockey Club Earns First Pair Of Wins
After starting out 0-4, the Rockets were able to pull it together for their final two BJB Shootout games to stand at 2-4 through six games.
The Shootout was the first of three showcases that the Rockets will take part in all during the month of October. Nine showcase games before the month of November is pretty much standard operating procedure for the Rockets, as this will be third time in five seasons they play in the BJB Shootout, Hitmen Classic and Fall Beantown Classic, all of which they also did in 2017-18 and 2018-19. Their all-time best record for the three showcases is 7-2, accomplished in 2018-19.
• Second-year NCDC veteran Ryan Leonard (‘01) is 100 percent on shootout attempts, registering the shootout winner in his first attempt in the league on Monday.
• NCDC rookie Cam Bergeman (‘03) is not only the RHC’s leading scorer with seven points, but he also led his team in the Shootout with a 2-3-5 line. He was the only Rocket to score in all three of the showcase games.
South Shore Kings Close Out 2-1 Weekend
The Kings came out of the BJB Shootout with a 2-1 mark at the event and stand at 2-3, earning their first victory for the season with their weekend-opening 6-0 shutout victory against Connecticut. After falling 7-2 to the Rockets in Game 2, they rebounded Monday afternoon, closing the entire event with a 4-3 victory against the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders.
In the final game, the Kings were lucky to escape with a victory, losing a 4-0 lead that they had built up to the 1:46 mark of the third period, when '01 Timothy Heinke’s second goal stood up as the game-winner. Their four-goal lead is the largest they’ve ever given up in an eventual one-goal win, though they have snatched victory from the jaws of defeat on multiple occasions, being down by three goals and eventually winning.
• The Kings tied their NCDC record for largest margin of victory in a shutout win with their 6-0 Saturday victory. They also had a 6-0 win in Hub City Tampa against the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs on Jan. 22, 2021.
Hitmen, Monarchs, Rangers Take Single Wins In Marlborough
The Jersey Hitmen came out of the BJB Shootout with a 1-2 record, and currently stand second in the South Division at 3-2-0-0. After defeats against the Twin City Thunder (5-3) and Junior Bruins (2-1), they rebounded in a big way with a 5-2 victory over New Hampshire. The Hitmen are on a 3-0 run going back to 2020-21 against the Monarchs, whom they will face again on Nov. 19 at the Islanders Hockey Club Showcase.
The Thunder took some revenge on the Hitmen, who had eliminated the Thunder from the 2021 NCDC Championship series in a single-game semifinal on the way to the Hitmen’s Dineen Cup win. The two teams renew acquaintances also at the IHC event on Nov. 21.
• The New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs defeated the Rockets Hockey Club 4-2 on Saturday, ending what had previously been a 3-0 run for the Rockets against the Monarchs. The two teams get right back at it this Friday at the Hitmen Classic. The Monarchs hold an 8-4 all-time edge in the series, with two being OT victories.
• Connecticut collected its second win of the 2021-22 season at the Shootout, winning 2-1 over Twin City, in between losses to South Shore and the Junior Bruins. The Thunder currently hold a slim 4-3 lead in the all-time series. Five of their seven all-time meetings have been one-goal games, and the other two were decided by just two goals. They meet again in February at the South Shore Kings Showcase.
Advantage, Philadelphia, Thunder Earn First Victories
• The Thunder’s win over the Hitmen on Saturday was their first victory of the season, and they currently stand at 1-2-0-1.
• The Boston Advantage earned a 4-0 shutout victory against the visiting Northern Cyclones on Friday evening in their only action of the weekend to stand at 1-1. The Advantage, who earned a shutout in their first-ever NCDC game on Oct. 11, 2020 (2-0 against the Twin City Thunder) also matched their best shutout margin of victory, after they had also defeated the Islanders Hockey Club 4-0 on Oct. 21, their second of their three-all-time shutout victories.
• The Philadelphia Hockey Club picked up their first victory with their 4-3 OT win over Utica on Friday, following two one-goal losses (one in OT) in their first weekend against the Hitmen. PHC is the first team in NCDC history to open their season with five straight one-goal games.
