The buses are converging on Marlboro, Mass.
After all, for the first time in this young 2018-19 season, the entire National Collegiate Development Conference will be under one vast roof as part of the Boston Junior Bruins Shootout.
The Shootout runs Sept. 21-24, with all of the NCDC games being played at the New England Sports Center, which will utilize eight rinks for the tournament.
Out of the 12 teams making their USPHL Showcase Series debut for the 2018-19 season, 10 teams are 1-1, so which way the weekend goes in anyone’s guess.
So, let’s guess.
Hitting the road hard
The New Jersey Hitmen head to Marlboro as the only 2-0 team, picking up 4-1 and 2-0 defeats of the Islanders Hockey Club.
This, of course, was the rematch of last year’s Dineen Cup championship, and the Hitmen got their vengeance after I.H.C. had defeated them last spring.
Michael Kane, a 2000 forward, smashed through the door of junior hockey, joining out of the New Hampton School, scoring three goals in his Hitmen debut in Game 1. That contest, in fact, was the NCDC Game Of The Week on HockeyTV, called by the USPHL’s own The Dan K Show duo of Dan Kmiechick and Lucas Jones.
Kane scored one even strength goal, one power play goal and one shorthanded goal. The middle goal of the hat trick was the game-winner as well.
Ryan McInchak, who battled back after a year lost to microfracture surgery, stopped 46 saves over the two games, including Sunday’s shutout win, earning himself NCDC Goaltender Of The Week honors.
The Hitmen draw the Northern Cyclones, P.A.L. Jr. Islanders and New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs at the Shootout. Each team is 1-1 and each would love to call themselves the first to beat the unbeaten.
Making Monarchs history
“You want to be in the league? OK, you get Game 1 of the entire season.”
That was essentially the message from the USPHL to the Monarchs when the NCDC schedule was made. Indeed, the Monarchs stepped to the ice across from the host Connecticut Jr. Rangers to kick off the 2018-19 NCDC season.
A storied franchise with alumni playing in the NHL and several new Division 1 college commitments out of its Midget team already this summer, the Monarchs made more history - they defeated the Rangers by a score of 3-0.
NCDC Monarch Firsts - Goal: Stockholm, Sweden’s own Jacob Laurin (’98), who was a 120-point scorer in the Western States hockey League last year. Assists: Monarchs veterans Mitchell Shaheen (‘98) and Ty Schafer (‘99).
Goalie win/shutout: Brian Cannata, a ’00 who made 34 saves for the SO and W. Cannata is new to the NCDC, but had played previously for USPHL members the Eastern Mass. Senators in the forerunner to the EHF Selects Division.
The Monarchs play Saturday through Monday, ending with the Hitmen after they face the Islanders Hockey Club and Syracuse Stars, in reverse order.
Their Saturday Shootout game at 5 p.m. is the NCDC Game Of the Week on HockeyTV.com, free to all with an account (no subscription required). Once again, The Dan K Show has the game call for that.
Much better start for Rockets
Last year’s 11th-place team, the New Jersey Rockets, might have had the biggest success story of a start.
In their first game of 2018-19, the Rockets defeated a Junior Bruins team loaded with NCAA Division 1 commits by a 6-3 score. Last year, the Rockets went 0-6-1 for this season, so starting 1-1 (after a 6-0 loss to the Junior Bruins in the second game) is already a better turn of events for a talented team.
Rockets defenseman Jovan Zimmerman earned Defenseman Of The Week honors for his offensive contribution of a goal and steady defense throughout the weekend.
Matt makes the magic happen
Michael Kane’s hat trick was stupendous for the Hitmen, but even that could not place Kane at the top of the scoring leaderboard after the first full night of NCDC action. Providence commit (and NCDC Forward Of The Week) Matt Allen popped in three of his own in the 6-0 win over the Rockets for three goals and four points.
Junior Bruins at front of scoring traffic jam
Allen was joined at the top by current Junior Bruins and future Providence College teammate Johnny Mulera. Mulera picked up a 2-2-4 line for his first weekend.
Junior Bruins teammates Sasha Peresunko and Robby Griffin (a Northeastern commit) are also tied with four points apiece, all of Griffin’s coming via assists, and Peresunko picking up a 1-3-4 line.
Michael Colella, a ‘99 straight out of Midget hockey, also posted 2-2-4 for the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders, who split with the South Shore Kings. Noah Kane (1-3-4) gives the Jr. Islanders two in the eight-way tie for the scoring lead.
Longtime Boston Bandit Billy Grant and Northern Cyclones Slovakian import Matej Svoboda are also in the top eight with lines of 1-3-4 and 0-4-4, respectively.
Rochester checks off ‘W’ box early
The Rochester Jr. Monarchs, Rockets and P.A.L. were the three non-playoff teams last year. Like the Rockets, Rochester struggled out of the gate in 2017-18. This year, they stuffed that old and tattered 0-3 start in the attic never to be seen again. They’re writing a whole new chapter with a 1-1 split with the Boston Bandits.
On and off the ice
The New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs will be working closely all year with the Nashua Children’s Home this season, from helping the children in their classrooms to working in the kitchen and simply being role models.
Former New Jersey Hitmen star Connor Clifton has appeared in two Boston Bruins preseason games, earning 20:37 of ice time and registering a +2 early on as he pushes to make the big team out of training camp after playing last year with the Providence Bruins.
Ex-South Shore Kings goalie Shane Starrett put in 20 minutes of net time for the Edmonton Oilers during a preseason game, and was working through their training camp, as well. Another former King, Nolan Vesey, was also at the Oilers’ training camp, but has since been assigned to AHL Bakersfield. His brother Jimmy Vesey, another former King and already a NHL veteran, is currently in New York Rangers training camp.
Former Junior Bruin Cal Burke was recently named captain for the University of Notre Dame.
Northern Cyclones Futures Draft selection Mark Hillier committed to Merrimack College. The ’02 forward plays for St. Andrew’s College in Canada.