The NCDC delivered in droves on the promise of excitement in every arena as the league kicked off on Thursday, Sept. 23 and featured 13 contests through Sunday evening, a far cry and improvement from the COVID-heavy September of 2020 when only one contest happened in that month.
The first weekend also gave a great first look at where some teams may be heading in the weeks ahead as the league gets into its first pair of North vs. South weekends in the Junior Bruins Shootout followed immediately by the Jersey Hitmen Classic. The Utica Jr. Comets won all three of their first trio of games against the returning Dineen Cup finalist Rockets Hockey Club on this first weekend, putting them in the current points lead at 3-0 for six points.
The Jersey Hitmen, Junior Bruins, Northern Cyclones and Islanders Hockey Club are all 2-0 out of the gate. The P.A.L. Jr. Islanders and Connecticut Jr. Rangers split their first weekend set.
The first weekend saw six out of its 13 games decided by one goal, and three go beyond 60 minutes.
Amazingly/coincidentally, the last 13 regular season games of 2020-21 also saw six one-goal games, with the only difference being only two going beyond 60 minutes.
Utica Jr. Comets See Best First Weekend In NCDC Tenure
Neither the Utica Jr. Comets nor their predecessors the Syracuse Jr. Stars started out 3-0 in any of their first four seasons in the league. Their best three-game starts were 2-1 in both the inaugural 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons, while they started 2020-21 off on the wrong foot with an 0-3 mark that saw three shutouts against to boot.
Louis Educate, new Head Coach for the Jr. Comets, joins four other current or former NCDC coaches as starting their NCDC coaching career with at least three straight wins:
Toby Harris, Jersey Hitmen (4-0) 2017-18
Sean Tremblay, Islanders Hockey Club (4-0) 2017-18
Mike Anderson, Boston Junior Bruins (3-0) 2017-18
Jason Kersner, Rockets Hockey Club (3-0) 2020-21
Louis Educate, Utica Jr. Comets (3-0) 2021-22*
* = Active streak.
• Utica’s 16 goals in their first three games is a best total for their first three games. Their last 16-goal run in three games came towards the start of Hub City Tampa, where they went 2-1 in a three-game set early on between Jan. 11-17.
• Dhillon Wilde (‘02) and Owen Carlile (‘03) lead the team with five points apiece, with Wilde holding a 3-2-5 line and Carlile a 2-3-5 line. Both also lead the NCDC in scoring.
• Walter Baumann (‘01) was already the team’s all-time leading goal-scorer and he’s started with three in his first three games and now has a team record 33 career NCDC goals. Adding an assist this weekend also has him just six points back of former teammate Donny Borgula for the all-time points lead - Baumann has 69 and Borgula is at 75.
• Sebastian Woods (‘01) is 2-0 in net, while Ethan Neitsch (‘03) has the other victory. Both withstood a torrent of shots, combining for 117 against in three games, an average of 39 per contest.
Jersey Hitmen Win Coach Harris’ 750th Game Behind Hitmen Bench
Toby Harris’ history as Head Coach with the Jersey Hitmen’s top team goes back to the mid-2000s, more than 15 years. He celebrated his 750th all-time game behind the bench on Saturday when the Hitmen’s home opener saw them defeat Philadelphia Hockey Club by a 2-1 victory.
It was the fifth straight time Harris won his opening set of games in an NCDC season, the culmination being a 3-0 run with three shutout victories last October at the Junior Bruins Shootout. Never before has each contest in that first set of games been decided by one goal, however.
Friday’s 4-3 OT win was the first time since 2017 that Harris’ Hitmen have started with a game going beyond 60 minutes. Alex Dameski scored at the 2:25 mark.
Their first-ever NCDC game was a 4-3 OT victory over the Northern Cyclones on Sept. 15, 2017 (OT winner was scored by the league’s first-ever Player Of The Year Jeff Losurdo, now with Dartmouth College).
Islanders Hockey Club Eke Out Pair Of One-Goal Wins
The Islanders Hockey Club and South Shore Kings opened up the fifth NCDC season on Sept. 23, when the Islanders defeated the Kings 5-4 on home ice at Skate 3 Arena in Tyngsboro, Mass.
• It was the first time the Islanders have been involved in the very first game of an NCDC season and the second straight for the Kings, who defeated the Junior Bruins, 3-2, on Sept. 22, 2020.
• Andrew Carmody scored the regulation game-winning goal on Friday, and came back Sunday to score the OT winner against the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs, who dedicated the Ryan Frew Memorial Rink (more on that evening below). He was the only player to score game-winners to give his team wins in their first two games this season. This happened for two players last year: Alex Mozian (now at Trinity College) started the 2020-21 Hitmen season with game-winners in his team’s first two game-winners; and the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs’ Grant Porter (now in the USHL) scored a game-winner in full team play in their 2020-21 season opener as well as a shootout winner in the second game.
Northern Cyclones Get Off To 2-0 Start
The Northern Cyclones enjoyed their first weekend sweep in their NCDC history. Twice, they split games (2018-19 and 2019-20), and last year, they fell in a single opening weekend game against the rival Monarchs.
They defeated the Monarchs in a Friday afternoon matinee at Cyclones Arena, a 2-1 shootout win. It was the Cyclones’ first win in their season opener in three straight tries, all at their home rink. They traveled to Foxboro on Saturday where they beat the South Shore Kings, 6-3.
• Graham Broadfoot, an ‘02 rookie from Ohio, was the first Cyclones player to ever have his first NCDC goal be a shootout goal, or for that matter, a shootout game-winner.
• With three assists, defenseman Brendan Dickey leads the team in points, the second straight year a Cyclones defenseman has done so. Current Lake Superior State blueliner Artyom Borshyov kicked off last season with three points in his first two games.
Junior Bruins See First Shutout Win Of NCDC Season
One day after overcoming a 3-2 deficit to win their opener 5-3 against the Boston Advantage, the Junior Bruins registered the first shutout win of the NCDC season. Rookie goaltender Colin Winn (‘04) stopped all 30 shots he faced against the Twin City Thunder. He now has given up just three goals on 68 shots for a .958 save percentage, leading all goalies who saw two games in the opening weekend.
• Only two other Junior Bruins goalies have registered shutouts in either their first or second career NCDC game (always the second in this case): Current Army goalie Ryan Wilson in 2020-21 during Hub City Tampa; and Bryan McGrath, during the 2018-19 season. Current Quinnipiac goalie Yaniv Perets registered a shutout in the second game of his second season, in 2018-19.
• Holy Cross recruit Joe Solimine had two goals and two assists in his first two games, and Army recruit Jude Brower had four assists to share the team lead after the first weekend. Both are returning NCDC Junior Bruins, illustrating the veteran leadership of the Junior Bruins taking charge.
Around The League
The New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs and their home facility the Tri-Town Ice Arena honored late head coach Ryan Frew, who passed away on Oct. 5, 2020, of non-COVID-related natural causes, with the renaming of the Monarchs’ home rink as the Ryan Frew Memorial Rink.
His son Seamus delivered the dedication address, and Seamus, older brother Quentin and younger sister Layla all led the Monarchs onto the ice for the first time at Ryan Frew Memorial Rink in a beautiful show of unity between the Monarchs and the Frew family. The entire NCDC misses Ryan Frew greatly. His positivity and smile lit up every room he walked into, and we hope that spirit will always live on at the Ryan Frew Memorial Rink and everywhere.
• With a goal and three assists in his first two games, Connecticut Jr. Rangers third-year veteran Schuyler Flansburg currently leads his team in scoring and is tied for second overall in the NCDC after a split weekend with the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders.
• Northern Cyclones at Boston Advantage, Oct. 1 - Cyclones won their first season series with the Advantage 2-1 last season, including one OT victory.
• Utica Jr. Comets at Philadelphia Hockey Club, Oct. 1-3 - Jr. Comets head to Hollydell Ice Arena for their second of five three-game weekend sets against a common opponent.
• South Shore Kings vs. Connecticut Jr. Rangers, Oct. 2 - The first NCDC game at the Junior Bruins Shootout. Jr. Rangers won the 2020-21 season series 2-1.
• Twin City Thunder vs. Jersey Hitmen, Oct. 2 - Also at the Junior Bruins shootout, the NCDC semifinalists take up their rematch.
• New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs vs. Rockets Hockey Club, Oct. 2 - Rockets swept only two games in this matchup last season and are currently on a 3-0 streak vs. Monarchs.
• Junior Bruins vs. P.A.L. Junior Islanders, Oct. 2 - Junior Bruins swept 2020-21 season series 4-0, including one OT win.
• Jersey Hitmen vs. Junior Bruins, Oct. 3 - Junior Bruins took last season’s series 2-1, including one shootout win, though the Hitmen took their sole victory by shutout at the Space Coast Classic, the only Hub City Tampa game held on the Atlantic coast of Florida.
• Rockets Hockey Club vs. South Shore, Oct. 3 - Rockets captured the season series 2-1, with South Shore’s 1-0 victory coming in OT.
• Connecticut Jr. Rangers vs. Twin City Thunder, Oct. 3 - These two opponents split a pair of one-goal games in Florida in 2020-21.
• P.A.L. Jr. Islanders vs. New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs, Oct. 3 - Monarchs won their first Florida match-up in a shootout, before P.A.L. won second game more decisively.
• New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs vs. Jersey Hitmen, Oct. 4 - The Hitmen won both their Hub City Tampa games last year, one year after a 2-2 split for the 2019-20 campaign.
• Rockets Hockey Club vs. Twin City Thunder, Oct. 4 - The all-time series is tied 3-3, as the Thunder went 3-1 during 2019-20, and the Rockets won both their Tampa meetings.
• South Shore Kings vs. P.A.L. Jr. Islanders, Oct. 4 - The Kings won both their games last year (one in OT), one year after P.A.L. went 4-0 in the season series.
• Connecticut Jr. Rangers vs. Junior Bruins, Oct. 4 - These teams - led by Head Coaches who both played under the late Gary Dineen, the Dineen Cup’s namesake - split the two-game season series in 2020-21.