Pretty much everyone in hockey would agree. You want to be playing your best hockey as the playoffs are approaching - so you can get even better once the postseason begins.
As of Wednesday evening, the South Shore Kings and Islanders Hockey Club are both on 5-0 winning streaks heading into this weekend. These are the longest winning streaks for both teams in 2019-20.
What’s more, both are perfect for 2020 thus far. This is the third straight season that two teams have gone at least 5-0 from the start of a new year.
The Islanders Hockey Club did it once prior, in 2017-18, going 11-0 from the start of 2018 - part of an overall 16-0 winning streak. That year, the Junior Bruins started the year 2018 with a 6-0 run, part of an overall eight-game winning streak.
Last season, the Jersey Hitmen went 6-0 to start January 2019, part of their record 19-game winning streak. The Northern Cyclones also went 5-0 from the start of the new year.
This year’s Islanders Hockey Club and South Shore Kings have both started new streaks with the new year and decade, as both teams lost their final games of 2019.
Kings Earn Wins Over Top Two
The South Shore Kings became the first team in 2019-20 to earn regulation wins over both of the top teams (Jersey Hitmen and Junior Bruins) in the space of just four games. They defeated the Hitmen 6-2 on Jan. 6, the final day of the USPHL Winter Showcase, and they beat the Junior Bruins 5-4 on Jan. 15.
They are one of just three teams to beat both of the two frontrunners so far in 2019-20. The Boston Bandits and Connecticut Jr. Rangers also have one win against each team this season.
Lucas Kucera, who was acquired from Utica in November, had the game-winner against the Junior Bruins to put together a four-game scoring streak going back to the Hitmen game, in which he has three goals and five assists.
He is one of three Kings to have point streaks encompassing both landmark victories against the iron of the league - he is joined in that respect by Joey LaRossa (3-4-7 in 5 games) and Uri Lurie (2-3-5 in 4 games).
The Kings are now just five points out of a playoff spot, looking for a big push out of 11th place.
Ahead: The Kings face the Bandits for a pair at Bridgewater Ice Arena this weekend. Each team has won a game against the other, the Kings in a 4-3 shootout on Oct. 19, and the Bandits in a 3-1 victory on Dec. 22.
Islanders Hockey Club Starts Second Half Strong
There may be NCDC playoff hockey at Merrimack College in March, especially if the Islanders keep on their current pace. They’ve won their last five straight and have lifted themselves from 10th place (at the Christmas break) to seventh place and only six points out of fourth.
During their five-game winning streak, they’ve been able to defeat three teams that were higher in the standings with them coming into January. Based on standings just prior to the Christmas break, they defeated the fifth-place P.A.L. Jr. Islanders, the seventh-place New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs and the eighth-place Boston Bandits.
All six of the point-scorers in the Islanders’ Sunday win over the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs were on minimum five-game point streaks. The charge was led by University of New Hampshire recruit Cy Leclerc, who has 13 points through his last seven games.
Ahead: The Islanders’ winning streak has been part of the set of circumstances dropping the Bandits into ninth, a non-playoff position. The Islanders face the Bandits on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at home (Gallant Arena). From there, they take on the fifth-place Northern Cyclones on Saturday, also at home (Lawler Arena) and also at 7:30 p.m.
Hitmen Add Two More Wins, Including Harris’ 500th
The Ice Vault in Wayne, N.J., means a lot to Jersey Hitmen Head Coach Toby Harris. He was there when the Hitmen began playing in the building in 2007, and it was there that the Hitmen won their first league championship in 2007-08. Nearly 13 full years later, Harris has won 500 games as head coach of the Hitmen. He won No. 500 on Jan. 11, the front end of two home victories against the Utica Jr. Comets. Look for a special feature on Harris’ 500-win career coming soon on USPHL.com.
The Hitmen are now 8-for-9 on weekends when they play an opponent twice consecutively. Their only loss in such a circumstance came in mid-December, when their 26-game point streak from the start of the season came to an end against Twin City.
Their 16 goals against Utica was also the most - by one - for any two consecutive games this season, besting the 15 they posted Oct. 5-6 against Rochester. Four players - Whim Stalberg, Daniel Ebrahim, Mickey Burns and Tyler Borsch - each had at least four points in the two games.
Ahead: The Hitmen head north to New Hampshire to take on the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs. The Hitmen are 4-1 in NCDC play, though the two teams have a much longer history going well back into the mid-2000s of the former Eastern Junior Hockey League. There’s always a lot of bragging rights on the line when these two classic franchises meet.
P.A.L. Picking Up Steam After Cross-Hudson Sweep
The P.A.L. Jr. Islanders and Rockets Hockey Club really needed wins this weekend, though for different reasons. The Rockets are looking to make the NCDC playoffs, currently standing at 12th but just 10 points back of eighth place with 17 games remaining.
As for the Jr. Islanders, a non-playoff team last season, they are in very real contention for a home ice start in the 2020 postseason. With their weekend sweep of the Rockets, the Jr. Islanders leap-frogged the Connecticut Jr. Rangers and Northern Cyclones from fifth into third.
The Jr. Islanders have won four of their nine weekend sets with a common opponent this year.
Ahead: P.A.L. has three straight weekend sets against the same opponent coming up, starting with two in Maine this weekend against the Twin City Thunder. At 37 points, the first-year Thunder are hungry for a home ice spot in the playoffs to kick off their NCDC postseason history. They remain only five points away from the fourth place position. The Jr. Islanders won their first-ever meeting with Twin City on Jan. 4. The two teams have one more meeting after this weekend on Valentine’s Day at the South Shore Kings Showcase.
Around The Boards In The NCDC
• Prior to their Jan. 15 meeting with the the Kings, the Boston Junior Bruins enjoyed a weekend sweep (including an OT win) against the Northern Cyclones. The Junior Bruins are now 8-4 all-time against the Cyclones.
The Cyclones were down by two late and forced OT with a pair of third period goals. It didn’t last long as All-Star Ian Carpentier scored 57 seconds into the extra session.
• The Twin City Thunder and Connecticut Jr. Rangers split their weekend series in Maine. The Thunder registered a new (and totally random) milestone of scoring four goals in three straight games, the first time this season they’ve scored the same amount of goals in three straight. They’ve gone 2-1 in that stretch. The Rangers are in that fourth spot that the sixth-place Thunder are pushing for.