Forward: Mark Padgett, Hampton Roads Whalers
It’s a long way from Padgett’s hometown of Anchorage, Alaska, to Chesapeake, Va., but he’s making the most of the miles. The 2003-born forward has evened up his points per game by scoring two goals and five assists over the last two games. He now has 10 points in 10 games.
Defense: Tyler Fittro, Carolina Jr. Hurricanes
The Jr. Cane from Cedar Falls, Iowa, picked up a goal and two assists in the second of a pair of games against Hampton Roads. The ‘01 second year veteran has seven points in four games and is also tied for the lead among defensemen in team plus-minus (+7).
Goaltender: Dylan Dallaire, Potomac Patriots
Dallaire (‘01/Timmins, Ont.) has returned to the crease for a much-improved Patriots team, one that got its first win over Charlotte since Feb. 1, 2020. He stopped 51 of 52 Rush shots in a decisive victory. He is 3-4 with a .922 save percentage.
Forward: Brett Beale, Tampa Bay Juniors
Beale (‘03/Highland, Mich.) scored two goals and added an assist as the Blades got the sweep over Tampa Bay in a home-and-home series. He has 8-4-12 totals through 11 games.
Defense: Trevor Voyda, Florida Eels
The five-year USPHL veteran, Voyda (‘01/Naples, Fla.) is in his third year with the Premier Eels, and he shows it every day. He had a goal and an assist in the weekend sweep of the Palm Beach Typhoon. At 86 games, he is fourth all-time in Eels games played by a blueliner.
Goaltender: Sal Carabelli, Florida Jr. Blades
Carabelli (‘02/Shelby Township, Mich.) made 38 saves on 40 shots by the Tampa Bay Juniors last Friday for his third win of the season, moving to 3-2. The second-year Premier goalie Carabelli also has an impressive .924 save percentage.
The United States Premier Hockey League is proud of all 15 of its alumni who were listed on the first NHL Central Scouting Preliminary Players To Watch List for the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. The Draft will be held July 7-8, 2022, at the Bell Centre in Montreal, tentatively the first publicly attended draft since 2019, held prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Players on the Preliminary Players To Watch List are listed simply as A, B or C-rated players. A players are first round candidates, while B players are second and third round candidates, and C players are fourth through sixth round candidates. The players listed below have passed through at least one of four different USPHL leagues - the National Collegiate Development Conference, the USPHL Premier, USPHL 18U and USPHL 16U - and in some cases more than one level.
Jackson Dorrington, D - Boston Junior Bruins, NCDC 2020-21
Dorrington, an ‘04, committed to Northeastern University while with the Junior Bruins last season. He played the full season for Mike Anderson’s squad, posting two goals and 18 assists for 20 points in 33 regular season games. He also added three assists in six postseason games as the Junior Bruins advanced to the NCDC Dineen Cup semifinals. He is currently playing in the USHL for the Des Moines Buccaneers, after playing for Team USA in the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup this summer.
David Goyette, C - P.A.L. Jr. Islanders, NCDC 2020-21
A 2004-born native of Saint-Jerome, Que., Goyette played four regular season games for the Jr. Islanders in 2020-21, and registered six points. He is currently playing for the Sudbury Wolves of the OHL.
Ryan Healey, D - Boston Advantage, USPHL 16U/NCDC 2020-21
Healey, a teammate at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup of Jackson Dorrington and Cameron Lund, played in four USPHL 16U games, posting four points. He also played in two NCDC games, but did not register a point. The ‘04 Hull, Mass., native is committed to Harvard University after playing for his current team, the USHL’s Sioux City Musketeers.
Mats Lindgren, D - Chicago Cougars, USPHL Premier 2020-21
An ‘04 from North Vancouver, B.C., played in 10 games for the Cougars last season, picking up two goals and nine assists for 11 points, prior to joining his current team, the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers.
