Another winter week has passed, we’re that much closer to spring and its accompanying awarding of the Dineen Cup to the NCDC champion.
One thing that hasn’t changed over the last week is the dominance of the Islanders Hockey Club - both in league play and at Monday’s Instant Classic of an All-Star Game. The Islanders as a team extended their winning streak to 7-0, while Nicholas Niemo scored an All-Star Game hat trick, and Connor Gatto assisted on two of those G’s, and picked up one more assist. The Islanders player’s Team National won 5-4 despite two late goals by Team American.
The NCDC may remain a two-horse race for the top spot, with the Junior Bruins (58 points) just five points behind the leading Jersey Hitmen (63), but there is a crowded queue of nine teams contending for the six remaining playoff spots.
With the Islanders’ recent run, they are now in seventh place, but only six points out of third.
Both the Islanders and Kings are now second all-time in best winning streak from the start of a new year, held by the 2017-18 Islanders (11-0).
The Islanders’ 7-0 run is their best going back to their record-setting 2017-18 season. That year, they had two 16-0 winning streaks and another of 11 wins in that 47-3 campaign.
The Islanders and Kings both kept their streaks going via one-goal games this past weekend. With a four-point weekend, Paul Bryer (‘99/Clarkston, Mich.) is now on a nine-game, 16-point scoring streak. Those 16 points represent almost half of his 2019-20 points in a season split between the Rockets Hockey Club and Islanders Hockey Club.
Ahead: The Utica Jr. Comets pay a two-game visit to Merrimack College to face the Islanders this season. The two teams went 1-1 (with an OT win for the Islanders) during their first two games in Utica. The Islanders were 1-2-0-1 including an OT win against the former Syracuse Stars in 2018-19, and 5-0 against the Stars in 2017-18, with one OT win that year.
Kings Keep Up With The Beat
Foxboro’s been a happy place to be in this new decade, with the South Shore Kings continuing to put together one heck of a run towards a hopeful playoff spot. They are running parallel with the Islanders as the hottest NCDC team since Jan. 1.
The Kings defeated the Boston Bandits twice in a match-up between Southeast Massachusetts regional rivals. Both were one-goal games, and the second was a shootout win. Jack Luca, who joined the Kings in October, had the shootout winner.
They are now on their best run in two years, as they went 6-0 between Oct. 21 and Nov. 4, 2018, last season. If they win their next game against the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders, they will match their all-time best NCDC streak of 8-0 from between Oct. 28 and Nov. 11, 2017. In both of those years, they had swept the Fall Beantown Classic, an event they did not participate in this season.
Individually, Jackson Krock (‘01/Pittsburgh, Pa.) has been heating up with six points in his last three games, while Californian Michael Boutoussov has scored eight points in six of the seven straight victories for the Kings. Parker Larson (‘00/Moorhead, Minn.) scored his first goal on Sunday against the Bandits in his third game with the Kings since coming over from the NAHL.
Ahead: The Kings take on the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders for two games at home, with P.A.L. standing at 2-0 in the season series after an Oct. 26-27 sweep. The Jr. Islanders went 3-1 (all in regulation) on the Kings last season, and the Kings won the 2017-18 season series 3-1-1.
Connecticut Jr. Rangers Put Together Impressive New Streak
Going back to their split weekend with the Twin City Thunder, the Connecticut Jr. Rangers are on a 3-0 run after also winning two in a home-and-home with the Rockets Hockey Club.
Joe Mancuso, a recent arrival in December from the NAHL, scored the OT game-winner on Saturday, and the ‘99 from Pottstown, Pa., also had the game-winner in the prior and more recent games for three GWG’s in a row for Connecticut. Mancuso has six points in his four January games (and in six games overall with Connecticut).
All-Star goalie Tate Brandon (‘00/Irvington, N.Y.) has gone 3-0 in January after missing all of December and most of November. He was magnanimous against the Rockets by stopping 87 of 90 shots for the weekend.