• The Islanders Hockey Club, idle this past weekend, have played in two one-goal games so far, so they may challenge that record.
• Islanders Hockey Club vs. Northern Cyclones, Oct. 6 & 10 - The two teams are 5-4 in favor of the Islanders in the last four seasons of their all-time series (which is 9-5 overall after a 4-1 Islanders series win in 2017-18). They’ve split their last eight meetings evenly.
• South Shore Kings vs. Jersey Hitmen, Oct. 7 - The opening game of the 2021 Hitmen Classic. The Kings won the 2020-21 season series with a 2-1 mark, one being in OT (a 6-5 thriller in Tampa).
• Junior Bruins vs. Rockets Hockey Club, Oct. 7 - A rematch of their 2021 Dineen Cup semifinals match-up, which was the Rockets’ third win in 2020-21 out of four meetings.
• New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs vs. P.A.L. Jr. Islanders, Oct. 7 - The two teams split their two Tampa meetings, with the Monarchs win being in a shootout.
• Philadelphia Hockey Club vs. Boston Advantage, Oct. 7 - Still the two newest members of the NCDC, both making their debut in 2020-21, the Advantage hold a slim 2-1 all-time series lead.
• Philadelphia Hockey Club vs. Junior Bruins, Oct. 8 - Day 2 at the Hitmen Classic opens with this match-up, which is at a 1-1 all-time series split.
• Rockets Hockey Club vs. New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs, Oct. 8 - These two teams just faced each other, as aforementioned, and return to the match-up six days later.
• P.A.L. Jr. Islanders vs. South Shore Kings, Oct. 8 - Another quick return - four days after their last meeting - and both teams’ fifth of six games in eight days.
• Jersey Hitmen vs. Boston Advantage, Oct. 8 - The Hitmen won both of their first two all-time meetings in 2020-21 in Florida.
• Utica Jr. Comets at Connecticut Rangers, Oct. 8-9 - The Jr. Comets try to keep up their regulation unbeaten streak against the Rangers, who are 6-0 against Utica since their move from Syracuse in 2019.
• Islanders Hockey Club vs. Twin City Thunder, Oct. 8 - The Thunder won both their Florida match-ups in overtime, with the Islanders picking up an earlier regulation win in 2020-21.
• New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs vs. Philadelphia Hockey Club, Oct. 9 - These two squads split their two Florida meetings in 2020-21.
• South Shore Kings vs. Rockets Hockey Club, Oct. 9 - The Kings are looking for revenge six days after a 7-2 Rockets victory at the BJB Shootout.
• P.A.L. Jr. Islanders vs. Boston Advantage, Oct. 9 - This series is at a 1-1 deadlock with the Advantage winning their first meeting on Jan. 27 in OT.
• Junior Bruins vs. Jersey Hitmen, Oct. 9 - The Junior Bruins are now 3-1 in their last four meetings going back to 2020-21, including Boston’s 2-1 victory on Oct. 2.
• Twin City Thunder at Northern Cyclones, Oct. 11 - Although located just one state and a couple hours drive apart, these teams met just once last year, a 4-2 Cyclones win. The Thunder won their first match-up in 2019, with the Cyclones going 4-0 since then.
Utica Jr. Comets 2020-21 NCDC goaltender Cameron Whitehead has committed to Northeastern University to play NCAA Division I hockey.
Whitehead, 18, came to the Utica Jr. Comets NCDC team for the 2020-21 season and has now moved on to the Lincoln Stars in the USHL. He was the 30th ranked North American goalie on the NHL Central Scouting list in May.
"It feels pretty surreal to be committed to such a great school," Whitehead said. "I'm really looking forward to these next two years of development to be ready for Northeastern in the 2023-24 season. I'm really excited to play at Northeastern because fo the amount of talent that goes through that program that will help me try to get to the next level."
Whitehead spent 29 games in Utica and trained with Robert Esche, a former NHL goalie and Olympian, outside of practices.
“I’m very proud of Cam and what he has been able to accomplish over the last year," Esche said. "His dedication towards becoming a better goalie each and every day has paid off, and I wish him nothing but the best as he continues his growth as a goalie.”
Cam said he loved his time in Utica.