Cameron Lund, C - Boston Junior Bruins, NCDC 2020-21
The 2004-born Lund grew up in Bridgewater, Mass., and played youth hockey for both the South Shore Kings and Junior Bruins. Years later, he would be a major cog in the machine for the 2020-21 Junior Bruins NCDC team, from which he committed to Northeastern along with teammate Dorrington. Last season, Lund posted 17-17-34 totals in 40 games, and he added six more points in six playoff games. Lund is currently playing in the USHL for the Green Bay Gamblers.
Micah Berger, LW - Rockets Hockey Club, USPHL 18U 2020-21
The 2004-born native of Bethesda, Md., played primarily for the Rockets Hockey Club 16U team, but also played in one USPHL 18U league game, registering three goals and one assist.
Jack Brandt, C - South Shore Kings, NCDC 2020-21
Brandt (‘04/Columbus, Ohio) joined the Kings for seven games in 2020-21, registering a goal and an assist.
James Fisher, C - Boston Junior Bruins, USPHL 16U 2019-20
A future Northeastern teammate of fellow Junior Bruins program alumni Jackson Dorrington and Cameron Lund, Fisher played in 27 USPHL 16U games in 2019-20, posting 6-5-11 totals, and he also appeared in five postseason games.
Jacob Guevin, D - Northwood School, USPHL 18U 2019-20
A Nebraska-Omaha commit, the ‘03 out of Drummondville, Que., played in 12 USPHL 18U league games in 2019-20, posting a 5-11-16 line. He added an assist in three playoff games. He currently plays for the USHL’s Muskegon Lumberjacks.
Tyler Muszelik, G - Rockets Hockey Club, USPHL 16U 2019-20
Muszelik (‘04/Long Valley, N.J.) never lost a USPHL game in his time in the league, going 8-0 in the regular season and 2-0, all as a true 15U player (the Rockets 15U team played as the Rockets HC Black team in the USPHL 16U American Division in 2019-20). The University of New Hampshire recruit currently plays for the U.S. National Team Development Program’s 18U squad.
Cedricson Okitundu, D - Fresno Monsters, USPHL Premier 2020-21
Okitundu (‘04/Waterloo, Ont.) joined the Monsters in their inaugural USPHL season last year, posting six goals and eight assists for 14 points in 15 games. He also had a goal in the playoffs for a team that eventually reached the Premier National Championship tournament. He currently plays for the OHL’s Erie Otters.
Owen Paskowski, D - Boston Bandits, USPHL 16U, 2017-18 / Twin City Thunder, NCDC 2020-21
The ‘04 from Plymouth, Mass., played up a few levels from his regular 13U team to the Bandits’ 16U squad for four regular season games in 2017-18. Three years later, he was back in the USPHL with the Thunder of the NCDC, playing in 12 games for the Auburn, Maine-based team. Paskowski also played youth hockey for the South Shore Kings and Junior Bruins in his early career.
Nick Ring, C - Boston Advantage, NCDC 2020-21
Ring (‘03/Hingham, Mass.) was a career Advantage player and an obvious choice as one of the leaders of their first NCDC team last year. Ring posted 13 goals and eight assists for 21 points in 43 games, and two more assists in three playoff games. He is committed to the University of New Hampshire.
Dylan Silverstein, G - Islanders Hockey Club, USPHL 16U 2018-19
Silverstein (‘04/Calabasas, Calif.) is a creasemate of Muszelik with the NTDP 18U team, but well before that, he helped the Islanders Hockey Club win the USPHL 16U National Championship in 2019. During the regular season, he played 13 games and went 10-2 on the season.
Cameron Whitehead, G - Utica Jr. Comets, NCDC 2020-21
Whitehead (‘03/Orleans, Ont.) gets another shot at the NHL Draft, as he was among those listed in the Final Rankings for the 2021 Draft. Whitehead was the clear No. 1 for the 2020-21 Jr. Comets, as he played in 29 games and put up an 11-12-3-0 record for the campaign, and he also played in two postseason games. He currently tends net for the Lincoln Stars of the USHL.
