The Hitmen Classic is in the books, with 12 games from that fantastic event in the books. The Hitmen Classic games were held in addition to an intriguing split weekend between the South Division leaders the Utica Jr. Comets and their hosts Connecticut Jr. Rangers, and top performances up north as well, including the burgeoning Northern Cyclones team.
The Rockets Hockey Club won all three of its Hitmen Classic games. When you combine that with winning their final two contests at the BJB Shootout one week earlier, they currently lead the NCDC with the best winning streak of 5-0.
The Northern Cyclones won Sunday and Monday, coming back from a tough pill of an overtime loss the prior Wednesday against the Islanders Hockey Club.
To close out the Hitmen Classic NCDC schedule, fans were treated to an “Instant Classic” when the Boston Junior Bruins and host Hitmen took to the ice in a showdown between a 2021 semifinalist and the defending Dineen Cup Champion. The Junior Bruins took the game in a close 3-2 victory to get back on the winning side for what ended up as a 1-1-1 visit to New Jersey. The Hitmen, for their part, also finished 1-1-1 as event hosts.
With the first two North vs. South showcases in the books, teams return for another month of divisional play this week and weekend. Let’s get into the nitty gritty of where we’ve been and where we’re going.
Rockets Hockey Club On 5-0 Run
The Rockets defeated the Boston Junior Bruins 5-3, followed by beating the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs 4-2 and the South Shore Kings 4-3 in overtime. For their final two games, those were both rematches six days since their previous clashes with the Monarchs and Kings, respectively. The Rockets are hoping to at least equal their best run of the 2020-21 season, which saw them go 9-0 at Hub City Tampa, as well as one game prior to their arrival in Florida.
Including their Dineen Cup semifinals match, the Rockets are currently on a 4-0 run against the Boston Junior Bruins, while they jumped one in front of the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs with a 6-5-2 all-time series score. They are on a 5-0 run against the Monarchs.
The Rockets have won their last three against the Kings, and two of their last five match-ups have gone to overtime.
• Evan Brown (‘03) scored the overtime goal to seal the Hitmen Classic sweep. Brown is a homegrown product of the Rockets, having played for their USPHL 15U and USPHL 16U teams between 2018 and 2020, including helping the Rockets win the USPHL 16U National Championship in 2020. With a 1-1-2 mark against the Kings and earlier three-point and one-point efforts, Brown put himself at better than point-per-game pace with seven points through six games.
• Providence recruit Ryan Schelling (‘04) is another Rockets 16U alum who scored a game-winner, his coming in a 1-1-2 effort against the Junior Bruins in the Classic opener.
• Schelling’s future Providence teammate Cole Vallese (‘02) was the only Rocket to score points in all three Classic games, coming out with a 1-3-4 line.
• University of Minnesota recruit Geno Pichora won his fourth game in a row and his first in which he was called upon to make 30 or more saves (33 to be exact).
Northern Cyclones On Three-Game Point Streak
The series between the Islanders Hockey Club and Northern Cyclones will definitely be an exciting one to watch this year as both of their first two meetings were each decided by one goal.
On Wednesday, Oct. 6, the Islanders defeated the Cyclones in a 4-3 shootout, countered four days later by a 3-2 victory for the Cyclones. On Oct. 11, the Cyclones made the trip north to face the Twin City Thunder.
Separated by eight miles as the crow flies, the Islanders and Cyclones are traditional rivals, but currently the Cyclones are the team that is on a four-game point streak encapsulating their two games of 2020-21 as well as these two early-season matchups.
• Marko Giourof (‘03) had himself a strong pair of games Sunday and Monday, earning points in back-to-back games for the first time. After registering an assist on Sunday’s opening goal, he posted a 1-2-3 line to get in on all three goals Monday.
• Big Rhett Evjen (‘02), all 6-5, 200 pounds of him, is on a three-game goal streak, with two goals in the 4-3 shootout loss, and one goal on each of Sunday and Monday. All five of his points through six games are goals.
• Paden Hicks (‘02) had the game-winner against the Cyclones and three points in his last two.
• William Goumas (‘03) has won both of his first two starts, giving up just four goals on 63 shots for a .937 save percentage, second in the NCDC among goalies with at least two games played.
P.A.L. Jr. Islanders Earn Four Points At Hitmen Classic
The Jr. Islanders had taken losses a week earlier to both the South Shore Kings and New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs at the BJB Shootout. They put those losses on the mental bulletin board, and came back to see both those teams a second time in four days since their last matchups - and win this time.
