By Patrick Ramsdale / USPHL.com
After last season, many would argue that the North Division is the toughest in the Elite Conference. It was the only division that saw two of its teams to the final four at USPHL Nationals. Tim Plummer’s Northern Cyclones would finish the season as the runner-up to the Elite Champion Richmond Generals.
Order is 2021-22 Points
Islanders Hockey Club
The Islanders Hockey Club had a fantastic regular season, amassing a record of 34-10, including a 12-game winning streak that spanned from Jan. 17 to Feb. 20.
With all the success from last season, Head Coach Jay Punksy saw a majority of last year’s roster take the next step in their junior hockey careers.
“We promoted a significant amount of last year’s team to higher levels of junior this year,” Punksy added. “As a result, we have a lot of rookies who are excited to make their mark.”
Several of these rookies were members of the U18 National Champion OKC Oil Kings.
Among the returners for Punksy and the IHC Elite squad are Lawrence Looby, Ryan Schier, Darren Tucker and Aleksei Maitre.
“They’re all high character kids so we are excited to watch them grow into leadership roles,” Punsky added.
The Islanders Hockey Club opens the 2022-23 season at home on Thursday, Sept. 22 against the Bridgewater Jr. Bandits.
The Northern Cyclones are looking to have a repeat of their success from last season, having made it all the way to the USPHL Elite National Championship.
The Cyclones will return a large number of players from last season who will use that experience to propel the Cyclones to even more success.
Head Coach Tim Plummer has always run the Cyclones to have a structured style of play that capitalizes on the team’s depth.
“We have a great group of new guys that we recruited with a lot of different skill sets,” added Plummer about the newest members of the Cyclones team.
The Elite North Division is always a competitive division in which any team could win on any given night, but Plummer is confident that his team will come put on top.
“We expect it to be a battle for the top seed,” Plummer added. “And our goal is to end up in the National final again.”
The Cyclones will begin their campaign back to the finals on Thursday, Sept. 29, as the host to the Islanders Hockey Club.
Boston Junior Bruins
The Junior Bruins had a good season in 2021-22, finishing the year with a .557 points percentage. However, head coach Nevin Hamilton and his team will look to secure a spot at USPHL Nationals this season.
While they may not have had the playoff success they hoped for, they saw many of their top scorers make the jump up to the Premier level for 2022-23, a testament to how good this Junior Bruins Elite team is.
This will also allow for newcomers to make a statement at the Elite level this year, hopefully take the next step in their junior careers as well.
The Junior Bruins will continue to form their roster until they open the season on the road against the Northern Cyclones on Oct. 2.
Springfield relied a lot on skill last season, but that will likely not be the case for the Pics when they begin the season in Bridgewater on Sept. 25.
Head Coach Chris Beaudoin believes this roster to be a bit more well-rounded this season.
“This year, I think we are going to be more of a complete team,” added Beaudoin. “Not relying on straight skill but a combo of skill and physicality.”
The Pics saw some key names move up to the program’s Premier team, such as forwards Chris Foster and Nick DiSanti. However, the team returns D.J. Velez and Nick Starsioleski to provide a physical presence to the ice. Also returning is goaltender Colin Sherwood to man the crease this season.
Springfield will also call up Gabriel Higgins, Francis Henderson, James Greene, and Luke Haynes from their prestigious 16U program.
The Bandits had some bright spots throughout the 2021-22 season, mainly in the performance of many of their rookies.
Bridgewater will return their top four scorers from last year in Hayden Kearney, Kyle Wilson, Sean Heritage and Quirino DoCanto. Goaltender Luca Bruns will return between the pipes with some USPHL experience under his belt.
Head coach Joey McDermott believes that this year’s team will be a “more mature group” thank last season.
The Bandits will also bring in new faces like Timmy Luna, Liam Norton, and most notably, Ben Dias, who left Mount St. Charles Academy and could put up some big numbers in the Elite this year.
Expect to see an energized Bandits team with something to prove when they take to the ice on Sept. 22 against the Islanders Hockey Club.