Organizational Alumni Listed In Preliminary Players To Watch List
Grayson Badger - Former South Shore Kings Youth Player
Brady Berard - Former South Shore Kings and Boston Junior Bruins Youth Player
William Hughes - Former Islanders Hockey Club and Boston Junior Bruins Youth Player
Bobby Landry - Former Boston Advantage Youth Player
Declan Loughnane - Former non-USPHL South Shore Kings 18U Split-Season Midget Player
Conor Sullivan - Former non-USPHL Boston Junior Bruins (Little Bruins) Split-Season Midget Player
Forward: Patriks Marcinkevics, Jersey Hitmen
The man on fire in the NCDC, Marcinkevics (‘01/Riga, Latvia) leads in both consecutive games with points and most points in those games. He has scored eight goals (all in six consecutive games) and added five assists for 13 points in six contests. Most recently, he included three goals and an assist, including a shorthanded and a power play goal within those totals. The second-year NCDC veteran is second in scoring with 16 points in 10 games.
Defense: Sean Melso, Jersey Hitmen
Melso (‘02/Philadelphia, Pa.) has been the two-way strength of the Hitmen, getting the job done in the offensive zone in this weekend’s split with Utica (goal, two assists) while leading the team in two categories of ice time (total and shorthanded). Overall, Melso is tied with teammate Brandon Cimino for the overall lead in defenseman scoring in the NCDC with 12 points.
Goaltender: Derek Manzella, Connecticut Jr. Rangers
Manzella (‘02/Eagan, Minn.) bounced back from a tough loss in the prior weekend when he stepped into the net against the Rockets Hockey Club. He stopped 33 of 38 shots in that first game, facing down all three overtime shots he saw in the 6-5 win. The next night, he stopped 42 of 45 through 65 minutes. He also stopped all three Rockets shooters en route to a 4-3 shootout victory and 2-0 weekend.
Forward: Cade Helmer, Boston Advantage
Helmer (‘01/Hershey, Pa.) was all over the scoresheet for the Advantage over their 2-1 performance this past week. He posted a goal and an assist against Twin City in the Advantage’s loss, but was then a big part of the 2-0 bounceback effort thereafter. He assisted on the first goal (also the game-winner by Charlie Killian) in the shutout against the Cyclones, then scored two goals - the first and the second/game-winner - against the Islanders Hockey Club.
Defense: Ryan Hintz, Twin City Thunder
Returning to this spot for a second straight week is the ‘03 out of Rockford, Ill. He helped the Thunder to two wins in a three-game week. Hintz is the Thunder’s leader in shifts (157 this year), and he leads the defense in blocked shots (10). Offensively, he had an assist against the Advantage and two games later, posted a power play goal and assist in the win against the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs.
Goaltender: Connor Bradford, Boston Advantage
The second-year NCDC veteran Bradford (‘02/Kingston, Mass.) earned a 31-save shutout as the crowning jewel of a killer weekend. He was more than happy to have that shutout effort after a tough game a few days earlier against the Twin City Thunder. After getting that fourth shutout of his career (100 percent of all-time Advantage shutouts), he stopped 43 of 44 Islanders Hockey Club shots in a 4-1 win.
Three NCDC teams went 2-0 over the weekend to either even their winning percentage at .500 (the Boston Advantage) or climb one game over that mark (P.A.L. Jr. Islanders and Connecticut Jr. Rangers).
These were big confidence-building wins for the Advantage and the Jr. Rangers, both coming against teams in second place or at the top of their respective divisions. Overall, it was a fantastic weekend for the parity of the NCDC, as 11 of the 13 teams picked up at least one win in the space of the last week.
The Rockets Hockey Club keeps nipping at the heels of the South Division-leading Utica Jr. Comets, standing undefeated in regulation over their last seven games at 5-0-1-1.