“I had a lot of great memories throughout the year. I got to spend a lot of time at the rink and with the team and just got to know everyone really well. Especially off the ice with my billets I had a lot of great memories with them and created a lifelong friendship.”
He was drafted by the Lincoln Stars in the 2021 USHL Draft and is ready to make the leap to the next level.
Beginning on Friday at New England Sports Center and continuing clean through Monday, the Boston Junior Bruins Shootout is always a great early season event on the USPHL Showcase Series calendar.
This year’s edition, as is the tradition, features several National Collegiate Development Conference games alongside USPHL Premier league play and several USPHL 18U, 16U and 15U teams playing league games and non-league games against high-level opponents from outside the USPHL throughout the four days.
NCDC action kicks off Saturday afternoon and runs through Monday afternoon, while the Midgets and Premier teams jump right into the schedule on Friday morning. Below are the USPHL teams participating in the 2021 BJB Shootout. Schedules for USPHL league games are available on USPHL.com.
Tune in on HockeyTV.com as The Dan K Show has the call for select NCDC games from Saturday through Monday!
Boston Junior Bruins
Connecticut Jr. Rangers
South Shore Kings
Twin City Thunder
Rockets Hockey Club
New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs
P.A.L. Jr. Islanders
Boston Junior Bruins
New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs
South Shore Kings
Connecticut Jr. Rangers
Twin City Thunder
Boston Junior Bruins National
Boston Junior Bruins American
Islanders Hockey Club National
Islanders Hockey Club American
South Shore Kings National
South Shore Kings American
Northern Cyclones Academy Premier
Northern Cyclones Academy Elite
New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs
Connecticut Jr. Rangers
Skipjacks Hockey Club
P.A.L. Jr. Islanders
Rockets Hockey Club
Boston Junior Bruins
Islanders Hockey Club National
Islanders Hockey Club American
Connecticut Jr. Rangers
Connecticut Jr. Rangers Red
Northern Cyclones Academy 16U Premier
P.A.L. Jr. Islanders 16U American
Rockets Hockey Club
New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs
South Shore Kings
P.A.L. Jr. Islanders
Connecticut Jr. Rangers
Islanders Hockey Club
Northern Cyclones Academy
The NCDC delivered in droves on the promise of excitement in every arena as the league kicked off on Thursday, Sept. 23 and featured 13 contests through Sunday evening, a far cry and improvement from the COVID-heavy September of 2020 when only one contest happened in that month.
The first weekend also gave a great first look at where some teams may be heading in the weeks ahead as the league gets into its first pair of North vs. South weekends in the Junior Bruins Shootout followed immediately by the Jersey Hitmen Classic. The Utica Jr. Comets won all three of their first trio of games against the returning Dineen Cup finalist Rockets Hockey Club on this first weekend, putting them in the current points lead at 3-0 for six points.
The Jersey Hitmen, Junior Bruins, Northern Cyclones and Islanders Hockey Club are all 2-0 out of the gate. The P.A.L. Jr. Islanders and Connecticut Jr. Rangers split their first weekend set.
The first weekend saw six out of its 13 games decided by one goal, and three go beyond 60 minutes.
Amazingly/coincidentally, the last 13 regular season games of 2020-21 also saw six one-goal games, with the only difference being only two going beyond 60 minutes.
Utica Jr. Comets See Best First Weekend In NCDC Tenure
Neither the Utica Jr. Comets nor their predecessors the Syracuse Jr. Stars started out 3-0 in any of their first four seasons in the league. Their best three-game starts were 2-1 in both the inaugural 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons, while they started 2020-21 off on the wrong foot with an 0-3 mark that saw three shutouts against to boot.
Louis Educate, new Head Coach for the Jr. Comets, joins four other current or former NCDC coaches as starting their NCDC coaching career with at least three straight wins:
Toby Harris, Jersey Hitmen (4-0) 2017-18
Sean Tremblay, Islanders Hockey Club (4-0) 2017-18
Mike Anderson, Boston Junior Bruins (3-0) 2017-18
Jason Kersner, Rockets Hockey Club (3-0) 2020-21
Louis Educate, Utica Jr. Comets (3-0) 2021-22*
* = Active streak.
