By Joshua Boyd and Marlee Bulman / USPHL.com
The early part of the week is over and many teams in the North and Mid-Atlantic Divisions of the USPHL Elite will now turn their collective attention to the Islanders Hockey Club Showcase, which for some will be their final action of the month of November. Time will be made to give thanks for all we have and be around those we love next week – then it’s back to the grit and grace of the action on the ice as December hits.
Let’s take a look at the teams looking their best going into the IHC Showcase or just going right into a break in both the North and Mid-Atlantic Divisions. Records shown indicate games played between Nov. 8-15.
Islanders Hockey Club (3-0)
No team in the Elite anywhere north of the Virginia-North Carolina border is hotter than the Islanders, who have won five in a row heading into the showcase which they are hosting and which bears their name.
Most recently, the Islanders have kicked up some major offense with big wins against the Bridgewater Bandits (8-5 on Nov. 10) and the Northern Cyclones (6-3 on Nov. 11), both teams currently tied for first place in the North, as well as the Boston Junior Bruins by a decisive score on Nov. 13.
- The 24 goals scored over their last three games is just one short of their total in their prior six games, their most since scoring 21 between Oct. 27 and Nov. 1, 2018.
- The Islanders have improved to second in goals for per game at 5.31. On the other side of the puck, they are fifth in fewest shots against at 27.85, as one of just six Elite teams allowing fewer than 30 shots on average per contest.
- Veteran Owen Brea just returned to the IHC and has two points in each of his four games so far this season, for an active four-game, eight-point scoring streak.
- Justin Pniewski, who had four points in his first eight games, has exploded for four two-point games and another single-point outing in his last five for an active 4-5-9 scoring streak, including a five-game assist streak in there.
- Add Logan Cavalcanti to the hot hands list, as he has posted 4-2-6 over his last four games.
- IHC goalie Anthony Lacroix is fifth in goals against average at 1.97 and remains undefeated in regulation at 4-0-0-1.
The Road Ahead: There will be two Islanders vs. Islanders games this weekend. The Islanders Hockey Club will start with P.A.L. Jr. Islanders on Friday and see them again in their second Saturday game. Between these two games, the IHC will play the first-year Elmira Jr. Enforcers and on Sunday, the Islanders will close against the New York Aviators, against whom the Islanders have won all nine of their meetings since 2017.
Northern Cyclones (2-1-0-0)
On Nov. 11, the Cyclones took their first regulation loss of the season, with Tim Plummer’s squad having earned a point in 13 straight games (12-0-1-0) before facing the Islanders Hockey Club on Veterans Day. On either side of that single 6-3 loss were a pair of victories that helped the Cyclones stand at 13-1-1-0 and in a tie for first in the North Division. They defeated the Junior Bruins 7-2 on Nov. 9 and won 6-2 over the Bandits on Nov. 15. The win over the Bandits helped the Cyclones avenge their only other loss, a 3-2 overtime victory for Bridgewater on Oct. 19.
- As impressive as the Cyclones’ 13-game unbeaten streak was, they will be hard-pressed to beat their record of 14 straight wins during the 2018-19 season.
- The Islanders improved their all-time record against the Cyclones at 11-10-1-1, but the Cyclones still have a better overall mark of 12-8-1-2 for 27 points against the Islanders’ 24.
- Makar Korotchenko (‘04) joined the Elite ‘Clones in late October and has points in every game. He has a team-leading six-game point streak that is still active going into the IHC Showcase, putting up 7-4-11, with those seven goals being scored in five straight games and counting. He has played in two Premier games, earning one assist.
- Leading scorer Josh Bruno (‘04) ranks first in scoring in large part due to a five-game 12-point scoring streak with a 4-8-12 streak. He has 24 points in 15 games.
- First-year forward Nicholas Stevens (‘03) also has goals in each of his last five, along with three assists for eight points in five games.
- Also keep an eye on veteran Jonathan Patch (‘03) who has 3-5-8 in his last five games, which has helped him to cross the 1.00 point per game mark for his career with 54 points in 50 contests.
The Road Ahead: The Cyclones play just two games at the IHC Showcase, taking on Elmira on Saturday and the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders on Sunday. They have not faced the first-year Jr. Enforcers, but they defeated the other first-year squad the Jr. Islanders by a 3-1 score at the Rockets Hockey Club Showcase in October.
Springfield Pics (1-1-0-0)
The season has not been kind to the Pics, but they were able to pick up their second win recently against the Boston Junior Bruins, a 3-2 regulation win for Springfield on Nov. 12, one day after a 3-1 loss to Bridgewater. Their other win this season is against the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders, whom the Pics will see again this weekend at the IHC Showcase.
- The Pics stumbled out of the gate with four shutout losses in nine games, but their offense has picked up and they have registered goals in each of their last seven contests.