Boston Advantage Rebound With Two Gems
The Advantage’s week started with a bit of a tough pill in the form of a 7-3 loss to the Twin City Thunder up in Maine. Back in action two days later, on Friday, the Advantage picked up their second shutout of the season, defeating the Northern Cyclones in their own barn, 7-0. Next up, on Saturday, they hosted the Islanders Hockey Club and won by a 4-1 score. Both of the Advantage’s two shutouts this year are against the Cyclones, whom they also defeated 4-0 on Oct. 1.
• The Advantage have already tied their total shutouts from the 2020-21 season, with two shutouts both happening by Oct. 21.
• This past weekend was the second time in their history when they gave up one combined goal in two games - they did the same on Oct. 21 and 22, a 4-0 shutout over the Islanders Hockey Club and a 2-1 win over the Twin City Thunder.
• Connor Bradford (‘02) has been in net for all four of the Advantage’s shutouts in their two-year existence in the NCDC. He and Jacob Torgner (two shutouts for Philadelphia Hockey Club) are the only two active or past NCDC goaltenders to have the credit for 100 percent of their team’s shutouts.
• The Advantage’s seven goals scored on Friday tied their record, set Jan. 7, 2021, against the Philadelphia Hockey Club in a 7-1 win. Seven goals is also the team’s record for largest margin of victory.
• Manny Sanchez (‘01) is enjoying an NCDC career-best five-game scoring streak with a 1-6-7 line during that time. Sanchez is playing in his second NCDC and fourth USPHL season.
P.A.L. Jr. Islanders Sweep Philadelphia, But PHC Takes Two Points
All was not lost for the Philadelphia Hockey Club in their weekend of taking a pair of losses to the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders. Both games went beyond 60 minutes. The Jr. Islanders won the first game 1-0, and was back on neutral ice (Aviator Sports and Events Center) on Sunday to seal four points up with a shootout victory.
• The Islanders extended their winning streak against Philadelphia to seven games. Philly won their first-ever match-up 8-4 on Nov. 2, 2020, but have taken five points against P.A.L. in all eight of their games so far.
• The Jr. Islanders’ last 1-0 result came on Sept. 29, 2019, a game that also went to overtime. Out of four 1-0 results in their NCDC history, the more recent were the only two to end 0-0 after regulation.
• 2003-born defenseman Jake Geraci, an NCDC rookie with two prior years at the USPHL 16U level, was the OT hero in Game 1 against Philadelphia. His OT goal was his second straight and second overall this year.
• Another NCDC rookie, Cam Smith (‘02) earned the 36-save shutout against Philadelphia. With six appearances, Smith is tied for fifth in games played. He is also fifth league-wide in goals against average (2.40) and save percentage (.940).
• Ryan Mahlmeister (‘01) has three points this season. This includes one game-winning goal and one game-winning assist. It does not, however, include his shootout game-winner on Sunday.
• For PHC’s Cody Blight (‘02), two of his three goals have tied a game at the point in which they were scored, including Sunday’s tying goal that sent the game to overtime and the shootout.
Connecticut’s Sweep Of Rockets Hockey Club Also Gives Up Two Points
While the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders and Connecticut Jr. Rangers both earned four points, they also have another thing in common - their standings “gain” in the divisional matchups was two, as both games went beyond 60 minutes. On Friday, it was a 6-5 overtime victory, followed by a 4-3 shootout victory on Saturday.
Despite giving up a couple points, getting the sweep was some sweet vengeance after the Rockets had taken the 2020-21 season series 5-1.
• Friday, Oct. 15, marking Connecticut’s eighth game, was the latest for the Jr. Rangers to reach OT or a shootout in their five-year NCDC existence. They were not, however, the last this season to be pushed beyond regulation - the Boston Advantage have not yet ventured beyond 60 minutes.
