If it’s February, and the NCDC playoffs begin in March, then that must mean - we’re in the good old “stretch drive”!
It’s always fun when the playoffs are within sight and teams are either jockeying for playoff seeds or simply for an actual playoff spot.
The first weekend of February saw just one team - the mighty New Jersey Hitmen - holding an official playoff spot. The Hitmen earned the sweep they were looking for against fellow top four team the Connecticut Jr. Rangers.
In addition, two other teams - the Boston Bandits and Northern Cyclones - also secured weekend sweeps to leapfrog the Rangers into fourth and fifth place, respectively.
Additionally, the Syracuse Jr. Stars picked up two wins from their trip to face the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders. With those wins, the Stars pulled themselves back into eighth place after moving between eighth and ninth for most of this season.
Stars are big and bright
Head coach Paul Kelly has his team standing with the third best record since Dec. 1 in the entire NCDC, going 10-2-0-0 stretching back to Dec. 1.
The Stars hit the road last weekend to Long Island and got into a couple track meets with the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders, winning both by scores of 8-7 and 6-3.
The wins were a sign that the Stars’ offense is picking up at the right time, since it was their second straight weekend of scoring in double digits over the course of two games. They scored 12 goals in their split weekend against the South Shore Kings Jan. 26-27. The Stars have three total double-digit scoring weekends, all since December. They finished the 2018 portion of their schedule with 11 goals in two games against Rochester.
Forward Jeremy Gabriele and defenseman Gregory McGunigle each had five-point weekends. For McGunigle it was his most points in two straight games since he scored four in the mid-December Rochester series. Gabriele’s previous two-game high was three points in his final two games at the USPHL Winter Showcase Jan. 5-6.
New acquisition Seth Benson, recently picked up from the New Jersey Rockets, scored his first three goals as a Star in the two games against P.A.L.
Cyclones still roaring
The Cyclones have won three in a row with their sweep of the South Shore Kings.
The Cyclones are looking to get back to the hot streaks with which they started both December (5-0 before an OT loss) and January (5-0 before a regulation loss).
By out-scoring the Kings 8-4 over the two games, they evened out their goals differential to zero. In early November, when the team was struggling, they were at -26 and reduced that to -15 at the holiday break after their 5-0-1 December run.
Lukas Uhler had a three-point weekend against the Kings, and since he joined the Cyclones in December, he has only been kept off the scoresheet twice. He now has 21 points in 15 games.
Hitmen climbing the mountain again
The New Jersey Hitmen only played one game over the first weekend of February, earning a 5-2 win over the Connecticut Jr. Rangers.
That win put the Hitmen on a three-game winning streak. The last time they were on a 3-0 run was Nov. 4, and they followed that with 15 more victories before the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs ended their 19-game winning streak on Jan. 25.
If the Hitmen go up 1-0 in their next game, they will reach a +100 goal differential on the season. Their current +99 is 50 goals higher than their nearest competition in that statistic.
Bandits make push for home ice
After months at fifth place, the Bandits moved into fourth on the strength of a sweep against the Boston Junior Bruins, winning a pair of close games, 3-2 and 2-1.
The one-goal games have largely worked out great for the Bandits this season. They thrive on the drama, going 6-2-3-2 in one-goal games. They haven’t lost a one-goal game in regulation since Nov. 3 against the Hitmen (2-1), losing only one other time to the South Shore Kings on Sept. 21 (3-2).
The Bandits didn’t need extra time for either win, but no team has gone beyond 60 minutes more, as they are 4-2 in OT and 0-3 in the shootout for a total of nine times beyond 60. The New Jersey Rockets are a close second at 4-3 in OT and 1-0 in the shootout for eight times playing extra hockey.
Jack Brackett scored both goals for the Bandits on Saturday as the Bandits came back from being down 1-0. That’s no surprise, as Brackett is tied with the Rangers’ Brad Ong for most game-winning goals in the league at five.
Elsewhere around the league
The New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs have earned points in four of their last five games, earning a 4-2 win against the Islanders Hockey Club on Saturday, followed by a 6-5 shootout loss to the same Islanders on Sunday. No team has made it to the shootout as much as the Monarchs this season, and they’re hoping to improve on their points output in that department, going 1-3.
The Islanders are 7-3 in their last 10, their best 10-game performance of the season so far.
The Rochester Jr. Monarchs and New Jersey Rockets also split a weekend, though the Rockets brought three points away from the two meetings. The Rockets won 6-4 on Saturday, and the Monarchs won 5-4 in overtime on Sunday. With the latter win, the Monarchs moved into a three-place tie at 10th place with the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders and South Shore Kings.
All three teams entered this week 11 points out of ninth and 13 points away from the eighth and final playoff spot. The Jr. Islanders have three games in hand on Rochester and the Kings have two, but none of the three teams are eliminated from contention as of yet.
The Rockets are in a non-playoff spot for the first time this season after a weekend series with their OT defeat.
The Florida Eels are especially excited to announce its 2nd college commitment for this season. Jaymen Swygert commits to ACHA Thomas College in Waterville Maine. This commitment is the Florida Eels 232nd player to advance to college. Jaymen is 6’2” 185 pounds from Summerville, SC. Jaymen is a 2nd year veteran of the Florida Eels. He is a 4-year veteran of the USPHL.
