#USPHLPlayoffs: P.A.L. Jr. Islanders vs. Rockets Hockey Club 

Atlantic Division 

P.A.L. Jr. Islanders (2) vs. Rockets Hockey Club (3) 

All Games At The Rinx, Hauppauge, NY 

Saturday, March 9, 7:10 p.m. EST

Sunday, March 10, 11:40 a.m. EST

Monday, March 11, 10:40 a.m. EST (If Necessary) 


By Joshua Boyd / USPHLElite.com 


The Rockets Hockey Club were getting to that point where they were enjoying being part of “the Nationals crowd,” making the national tournament in 2021 and 2022. Last season, they fell just a bit shy of their goal after running into a WBS Knights buzzsaw. 

This year, the Rockets are facing an all-new opponent. The P.A.L. Jr. Islanders just opened their Elite program in 2022-23 and already this year, they have attained the second seed in the Atlantic Division. 

“We’re expecting this to be a good series,” said Islanders Asst. Coach/Asst. GM Rob Antonucci. “Our goal is to play simple, fast and hard hockey. We know we’ve split with the Rockets over the course of the season and know how they play and what they’re capable of, but we also know our strengths are and look to play to them this weekend.”

The Rockets and P.A.L. did exactly split the year at 3-3, including splitting the final weekend of February, in which P.A.L. won 5-4 and then the Rockets won 4-0 on the 24th and 25th. 

“The match-ups this season against P.A.L. have been fairly even in terms of wins and losses, but we know we control our own destiny and that’s been the message all season,” said Rockets Head Coach Todd Wagenbach. “Our guys have gone through it this season and we are now healthy enough to win this series and go to Utica. Anything less would be extremely disappointing.”

Let’s just say the Rockets have some good offense and leave it at that. Moving on. Just kidding. We have to mention that two-year Rocket John Crowdell is the USPHL Elite’s all-time leading scorer for a career (191 points). He scored 108 points this year, as well which was the second highest single season total in the Elite’s seven-year history – the first was set by Crowdell’s teammate and fellow Staten Island, N.Y., resident Jace Lombardo with 113 points. 

Defenseman Justin Modzelewski with 34 points in 42 games was the third-leading scorer after the two century club members. 

Rockets goalie Joseph Auletti put up a .940 save percentage to rank third in the USPHL Elite this year, and he went 12-3-0-0 in the season. He finished on a five-game winning streak. Eric Rosati had the 32-save shutout against P.A.L. on Feb. 25, and Tony Macaluso has also earned a win over the past couple weeks. 

“We’ve known for a couple weeks now that we would face P.A.L., we just didn’t know where,” said Wagenbach. “We’ve been preparing for this all season and now it’s win or go home. Getting to Nationals has been the ultimate goal for this group since Day 1. We are ready.”

“Our team quote,” added P.A.L.’s Antonucci, is ‘Being ready is not what only matters. What matters is winning now that we are there,’” he said. 

The group that will have to be fully there at the Rinx has been led offensively by Justin Morrissey all year – he had 82 points in 42 games. Lucas Lewin (65 points) and Bobby Trites (47 points in 32 games) provided outstanding depth. Second-year defenseman Peter Allen had 37 points this year from the blue line to rank in the top 10 of defenseman points in the league. 

Goaltender Christopher Lucente went 15-7-1-0 with a .922 save percentage, and Luke Pavone went 8-5-0-0 on the year.