• Dean Rocco (‘02) picked the perfect time to sink his first NCDC goal, that standing up as the OT game-winner in Game 1 of the weekend. Adding an assist in the game also gave him his first career multi-point effort.
• Andrei Levushkin (‘01) scored two “regular" - i.e., non-shootout - goals this weekend to make him the Connecticut Jr. Rangers’ all-time leading NCDC goal-scorer with 34 regular season markers. He broke a record of 33 previously held by Colin Slyne (2017-19). With his shootout winner over the Rockets, he is now just one away from hitting double digits for his career in game-deciding goals. He has seven game-winning goals (one in overtime) and two shootout winners in his three-year NCDC career.
Rockets Putting Together Hot Points Streak Despite Weekend Losses
Not since Oct. 2, a 4-2 defeat to the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs, have the Rockets Hockey Club failed to earn at least a point in a game. They are 5-1-1-1 in the month of October so far, a big relief coming after an 0-3 start in September. It of course pales in comparison to their eight-game winning streak which they pushed from Jan. 31 to Feb. 12, but it does show flashes of the team that reached the Dineen Cup Finals.
The Rangers and Rockets swapped situations this weekend. In the first game, the Rockets’ Evan Brown scored the final regulation goal at 13:17 to force the overtime eventually won by the Rangers. At about the same point in regulation on Saturday (12:39), the Rangers’ Bobby Barrasso scored the goal that left things even at the end of regulation.
• Defenseman Evan Pahos (‘03), an Edina, Minn., native who’s lived in Colorado most of his recent years, is quietly on an active four-game scoring streak, in which he has strung together five assists. He assisted on fellow ‘03 Evan Brown’s game-tying goal on Friday and added two more helpers on Saturday. Pahos is tied for third in the league for points by defensemen with 10 through 11 contests, and is the only rookie blueliner with double digits in points so far.
Kings Take Shutout Win, Points In All But Two October Games
South Shore made for bad hosts in defeating the Twin City Thunder by a 3-0 score on Friday. That win gave the Kings not only points in two straight games, but they have earned points in five of seven games so far this month. Only the Rockets Hockey Club (7-2 win on Oct. 3) and P.A.L. Jr. Islanders (2-1 win on Oct. 8) defeated the Kings in regulation. For the month, they are 4-2-1-0.
With their win over the Thunder, the Kings evened up their goal differential on the season, while simultaneously evening up their record at 4-4-1.
• Tristan Mecenas (‘02) was the shutout hero, making 24 saves for his first donut of his young NCDC career. He is 3-0-1-0 in October, and his only loss so far was in the entire NCDC season opener back on Sept. 23.
• The three shutouts over the last week across the NCDC were the most in a seven-day period since a stretch of five over seven days in early February in Hub City Tampa.
• Timothy Heinke (‘01) has the third-most points in any active scoring streak, with 12 points (8-4) through the last seven games. He is third in points per game (1.56) and fourth in points (14).
Around The Boards
• The Twin City Thunder’s 4-3 overtime win on Oct. 16 was a bounceback victory, after their loss to the South Shore Kings. Trace Norwell (‘02) posted the overtime game-winning goal with his first NCDC goal. It was the first time since Sept. 23, 2019 (Gonzalo Hagerman, now at Bowdoin College) that a Thunder player’s first NCDC goal was the deciding factor in an OT game. That was the Thunder’s fifth-ever game.
• The Northern Cyclones won 10-3 against the Boston Junior Bruins just a day before taking their shutout loss to the Advantage. The Cyclones were the second team to hit double digits this year so far, and matched the amount of double digits in all of 2020-21. Paden Hicks (‘02) earned a hat trick in the big victory. It was the first hat trick by a Cyclone since Feb. 13, 2020, when current Air Force Academy player Will Gavin potted three. That was the team’s second hat trick after Bryce DeFazio (now at SUNY-Geneseo) also scored three on Nov. 16, 2019.