Jaymen is a perfect example of the Eels player development model. He started on the Eels Elite team and advanced to the Eels Premier team.
Swygert had several college options both in the Midwest and the Northeast so it was a difficult decision to make. He took painstaking time to discern the right fit for him. Thomas College is located in Waterville Maine and perfectly fit that bill 100%. It is well known nationally for its exceptional business program; that is what Jaymen wants to major in. It is a small New England College and Jaymen likes the atmosphere and individual approach to Thomas College. He will join Eels alumni Rajhan Munnings who joined Thomas this season and loves both the academic and college aspect of Thomas College. Thomas College is one of the top ACHA programs in the Northeast. They have a record of 13-2 this season with a .867 winning percentage. They have defeated the University of Maine, St. Josephs in Maine, Bates College, and the University of New England.
Jaymen is very excited to be playing for Head Coach Jeff Ross and assistant coaches Joey Waraskevich and Brian Westella. Coach Waraskevich has seen Jaymen play at regular season games, at USPHL College Showcases this season and last year, and post season showcases including the USPHL Spring Showcase and the Pro-Am NHL Pre Draft and the Sr. Chowder Cup. Jaymen is a very offensive minded individual with great vision, good puck control and has a high hockey IQ, and will lend a true spark to the Thomas College Terriers. They love the way he moves the puck up the ice and jumps in on the play. He is a consummate threat on the ice commented Coach Waraskevich. Premier Head Coach Frank Scarpaci commented that Jaymen has the strong will to win. Coach Scarpaci personally mentored Jaymen over the 2 years in the Eels program. Jaymen is a true leader and on and off the ice for the Eels. He is smart player and won’t get you in trouble. He is an extremely dedicated and determined player. He loves to generate plays and pushes every player to ignite and fire up the guns. As all Eels know, however, DEFENSE FIRST. He will do anything humanly possible to deny the opposing team’s offense. His enthusiasm and attitude is contagious echoes Coach Scarpaci.
General Manager Frank Scarpaci says Jaymen is a high character young man. He is very loyal to the Eels. He has unwavering commitment to the Eels program and his advancement is a testament to the fruits of his efforts. Jaymen is a very tough competitor. Last season he played through an entire game with a fractured bone without telling anyone. He has so many intangibles to say the least. This kid has heart. Great team guy. Jaymen was a great mentor to many of the younger guys on the team. In fact, his younger brother Cade plays on the Eels Elite team. Jaymen leads by example to many of the younger players as he often shoots 100+ pucks per day to improve and elevate his game. He has the willingness to lay everything on the line to play for the Eels and make his team #1. He will undoubtedly become a terrific student and citizen at Thomas College. .
Jaymen is a young man we are very proud to have had as an Eel. He comes from a very supportive family and they have made enormous sacrifices for Jaymen to realize his dream of advancing to college and play college hockey. His family travels almost every weekend to come and watch their boys.
His accomplishments of reaching the Next Level is not easy. If it were everyone would achieve that goal. Jaymen was a very determined and dedicated young man who had one goal: that was to play college hockey. Congrats Jaymen you made it.! Jaymen is another great success story of the Eels and we wish him the best in his endeavors playing college hockey and studying at Thomas College in Maine.
Boston Junior Bruins defenseman Luke Rowe has committed to the Air Force Academy and will begin his collegiate career there in the 2019-20 season.
Rowe, who joined the Junior Bruins late in the 2017-18 season after spending parts of five seasons in the New Jersey Rockets organization dating back to the 2013-14 season, was through the moon when contacted recently about his college choice.
“I’m extremely honored to be committed to such a prestigious program for the next four years,” Rowe told USPHL.com recently. “Attending the Air Force Academy has been a dream of mine for such a long time now. Now that it is coming true I couldn’t be more excited. They bring in hockey players, and graduate leaders and winners and I’m ready to be a part of that process.”
Not only is Rowe thrilled to play NCAA Division 1 hockey at the collegiate level and learn under the tutelage of legendary Air Force head coach Frank Serratore, he’s also thrilled for the chance to represent his country as a Cadet.
“A lot of kids play in college and represent their schools, but I get the opportunity to represent my country as well, and for that I’m so grateful,” the 20-year-old rearguard said. “The coaching staff has so much experience and mastery of the game, I’m excited to play under them and soak in any knowledge I can to succeed at the Division 1 level.”
Rowe was full of gratitude and made sure he credited his current head coach with the Junior Bruins, Mike Anderson in addition to the Air Force staff.
“I just wanted to thank the Air Force coaching staff for having the confidence in my character, and playing ability to bring me into their family,” Rowe said. “I also wanted to thank my coach, Mike Anderson, for pushing me to excel and working so hard for me to find a home for the next four years, and [I want to thank] my teammates. Without them, none of this would have happened.”
Through 40 games this season, Rowe is tied for the league lead in goals (10) amongst NCDC defenseman, with Jersey Hitmen defenseman Brett Callahan, and he is second in assists with 22 helpers and in points with 32.
On 2/3/2018 the Moose Capture the USPHL Midwest West Regular Season Title in their Inaugural Season!
🚨GOAL🚨 Peterson from Kopish and Kropp Moose lead 3-0 with 15:13 left.
🚨GOAL🚨 Torrez shorthanded Moose lead 2-0 with 15:50 left in 2nd.