- A couple of players who have really begun to pick up steam are ‘05 forwards James Greene and Francis Henderson, who put up three and four points respectively in their last four games after having two points apiece through Oct. 20.
- Leading scorer and ‘05 defenseman Nick Gutin has seven points in his last five games, improving to 11 points after starting with four in his first eight contests.
- Goaltender Chase Ebeyer has continued to improve and it paid off with his first junior win, stopping 39 of 41 Junior Bruins shots. He’s stopped 133 of 140 shots in his last three starts for a .950 save percentage and is 1-0-1-1 in that stretch as well.
The Road Ahead: The Pics will play three showcase games, facing Elmira, P.A.L. and then the New York Aviators. They only have a history against the Aviators, with a 9-3-0-0 all time record against the boys from Brooklyn.
In Other Action
The Bridgewater Bandits, 1-2 over the last week, are the only other team taking part in the IHC Showcase. They’ll face the Aviators back-to-back on Friday and Saturday, and they’ll finish with Elmira on Sunday morning.
The Junior Bruins are out of game action until Dec. 2.
Jersey Hitmen (2-1-0-0)
The Hitmen had a full weekend, first taking on the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights, putting up a good fight, but unfortunately only getting one goal in the second, taking the 5-1 loss. Both Saturday and Sunday they faced off against the Elmira Jr Enforcers. The Hitmen dominated Saturday’s game with 50 shots on goal against Elmira’s 29, taking the 2-1 win, then coming back on Sunday with another win 4-3.
The wins pushed the Hitmen to 25 points, and in second place behind the WBS Knights.
- Offense by committee continues to be a theme, as 20 players have put up points so far. The only player averaging more than a point per game is the leading scorer J.T. Verdino, who has 20 points in 16 games.
The Road Ahead: This weekend, we will see the Jersey Hitmen face off against the Nashville Spartans in the happening Tennessee city. The Hitmen went 2-1 against the Spartans between Oct. 21-23, though the Spartans took three points in total from a win and a shootout loss.
New York Aviators (1-0)
The Aviators had just one game last week against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights on Friday, getting the win 5-4. Helping secure the win was Goaltender Ashton Globe making 60 saves on 64 shots, and forward Michael McGowan getting in two goals.
- It was a huge win for the 5-7 Aviators to take down the Knights, second in the USPHL Elite with a 15-3-1-0 record. The win evened their season series against the Knights to a 2-2 record.
- Going back to their prior win over the Knights on Oct. 30, the Aviators’ Michael McGowan has an active four-game scoring streak. Along with seven goals (at least one in each of the last four games), he’s added two assists. His nine points in four games gives him an overall total of 10 goals and 18 points in 11 games.
- Eddie Kienzle (‘05) is fast approaching the 100-point mark for his career. He has a 4-6-10 line in his last five games and 93 points in 69 contests.
- Jake Bergmann (‘03) has points going back five games, when he put up 2-6-8. Alec Young (‘03), also has points in his last four games at 1-3-4.
The Road Ahead:The Aviators start out their Islanders Hockey Club Showcase with a pair of games against the Bridgewater Bandits Friday and Saturday. They also face the Pics on Saturday and then close Sunday against the Islanders Hockey Club.
Rockets Hockey Club (1-1)
The Rockets faced the defending National Champion Richmond Generals this weekend going 1-1. On Friday, they had a 2-0 shutout, the third this season for goaltender Michael Grima who saved all 33 shots on goal for the Rockets. Their second game of the weekend was a tough fight for Grima, who still saved 45 shots, but he gave up the win to Richmond, 7-2 Rockets .
• John Crowdell has as many points (33) as the next two highest-scoring Rockets combined. That puts him in lofty positions in the league – third in points, tied for second in goals (16) and tied for third in assists (17).
The Road Ahead: RHC will not be playing games again until December.
The Knights faced off against the Jersey Hitmen Friday Night, securing an easy win 5-1, thanks to forward Eric MicHale getting two of the goals for the Knights. Saturday’s game against the New York Aviators was a fight, with the Aviators giving their all and coming back in the third, the Knights losing 5-4. The Knights will be off from game action until December.
- The Knights go into their extended break with a hold on third place in the entire USPHL Elite with a 15-3-1-0 record and an .816 winning percentage.
- Count Eric McHale and Roberto Nabozny as two players who can’t wait to get started again. They are holding on to two of the Elite’s longest scoring streaks. Over nine games, McHale’s is the longest active streak with 9-6-15 over that stretch. If he scores in his return to game action, he’ll equal the longest point streak of the season, which is 10 games held by Charlotte’s Tyler Tonucci (15 points). Nabozny’s is second longest active, at seven games with a 7-7-14 line over that stretch.