Like an arsenal of any mighty army throughout history, the Jersey Hitmen simply had the best weapons of any NCDC team this year, and possibly the best depth at all positions in NCDC history.
So it comes as no surprise that the league’s top forward and overall Player Of The Year (Liam McLinskey) and top defenseman both come from the Dineen Cup Champions, as Bentley University recruit Brandon Cimino has earned the latter honor as Defenseman Of the Year for 2020-21.
“There are very good defensemen in the League, so to be recognized for this award, is a very great honor,” said Cimino, a 2001-born native of New Rochelle, N.Y. “It was a great year all around. With COVID and all the obstacles, we found a way as a team to get through it all and were able to come out with the Dineen Cup. I couldn't have done any of this without my team, and everyone in the Hitmen organization.”
Cimino came out of the regular season with the league lead among defensemen in points (36) and assists (31). He led the Hitmen defensemen in plus/minus with a +21, which was also good for fourth overall in the NCDC. In deeper analytics, Cimino was the Hitmen defensive corps’ most accurate passer (634 on the year) and he was the blue line corps’ power play time leader (79:27 total). Not surprisingly, he also led the league’s defensemen in power play helpers with 17, and he also finished in a five-way tie for game-winners by D-men with a pair of GWG’s.
Cimino had a huge finish to Hub City Tampa, registering three straight four-point games between Feb. 13 and 16, and he also had three points in his first game back at home.
“I’m definitely a two-way defender, a playmaker in the offensive zone and just trying to be good at defense and contribute every way I can,” said Cimino. A testament to his contributions show that he blocked more shots (39) than the many points he earned. All the bruises he would come away with are worth it.
“I’m all good, it paid off with winning the championship. You don’t feel any of that stuff when you come through with the title,” added Cimino.
He has been on the map for NCAA Division I hockey for a long time, committing to Bentley as a 16U player in 2017-18. He is preparing for the start of his college hockey career, even if it doesn’t necessarily begin next fall.
“I’m preparing as if I’m going, but I’ll find out soon,” he said. “It’s unclear with what’s going on with college hockey and seniors getting an extra year of eligibility.”
Whenever he does make his way to the Waltham, Mass., campus of Bentley, his excitement for that next phase of his life is already evident.
“They have a brand new rink, great facilities, a great business major,” said Cimino. “It’s a great program, and there’s an amazing coaching staff at Bentley.”