First, it was a Thursday night rematch with a Monarchs team that was a 3-2 shootout winner on Oct. 3, four days earlier. The P.A.L. took the rematch with a 2-1 regulation victory.
Next up, it was the Kings on Friday. The Kings had won 4-3 on Monday, but the Islanders took a second 2-1 regulation victory in New Jersey. The last three games between these teams, going back to Hub City Tampa, have been decided by one goal. Three of the last four between the Jr. Islanders and Monarchs have also been one-goal games.
• The Jr. Islanders’ four straight one-goal games was their most since a stretch of six one-goal contests between Jan. 7 and Feb. 2, 2019 (1-3-2-0).
• In the team’s 4-2 loss to the Boston Advantage on Oct. 9, Luca Leighton (‘03) registered his first goal of the season, and he had assists in each of his prior three games - he ended up as the only Jr. Islander to register points in all three Hitmen Classic contests. Leighton came up to the NCDC from last year’s P.A.L. USPHL 18U squad, joining some of the aforementioned Rockets as USPHL Development Model success stories. He currently has a 1-5-6 line in eight games.
• Tyler Crist (‘01) scored his first game-winning goal of the season in the third period against the Kings, giving him three in his career and making him the active leader in career GWGs for the P.A.L. squad. His five goals on the season have him tied for seventh league-wide.
• Second-year NCDC veteran and first-year Jr. Islander Ryan Mahlmeister (‘01) saw his first goal of the season - scored in the second vs. New Hampshire - stand up as the game-winner.
Philadelphia Hockey Club Wins First Two At Hitmen Classic
The PHC squad made its showcase debut for the 2021-22 season and enjoyed the party at first, winning their first two against the Boston Advantage (2-0) and the Junior Bruins (3-2 in overtime) before falling to the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs in the finale. PHC is now 2-1 with one OT win against the Junior Bruins in their two seasons, both of their last two contests being one-goal PHC wins. PHC and the Advantage, both first-year NCDC teams in 2020-21, evened their all-time series at 2-2.
• In the first game, Jacob Torgner (‘03) became just the fourth NCDC goalie this season to register a shutout, stopping all 31 shots against him. He went 2-0 at the Classic, stopping 65 of 67 on the weekend.
• With four assists spread out over three games, returning PHC veteran and third-year NCDC player Chip Hamlett (‘01) was the only Philadelphia player to score in all three Classic contests. He leads all PHC defensemen with five points - all assists - in five games.
• After making his debut against the Advantage, Liam Cox-Smith (‘03) scored the OT game-winner and had two assists in the PHC victory over the Junior Bruins.
Utica, Connecticut Each Take A Win At Chelsea Piers
• Away from the Hitmen Classic, the Utica Jr. Comets and Connecticut Jr. Rangers split a Rangers home series in Stamford, Conn. It was almost looking like a CJR sweep before Utica came back from being down 2-0 to win 3-2 in Game 2, following a CJR 5-2 win on Friday.
• Utica veteran John Gutt (‘01) scored the game-tying and game-winning goals in the second game. With 11 points, he stands in a tie for fifth in league scoring. He has missed the scoresheet only once in his eight games thus far.
• Five different goal-scorers tallied for the Rangers in the first game, in which Connecticut came back to win after being down 1-0. It was already the second time this season that Connecticut had five different goal-scorers in a game, after accomplishing that feat of depth just once last season (Jan. 13, 2021, a 7-3 victory over Northern Cyclones featuring seven different goal-scorers).
Around The Boards
• The Boston Advantage’s third period comeback win against the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders was their best in their NCDC history. They had never scored as many goals in a third period of a game in which they were behind going into that last stanza. It was also a “rescue win,” as they had originally led the game 1-0. Second-year veteran Chance Heaphy (‘02) scored his first goal of the season which stood as the GWG.
• The Islanders Hockey Club’s shootout win on Oct. 6 against the Cyclones saw them start 3-0 before falling in their next two against Twin City (7-4) and the Cyclones (3-2). That 3-0 start was their best in as many games since their epic 47-3 season in the NCDC’s inaugural year of 2017-18. It was also the first time that IHC ever started with three one-goal games.
• William Laychur (‘02) scored the shootout game-winning goal on Oct. 6 for the Islanders, and also added an assist which gave him points in three straight to start his NCDC career (1-4-5).