• Utica’s 16 goals in their first three games is a best total for their first three games. Their last 16-goal run in three games came towards the start of Hub City Tampa, where they went 2-1 in a three-game set early on between Jan. 11-17.
• Dhillon Wilde (‘02) and Owen Carlile (‘03) lead the team with five points apiece, with Wilde holding a 3-2-5 line and Carlile a 2-3-5 line. Both also lead the NCDC in scoring.
• Walter Baumann (‘01) was already the team’s all-time leading goal-scorer and he’s started with three in his first three games and now has a team record 33 career NCDC goals. Adding an assist this weekend also has him just six points back of former teammate Donny Borgula for the all-time points lead - Baumann has 69 and Borgula is at 75.
• Sebastian Woods (‘01) is 2-0 in net, while Ethan Neitsch (‘03) has the other victory. Both withstood a torrent of shots, combining for 117 against in three games, an average of 39 per contest.
Jersey Hitmen Win Coach Harris’ 750th Game Behind Hitmen Bench
Toby Harris’ history as Head Coach with the Jersey Hitmen’s top team goes back to the mid-2000s, more than 15 years. He celebrated his 750th all-time game behind the bench on Saturday when the Hitmen’s home opener saw them defeat Philadelphia Hockey Club by a 2-1 victory.
It was the fifth straight time Harris won his opening set of games in an NCDC season, the culmination being a 3-0 run with three shutout victories last October at the Junior Bruins Shootout. Never before has each contest in that first set of games been decided by one goal, however.
Friday’s 4-3 OT win was the first time since 2017 that Harris’ Hitmen have started with a game going beyond 60 minutes. Alex Dameski scored at the 2:25 mark.
Their first-ever NCDC game was a 4-3 OT victory over the Northern Cyclones on Sept. 15, 2017 (OT winner was scored by the league’s first-ever Player Of The Year Jeff Losurdo, now with Dartmouth College).
Islanders Hockey Club Eke Out Pair Of One-Goal Wins
The Islanders Hockey Club and South Shore Kings opened up the fifth NCDC season on Sept. 23, when the Islanders defeated the Kings 5-4 on home ice at Skate 3 Arena in Tyngsboro, Mass.
• It was the first time the Islanders have been involved in the very first game of an NCDC season and the second straight for the Kings, who defeated the Junior Bruins, 3-2, on Sept. 22, 2020.
• Andrew Carmody scored the regulation game-winning goal on Friday, and came back Sunday to score the OT winner against the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs, who dedicated the Ryan Frew Memorial Rink (more on that evening below). He was the only player to score game-winners to give his team wins in their first two games this season. This happened for two players last year: Alex Mozian (now at Trinity College) started the 2020-21 Hitmen season with game-winners in his team’s first two game-winners; and the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs’ Grant Porter (now in the USHL) scored a game-winner in full team play in their 2020-21 season opener as well as a shootout winner in the second game.
Northern Cyclones Get Off To 2-0 Start
The Northern Cyclones enjoyed their first weekend sweep in their NCDC history. Twice, they split games (2018-19 and 2019-20), and last year, they fell in a single opening weekend game against the rival Monarchs.
They defeated the Monarchs in a Friday afternoon matinee at Cyclones Arena, a 2-1 shootout win. It was the Cyclones’ first win in their season opener in three straight tries, all at their home rink. They traveled to Foxboro on Saturday where they beat the South Shore Kings, 6-3.
• Graham Broadfoot, an ‘02 rookie from Ohio, was the first Cyclones player to ever have his first NCDC goal be a shootout goal, or for that matter, a shootout game-winner.
• With three assists, defenseman Brendan Dickey leads the team in points, the second straight year a Cyclones defenseman has done so. Current Lake Superior State blueliner Artyom Borshyov kicked off last season with three points in his first two games.
Junior Bruins See First Shutout Win Of NCDC Season
One day after overcoming a 3-2 deficit to win their opener 5-3 against the Boston Advantage, the Junior Bruins registered the first shutout win of the NCDC season. Rookie goaltender Colin Winn (‘04) stopped all 30 shots he faced against the Twin City Thunder. He now has given up just three goals on 68 shots for a .958 save percentage, leading all goalies who saw two games in the opening weekend.