This winning streak is important for a third-place team with 46 points that is holding a home ice playoff spot. Home ice is still in the crosshairs of seven teams that are not far away from third or fourth (currently held by the Twin City Thunder, who have 43 points). The Rangers will continue to work hard in practice over these next 10 days before a return to game action on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 against the visiting Boston Junior Bruins, who were themselves on the bye week this past weekend.
Twin City Thunder Take Three Wins In One Single Weekend
There may just be home ice playoff hockey in Auburn, Maine, for the first time. The expansion Thunder have moved into fourth place with 43 points. This comes after defeating not just the Northern Cyclones on Friday, but the visiting P.A.L. Jr. Islanders in two straight on Saturday and Sunday.
The Thunder have played two prior non-showcase weekends in which they played three games in a row. The opening weekend of their NCDC existence saw a first-ever win over the Boston Bandits on Sept. 13, followed by a split with the Connecticut Jr. Rangers, all on the road.
They went 1-2 over three different opponents between Dec. 20-21, pausing for the remainder of 2019 and the Christmas break.
Mathieu Lapierre (‘00/Quebec City, Que.) scored goals in each game, while Nick Rashkovsky (‘00/Los Angeles, Calif.) is on a seven-game point streak with a 6-3-9 line. What’s more, Hungarian import Levente Keresztes (‘02) has nine points in his last five!
Another ‘02 import, Latvia’s Daniels Murnieks, has seven points in his last five contests.
Utica Jr. Comets Sweep Thruway Series
The Jr. Comets bounced back from a tough weekend in New Jersey against the Hitmen to sweep their two games against their I-90/New York Thruway rivals the Rochester Monarchs, winning both ends of the home-and-home.
The Jr. Comets are 4-0 this season with a March series still to come with Rochester. Utica (then Syracuse) went 3-2 against Rochester in 2018-19, and 4-1 with an OT win in 2017-18.
Elliot Burgin (‘99/Columbus, Ohio) has six points in each of his last five games played, and points in all but one of his seven 2020 games. He joined from the Rockets Hockey Club in November.
All-Star defenseman Kevin Sadovski (‘99/Palm Coast, Fla.) has assists in each of his last four games.
Ahead: The Jr. Comets, occupying ninth place but one point out of eighth, will now contend with the red-hot Islanders Hockey Club on Saturday and Sunday at Merrimack College. See above for series stats between the Islanders and Jr. Comets.
Monarchs, Hitmen Split As Rivalry Continues To Grow
January meetings between the Jersey Hitmen and New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs have gotten pretty epic these last couple years. In January 2019, the Monarchs snapped the Hitmen’s NCDC record 19-game winning streak.
Here, in January 2020, the Hitmen and Monarchs split yet again, with the Hitmen winning Saturday 3-1 and the Monarchs taking Sunday, 6-4. There will be no love lost when these teams reunite for one last time this regular season on Valentine’s Day at the South Shore Kings Presidents Day Showcase. The Monarchs certainly want to work on getting to the right side of history in a series currently dominated by the Hitmen, 5-2.
Casey Rhodes (‘99/Huntington Beach, Calif.) has been on a torrid streak, with eight points in his last four games played for the Hitmen. On the other side, the Monarchs certainly got a boost from the 2018-19 NCDC Rookie Of The Year Aidan Curran (‘01/Dracut, Mass.), who has 10 points in six games played since returning from Tier-1 hockey in Canada.
Ahead: The Hitmen go into the Battle Of New Jersey against the Rockets Hockey Club in a Saturday-Sunday home-and-home starting in Bridgewater, a great chance for players in the USPHL 18U and 16U Divisions to see what NCDC hockey is all about. The USPHL Midget Showcase will be happening around the NCDC game.
These are the middle two of six total matchups between the New Jersey rivals. The Rockets are still pushing for their first NCDC win against the Hitmen.
For the Monarchs, they go into a three-game weekend similar to what the Thunder just came off. They host the Junior Bruins on Friday evening, and then take on the Rochester Monarchs on Saturday and Sunday, all at home. The Junior Bruins won their two earlier games this season, but the Monarchs went 3-2 against the eventual Dineen Cup champions last year.
New Hampshire went 2-1-1 against Rochester last season, and won their first meeting on Nov. 14.