Heading into the league games at the Nov. 12-16 Islanders Hockey Club Showcase, the Boston Junior Bruins were at the top of the USPHL standings. One day later, they were one point behind the Islanders Hockey Club.
Three more teams were one point behind the Junior Bruins, and another couple were five points behind the Islanders.
The Junior Bruins are not looking over their shoulder or ahead to the Islanders. Instead, associate head coach Mike Anderson said the team is fully looking within.
“It doesn’t make a difference who you play. It’s more about us, making sure we play the way we need to play,” said Anderson. “We’ve had one-goal games against teams near the top of the standings as well as against teams at .500 or just below. We just talk about making sure we play the way we need to play to have success.”
The Junior Bruins started the season with six straight wins, and have had other winning streaks of three and four – along with one two-game losing streak.
The Junior Bruins, idle on the first day of league play during the showcase, try to play at a high tempo, very rarely going full-on defensive.
“When we’re playing with speed, we’re very effective,” said Anderson. “We’re making sure the puck is moving, making options for each other, and don’t beat ourselves by turning pucks over.”
Offensively, University of New Hampshire recruit Charlie Kelleher and uncommitted ’95 John Picking both had 20 points in 13 and 14 games, respectively.
“Both have been very productive start to finish,” said Anderson.
Jack Kilty was leading in goals with 11 and 18 points through 16 games.
However, going into Saturday (Nov. 14), the team’s leading scorer is uncommitted ’95 defenseman Michael Kim. Kim, a second-year Premier Junior Bruin, had 18 assists and 21 points through playing all 18 games for the Junior Bruins this year.
He is also leading a group of solid defensemen that also includes Corey Moriarty, Clay Han and Kyle O’Leary. All four – including Kim – have played in all 18 games this year.
However, there may be no bigger and more pleasant surprise for the Junior Bruins than goalies Brian McGrath and Ian Milosz. Milosz had played in 100 more minutes than McGrath, but both had shining save percentages – McGrath had a .934 and Milosz posted a .927.
“Neither one was projected to start,” said Anderson, “and they’ve both done very well.”
Their performance is a surprise only because the Junior Bruins expected to have San Jose Sharks draft pick and UNH recruitMike Robinson holding down the fort through this season. He was out with an upper body injury this season, and Anderson is hoping that Robinson will begin skating after Christmas.
McGrath and Milosz weren’t the only surprises, however. Harrison Markell, a ’97 defenseman, has played in 16 of the 18 games.
“He’s been very good for us on defense. He was a bubble type kid and he’s been anything but that,” said Anderson, talking about how Markell has run away with a regular defensive spot and being a true defensive presence on a very offensive team.
Many of the players who are uncommitted will likely start committing to schools soon, Anderson said. He expects about nine or 10 Division 1 commitments this year, and at least another four or five committing to top Division 3 schools.
Forward Jakob Schmidt-Svejstrup, a ’98 native of Denmark committed to Maine, started the season quietly with no points in September, but had a good stretch of five points in four games in October. A NHL Draft prospect for next June, a lot of eyes will be on Schmidt-Svejstrup throughout this year.
“Everything’s going well. The team is performing well, I’m happy with the production that we’re getting from our guys, and I’m happy with getting off to a good start,” said Anderson. “In terms of their play on the ice, this is a very good team to coach.”