• Only two other Junior Bruins goalies have registered shutouts in either their first or second career NCDC game (always the second in this case): Current Army goalie Ryan Wilson in 2020-21 during Hub City Tampa; and Bryan McGrath, during the 2018-19 season. Current Quinnipiac goalie Yaniv Perets registered a shutout in the second game of his second season, in 2018-19.
• Holy Cross recruit Joe Solimine had two goals and two assists in his first two games, and Army recruit Jude Brower had four assists to share the team lead after the first weekend. Both are returning NCDC Junior Bruins, illustrating the veteran leadership of the Junior Bruins taking charge.
Around The League
The New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs and their home facility the Tri-Town Ice Arena honored late head coach Ryan Frew, who passed away on Oct. 5, 2020, of non-COVID-related natural causes, with the renaming of the Monarchs’ home rink as the Ryan Frew Memorial Rink.
His son Seamus delivered the dedication address, and Seamus, older brother Quentin and younger sister Layla all led the Monarchs onto the ice for the first time at Ryan Frew Memorial Rink in a beautiful show of unity between the Monarchs and the Frew family. The entire NCDC misses Ryan Frew greatly. His positivity and smile lit up every room he walked into, and we hope that spirit will always live on at the Ryan Frew Memorial Rink and everywhere.
• With a goal and three assists in his first two games, Connecticut Jr. Rangers third-year veteran Schuyler Flansburg currently leads his team in scoring and is tied for second overall in the NCDC after a split weekend with the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders.
• Northern Cyclones at Boston Advantage, Oct. 1 - Cyclones won their first season series with the Advantage 2-1 last season, including one OT victory.
• Utica Jr. Comets at Philadelphia Hockey Club, Oct. 1-3 - Jr. Comets head to Hollydell Ice Arena for their second of five three-game weekend sets against a common opponent.
• South Shore Kings vs. Connecticut Jr. Rangers, Oct. 2 - The first NCDC game at the Junior Bruins Shootout. Jr. Rangers won the 2020-21 season series 2-1.
• Twin City Thunder vs. Jersey Hitmen, Oct. 2 - Also at the Junior Bruins shootout, the NCDC semifinalists take up their rematch.
• New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs vs. Rockets Hockey Club, Oct. 2 - Rockets swept only two games in this matchup last season and are currently on a 3-0 streak vs. Monarchs.
• Junior Bruins vs. P.A.L. Junior Islanders, Oct. 2 - Junior Bruins swept 2020-21 season series 4-0, including one OT win.
• Jersey Hitmen vs. Junior Bruins, Oct. 3 - Junior Bruins took last season’s series 2-1, including one shootout win, though the Hitmen took their sole victory by shutout at the Space Coast Classic, the only Hub City Tampa game held on the Atlantic coast of Florida.
• Rockets Hockey Club vs. South Shore, Oct. 3 - Rockets captured the season series 2-1, with South Shore’s 1-0 victory coming in OT.
• Connecticut Jr. Rangers vs. Twin City Thunder, Oct. 3 - These two opponents split a pair of one-goal games in Florida in 2020-21.
• P.A.L. Jr. Islanders vs. New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs, Oct. 3 - Monarchs won their first Florida match-up in a shootout, before P.A.L. won second game more decisively.
• New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs vs. Jersey Hitmen, Oct. 4 - The Hitmen won both their Hub City Tampa games last year, one year after a 2-2 split for the 2019-20 campaign.
• Rockets Hockey Club vs. Twin City Thunder, Oct. 4 - The all-time series is tied 3-3, as the Thunder went 3-1 during 2019-20, and the Rockets won both their Tampa meetings.
• South Shore Kings vs. P.A.L. Jr. Islanders, Oct. 4 - The Kings won both their games last year (one in OT), one year after P.A.L. went 4-0 in the season series.
• Connecticut Jr. Rangers vs. Junior Bruins, Oct. 4 - These teams - led by Head Coaches who both played under the late Gary Dineen, the Dineen Cup’s namesake - split the two-game season series in 2020-21.