• The Hitmen sandwiched a decisive victory against the Boston Advantage between a pair of one-goal losses as Hitmen Classic hosts. They last hit double digits on Feb. 16 at Hub City Tampa, their final contest in Florida. Patriks Marcinkevics (‘01) and Mateo Dixon (‘02) each had 2-2-4 lines to lead the way in that game. It was Marcinkevics’ fourth four-point game in his NCDC career, as he returns to the league after previously having played with the Islanders Hockey Club in 2019-20. It was the rookie Dixon’s first four-point game, and also capped a five-game point streak in which he scored all 4-5-9 of his scoring line thus far.
• The Junior Bruins rebounded from losses to the Rockets and Philadelphia at the Classic by beating the hosts 3-2 in the finale of the NCDC portion of the Hitmen Classic. Ikki Kogawa (‘03)’s fourth goal of the season was the regulation game-winner, in a game in which the Hitmen had an early 1-0 lead.
• The New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs also won their final Hitmen Classic game after a couple losses. Former Premier Monarchs standout Tanner Hartman (‘01) scored the first and last goal of their 4-1 win against Philadelphia - both shorthanded! Three of his four goals on the season are shorties, giving him a clear NCDC lead in that category. It is the first time any Monarch has ever scored more than one SHG not just in a single game, but in an entire NCDC season!
• Hartman’s two shorthanded goals tied an NCDC record for most SHG’s in a game with former Boston Bandit Logan Drevitch, now a senior at Merrimack College, who had a pair on Jan. 24, 2018, against the Northern Cyclones.
• The South Shore Kings left the Hitmen Classic with three points off a 1-1-1 record, starting the proceedings with a 5-4 overtime win against the hosts. It was the Kings’ third straight win over the Hitmen, and all three wins decided by one goal. The one-goal game streak between the teams extends to a 1-0 Hitmen win on Oct. 3, 2020 at last year’s BJB Shootout.
• The 5-4 game saw three lead changes, including the Kings’ OT win off the stick of ‘02 rookie defenseman Pierce Patterson playing in his very first game. Those three lead changes tied the two organizations’ 6-5 OT win for the Kings played at Hub City Tampa, widely considered one of the greatest NCDC games in Florida and an absolute all-time classic.
• The Twin City Thunder’s second win of the year, a 7-4 victory over the Islanders Hockey Club, saw their most goals since they set their NCDC record of nine in a win against South Shore on Feb. 16, 2020. They hit six goals three times last season.
• The Thunder were down 4-3 to the Islanders when they scored four in the third period. It was their most third period goals in a comeback win since Jan. 22, when they scored four to rebound from a 4-1 deficit to Connecticut in Hub City Tampa.
• Thunder NCDC veteran and Lewiston, Maine native Dom Chasse (‘02) scored a pair to lead the way in the win and now has three goals on the season, tying his 2020-21 season output through 21 games.
• Boston Advantage at Twin City Thunder, Oct. 13: The Advantage lead the series 2-1 off of their 2020-21 games, including the Advantage’s first ever NCDC game, a 2-0 win on Oct. 11, 2020.
• Northern Cyclones at Boston Junior Bruins, Oct. 14: The first match-up for these teams this season, with the Cyclones having won the 2020-21 season series 2-1 (one win in OT).
• Twin City Thunder at South Shore Kings, Oct. 15: After the Thunder won their first two meetings last season, the Kings got a couple points in a shootout win. The Thunder lead the all-time series 5-1-1.
• Boston Advantage at Northern Cyclones, Oct. 15: The Cyclones are out for revenge after the Advantage opened this season’s series with a 4-0 victory on Oct. 1.
• Connecticut Jr. Rangers vs. Rockets Hockey Club, Oct. 15-16: The home-and-home series begins at Bridgewater and moves to Chelsea Piers for Saturday. These teams faced each other six times in 2020-21, with the Rockets going 5-1, with one win coming in OT.
• Utica Jr. Comets at Jersey Hitmen, Oct. 16-17: The defending Dineen Cup Champions play host to the current South Division front-runners, tied with the Junior Bruins for first overall in both points (13) and winning percentage (.813).
• Islanders Hockey Club at Boston Advantage, Oct. 16: The Islanders won their 2020-21 season series 6-1, all decided in regulation.
• New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs at Twin City Thunder, Oct. 16: The Monarchs won the 2020-21 season series 4-2, including a stretch of five straight games in November and December.
• P.A.L. Jr. Islanders vs. Philadelphia Hockey Club, Oct. 16-17: A South Division home-and-home and resumption of a series led 5-1 by P.A.L. after an initial PHC win.
• Boston Junior Bruins at Islanders Hockey Club, Oct. 17: Junior Bruins won the 2020-21 season series 5-1, with their last game in Tampa going to OT.