The United States Premier Hockey League is back for its second year of the tuition-free National Collegiate Development Conference, which saw a great first year with more than 120 college commitments from what was then an 11-team league.
The New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs join the NCDC team for this season, and all 12 teams are chomping at the bit to make Year 2 even bigger and better than last year’s successful inaugural season.
Playoffs: Quarterfinals loss
Outlook: Rich Alger is one of many first-year head coaches in the NCDC, so it’s hard for him to say how this year’s team might compare to last year’s squad. Looking at the players they had protected on their 30-man roster, he could say that they would be a younger team.
There is one ’98, one ’99 and several ’00’s and ’01’s on the roster.
“We went with higher academic index kids and high hockey IQ kids,” said Alger. “How that translates to the ice, I can’t tell you until October if we did a good job. We are excited about the youth and excited about the upside.”
Top returning players: Leading the veteran charge are UNH commit Zach Jones (’01), a lifelong Bandit, and Jack Brackett (’00 forward), a Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute recruit. Also coming back up front are ’98 forward Billy Grant, Russian Mark Zuhkov (’99), and ’00 defensemen Linden Alger and Connor Sullivan.
Top newcomers: Alger can only say there are many, and he’ll get back to you on that.
“I’ll reserve judgement on the newcomers only because I’m not sure,” said Alger. “There are guys we hope will be as good as we think they can be.”
Coming Thursday morning: Northern Cyclones