The majority of the National Collegiate Development Conference will convene in Wayne, N.J., at the end of this week. Eight NCDC teams play in the annual Hitmen Classic, a USPHL Showcase Series event that will include league play in not only the NCDC, but also in the USPHL 18U and 16U full-season divisions.
Two other series will take place away from the Classic on Saturday-Sunday (Rochester at Boston Bandits) and Sunday-Monday (Islanders Hockey Club at Utica).
Hitmen Ride Undefeated Wave Into Classic
The 2019-20 season could not have had a better start for the Hitmen Classic hosts. They remain perfect at 8-0 out of the gates for the 2019-20 season. With their first eight wins, they continue to extend the record for best start in the three-year history of the NCDC.
They have a long way to go to match what is both their best streak and the best winning streak in the NCDC’s history, when they went 19-0 from Oct. 29, 2018 to Jan. 20, 2019.
Over this past weekend, the Hitmen defeated the Rochester Monarchs, who continue to look for answers in an 0-5 season. The Hitmen’s 15 goals this weekend were a two-game season high (not counting showcases), and their highest since scoring 17 over Nov. 10-11, 2018.
University of Vermont recruit Mickey Burns enters the Classic with an active four-game point streak, with seven points in that stretch.
Ahead: The Hitmen draw the South Shore Kings on Thursday, ahead of their biggest marquee game so far, when the defending Dineen Cup champion Junior Bruins take on the Classic hosts, winners of the Founders Cup as regular season champions. On Saturday, the NCDC Free Game Of The Week will feature the Hitmen against the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs, with The Dan K Show on the call.
For Rochester, it’s a Saturday-Sunday trip to Bridgewater, Mass., to face the Boston Bandits.
Close Calls, But Junior Bruins Rebound For Win
On Sunday, the Junior Bruins found themselves down a goal entering the third period. Now, where have we heard that before? Oh yes, it was the pivotal Game 2 of the Dineen Cup Finals, where they scored four unanswered third period goals to force the decisive Game 3.
There was no hardware riding on Sunday’s game, but the Junior Bruins continue to prove they will not be kept down for long.
Out of their six wins, the Junior Bruins have come back from being down after at least one period three times, also doing so against the Islanders Hockey Club (Sept. 28) and Utica Jr. Comets (Sept. 22).
University of Connecticut recruit Johnny Mulera, the NCDC’s Forward Of The Month for September, is already making his case for the October title, scoring a hat trick in the comeback against the Bandits and five points for the weekend. He now has 18 points in nine games. For his NCDC career, he has a record 108 points in 106 games.
Ahead: The Junior Bruins have the aforementioned Cup vs. Cup showdown against the Hitmen, and they will also face the Rockets Hockey Club and P.A.L. Jr. Islanders at the Classic. The Bandits host the Rochester Jr. Monarchs for two games, and the Twin City Thunder are on a bye week.
P.A.L. Pushes Its Way Into Fourth Place
The Jr. Islanders enter the Hitmen Classic having not lost in regulation over their last seven, falling in 60 minutes only in their season-opener. Most recently, the Jr. Islanders closed their third straight three-point weekend, winning Saturday in Utica and falling on Sunday in a shootout.
With an active 4-0-2-1 run, they are two points away from matching the points total of their all-time best run without a regulation loss, 6-0-1 from Jan. 27 to Feb. 11, 2018.
The Jr. Islanders have gone beyond regulation the most of any NCDC team so far in 2019-20, going 1-2 in OT, and 0-1 in the shootout.
In goal, Jr. Islanders goalie Henry Graham moved himself into first place in both the goals against (1.29) and save percentage (.972) categories.
Ahead: Along with facing the Junior Bruins at the Hitmen Classic, P.A.L. will face the Northern Cyclones and New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs.
The Utica Jr. Comets will host the Islanders Hockey Club - who are coming off a bye week - at the Adirondack Bank Center, pushing for their first regulation win at home.
Four In A Row For Northern Cyclones
The Northern Cyclones’ Friday win over the Connecticut Jr. Rangers in their only action last weekend was the team’s fourth straight victory. They have won four in a row to stand third in the league with an .800 winning percentage, off a 4-1 record. That is a high for standings position for the Cyclones after as many games, and with three contests at the Hitmen Classic, they aim to keep it that way.
Amazingly, each one of the Cyclones’ four wins has been by one goal. Only the Bandits have as many consecutive one-goal games (Sept. 21-29), though their record over those four were 1-1-1-1, including a regulation loss to the Cyclones.
Defenseman Roman Ledenev, who scored the OT GWG against the Rangers, leads the NCDC in points per game by a defenseman with 1.20 (six points in five games). Two of his four goals are OT winners, and he also has a shorthanded goal.
Ahead: The Cyclones clash with the P.A.L. first before a Friday rematch with the Rangers, and on Saturday, they close against the Rockets Hockey Club.
Rangers Go To Classic Unbeaten In Regulation In Five
The Connecticut Jr. Rangers have gone 3-0-2 in their last five, but being competitive athletes, they are certainly not happy with the 0-0-2 in their last pair of games, both at their home Chelsea Piers facility.
The Rangers, at 4-2-2 overall, stand at fifth place in the NCDC in both points (10) and winning percentage (.625). At the Hitmen Classic, they first face the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs, against whom they went 1-3 last year. The Monarchs (and P.A.L. Jr. Islanders) are just one point ahead of the Rangers. The Rangers will also face the Cyclones, two points below Connecticut, in their two-game stint at the Hitmen Classic.
New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs Seeing A Lot Of Variety
The New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs head into their third straight weekend of seeing multiple opponents, though mixing it up the last two hasn’t been 100 percent fruitful for the Purple and Gold. They’ve earned five of a possible eight points against the Boston Bandits (two games), Twin City Thunder and Islanders Hockey Club.
This weekend, they mix it up again, facing the Rangers, P.A.L. Jr. Islanders and Hitmen. They haven’t seen the Rangers or Hitmen yet, but they split a pair of 4-2 games with P.A.L. in the mid-September opening weekend.
Rockets Get On The Board With First ‘W’
After an unfriendly start of going 0-4, the Rockets Hockey Club broke through with their first “W,” one of only two squads to go through September winless. They defeated South Shore on Sunday, 7-3.
Despite struggling in games, the Rockets have kicked up the offense, and tied for fourth in the league in goals for at 23. More than half of that goals total came this weekend, when they scored 12 goals (6-5 loss, 7-3 win) against the visiting South Shore Kings.
In order to make any kind of run, the back end will need to be taken care of, as the Rockets are 10th in goals against (29).
Ahead: The Rockets face the same South Shore Kings again on Friday. The Kings have split their last three weekends, two of those against different opponents on each of two days. The Rockets start out against the Junior Bruins on Thursday evening.
The Kings start with the Hitmen on Thursday. The last time these teams met in Foxboro, on Sept. 16, the Hitmen won in overtime. The Kings were the first to gain one of the three points for any opponents against the Hitmen.