• Utica and the Jersey Hitmen split their weekend series, a 6-2 Utica win preceding a 7-2 Hitmen victory. Utica’s win was the first time the franchise (also formerly known as the Syracuse Jr. Stars) defeated the Hitmen since a 5-3 Syracuse victory on Jan. 14, 2018. Saturday’s victory broke a 16-game Hitmen winning streak in the all-time series, including all games between the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons. The Hitmen still own a 21-2 series advantage, with two overtime victories within that.
• Hitmen '01 forward Patriks Marcinkevics’ point streak passed the two points per game average mark over his last six games. He has 13 points (8-5) in that stretch of contests. His eight goals in five games is the league’s best goal-scoring streak.
• Holy Cross commit Joe Solimine ('02) has not failed to miss the scoresheet this season - in all 10 of his games, he has a 5-12-17 line. The amount of games and points lead in both categories for NCDC streaks. He had two goals when the Junior Bruins defeated the Islanders Hockey Club, 6-4, in Sunday.
• South Shore Kings at New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs, Oct. 19: The Jr. Monarchs hold a 7-2-0-1 record in the all-time series. These teams faced just once last year, in Florida, with the Kings standing victorious.
• Twin City Thunder at Islanders Hockey Club, Oct. 22: The Thunder have won their last three straight meetings, two going to overtime.
• South Shore Kings at Northern Cyclones, Oct. 22: The Cyclones defeated the Kings 6-3 on Sept. 25, and the Kings won their only 2020-21 match-up 3-2 in a shootout on the second day of Hub City Tampa.
• P.A.L. Jr. Islanders at Utica Jr. Comets, Oct. 22-23: The Jr. Islanders and Jr. Comets split their 2020-21 season series with two wins apiece - with one of the Jr. Comets going to SO in Florida.
• Philadelphia Hockey Club vs. Rockets Hockey Club, Oct. 22-23: The home-and-home series begins in Bridgewater on Friday night. The Rockets have won all of their six meetings so far, all in regulation.
• Junior Bruins at New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs, Oct. 22: The Junior Bruins won their last two meetings of 2020-21, after an initial Monarchs victory almost exactly a year ago, Oct. 23.
• Connecticut Jr. Rangers vs. Jersey Hitmen, Oct. 23-24: Another South Division home-and-home series, these two teams are currently separated by just six-thousandths of a percentage point in winning percentage. Hitmen are at .556 with the Rangers at .550.
• Boston Advantage at Junior Bruins, Oct. 24: Both teams’ 2021-22 seasons began with a 5-3 Junior Bruins victory. The Advantage are looking for their first win in nine games against the Junior Bruins.
• Northern Cyclones at Twin City Thunder, Oct. 24: The Northern Cyclones won their most recent matchup, 3-1, on Oct. 11.
• New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs at Boston Advantage, Oct. 25: The Monarchs have won two out of three, but all three of their meetings in 2020-21 went beyond 60 minutes.
The USPHL Premier league will be well-represented by its Great Lakes and Midwest East Divisions at Mount Clemens Ice Arena between Friday, Oct. 22 and Sunday, Oct. 24.
Each of the 14 teams in the two divisions will play cross-divisional games, with a total of 28 games being played over the weekend.
The Metro Jets and the Metro Jets Development Team, whose home facility is the Mount Clemens Ice Arena, are the hosts of this official event of the USPHL Showcase Series.
The action all kicks off on Friday at 11:30 a.m. EST, with a showdown between the Toledo Cherokee and Detroit Fighting Irish. The final game to hit the ice will be Sunday at 3:30 p.m. between the Cincinnati Jr. Cyclones and Motor City Hockey Club.
All of the games will be broadcast on HockeyTV, and there will be a selection of games each day featuring Dan Kmiechick and Lucas Jones of The Dan K Show, the USPHL’s Official Broadcasting and Podcasting Team.
Watch for interviews and other exciting content throughout the weekend on all of the USPHL Social Media Channels!
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: