The all-time leader in NCDC games played since earlier this season, Spencer Korona knows more than any other player how the National Collegiate Development Conference operates on the ice. His two-way approach to the game for the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders was run on such an advanced level that the NCDC coaches named him the 2021-22 Defensive Forward Of The Year.
“I’d like to thank all the coaches in the league who took part in nominating me for this award,” said Korona, who is actually a seven-year USPHL veteran whose last four seasons have been spent in the NCDC. “It’s an honor due to the fact that this league is filled with such a high level of talent at both ends of the ice.”
Korona was a leader in almost every way for the Jr. Islanders - the ice time leader (21:48 per game) and No. 1 on his team in points (56), assists (45) and faceoff winning percentage (56%).
“Looking back on the year as a whole, I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished as a player. Playing alongside players who complement my strengths always helps,” said Korona, who spent the majority of the season centering a line with Luca Leighton and Tyler Crist. “Creating for others and the way I think the game are my strongest attributes. I see the ice well, with a pass-first mindset. I take pride in being able to play in any scenario during a game.”
When asked what being a “defensive forward” means to him, he nailed it to the point of writing the Webster’s dictionary definition.
“A defensive forward is not only someone who can be relied on to help keep the puck out of the net, but also to generate offense on transition. A great two-way forward has a good hockey IQ and a good stick. They play well without the puck, and don’t cheat the game to score goals.”
He did do well with offense, though, as he improved his point totals over four years from 10 to 25 to 51 to 56.
The P.A.L. Jr. Islanders NCDC team of 2021-22 was their second best of their five years in the NCDC, as they went 25-21-2-1 for 53 points and their third straight playoff appearance. This year’s Jr. Islanders team was really a special group, said Korona.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better group of guys to spend the season with. We went through a lot this year with Coach [Mike] Marcou battling cancer behind the scenes, but we had a very tight-knit locker room that played for him and one another,” said Korona. “I’m proud and thankful to have been a part of the Jr. Islanders for the past few years. They play out of an NHL facility, with a coaching staff that is unmatched.”
Korona, who played three seasons with the Springfield Pics, leaves the league after seven seasons and 245 combined USPHL 16U and NCDC regular season and playoff games. It’s been a large part of his life and hockey career, but he knows a new and exciting chapter is opening up in front of him.
“The past four years have been amazing, but I’m really excited to be attending Trinity College to study Economics while playing Hockey and Golf for the school,” said Korona. “Coach [Matthew] Greason has created an elite program that I’m grateful to soon be a part of.”
The USPHL congratulates Spencer Korona on being named the 2021-22 NCDC Defensive Forward Of The Year.