The United States Premier Hockey League is getting ready for one of its greatest events of the 2019-20 season, as the USPHL All-Star Event fast approaches on Jan. 20.
The All-Star Event features two teams from each of the National Collegiate Development Conference, the USPHL 18U Divisions and USPHL 16U Divisions, featuring the best 40+ players from each of these very diverse conferences hitting the ice on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Add in the venue - Merrimack College, an NCAA Division 1 facility in North Andover, Mass. - and you have all the ingredients for everlasting memories, eye-popping highlights and great player camaraderie from across team lines that are otherwise fortified walls during the regular season and playoffs.
While final rosters will be announced tentatively on Jan. 8 via a special The Dan K Show presentation, you can be assured that the game will be filled with players with NCAA Division 1 and 3 commitments in hand. You can also be assured that many more commitments will follow after the games.
As we prepare for the 2020 games, we take a look back at the highlights of past years and where some of the top All-Star performers have taken their game since their day in the USPHL spotlight.
A big snowfall just prior to Martin Luther King Jr. Day did not stop any of the All-Star game participants from hitting the ice at Merrimack College.
The NCDC contest was a knock- down, drag-out affair between the National All-Stars and American All- Stars, but the National team won by a 7-5 score.
The victorious National team was coached by Junior Bruins Head Coach Mike Anderson and Connecticut Jr. Rangers Head Coach Jim Henkel; and the American squad was coached by Jersey Hitmen Head Coach Toby Harris and New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs Head Coach Ryan Frew.
There were two-goal performances from one player on each team. The National’s goal leader was former Jr. Ranger Noah Strawn, who is now with the Endicott College men’s hockey team. His two goals were matched by the American team’s Mickey Burns, of the Hitmen. Burns is a lock for the 2020 game, as he was the leading scorer for the NCDC at the Christmas break.
The railing above the Gallant Rink at Merrimack College was full for the 18U All-Star game. The National team was selected by Skipjacks Hockey Club head coach Jason Kersner and Islanders Hockey Club head coach Tim Pelletier, and coached by Kersner to a 4-3 victory.
The majority of scoring took place in the first period, and the 3-2 score after the first 20 minutes stood after 40 minutes as well. The eventual game-winning goal was scored by the Northern Cyclones’ Ben Peterson, who is now with the Cyclones’ USPHL Premier team.
The final game of the day was a certified “Instant Classic,” as the 16U American and National teams scored two goals apiece for an absolute thriller. The Rockets Hockey Club’s Alexander Farmer scored just inside of the three- minute remaining mark. David Bazile, currently with the Islanders Hockey Club 18U team, scored two goals for the victorious National team in the 4-3 victory.
The NCDC All-Star Game actually saw a decisive shutout which was made official by the Northern Cyclones goaltender Drennen Atherton, currently tending the net for Sacred Heart University. Taking the second period shutout was former Junior Bruin Yaniv Perets, who also played in the 2019 game. He is bound for Quinnipiac University next season.
Getting the thrice-shared shutout was Adam Mercer, who split that 2018 season between the South Shore Kings and Junior Bruins and is now with Norwich University.
The USPHL 16U game featured such talents as Trevor Smith, a University of Vermont recruit who was one of the first in NCDC history to earn a direct call-up from the 16U Division. The former Skipjacks Hockey Club player scored 44 points in 24 contests that year. Additionally, Merrimack College commit Alex Jefferies, who scored 53 points in 24 games, was a high-profile player in that 16U game.
There were also several players who would move on to claim NCAA Division 1 commitments and additional All-Star nods in later years including current Jersey Hitmen NCDC player Liam McLinskey (Quinnipiac) and current New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs player Aidan Curran (U. of New Hampshire).
The 18U game was also a showcase of future NCDC talent, from the Junior Bruins Ian Carpentier (Yale University commit) to the Hitmen’s Mickey Burns, the Boston Bandits’ Connor Sullivan and the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders’ Liam Donelan, who just advanced to Wesleyan University i mid-season.
Team American was the big victor in the USPHL Premier All-Star Game in the final year before the formation of the NCDC. This was due in large part to the contributions of former Islanders Hockey Club players Lucas Michaud and Austin Lemieux.
Michaud was a four-year USPHL player, and was in his third year in the league when he joined Lemieux - the son of Hall of Fame player Mario Lemieux - in stealing the spotlight of the game. Both had four-point efforts in the Team
Michaud has since moved on to Trinity College, where he is now averaging better than a point per game (nine through eight contests) after being named as the NESCAC Rookie Of The Year and a Second Team All- Conference selection last year.
Lemieux is playing for Arizona State University, where he currently has 20 career points in two years of action with the Sun Devils.
The first “Young Guns” (USPHL 16U and 18U All-Star) games featured several players who would later go on to NCAA Division 1 colleges, as well as at least one NHL draft pick. This included former P.A.L. Jr. Islanders standouts Dom Fensore (Boston University/Carolina Hurricanes) and Danny Weight (Boston College commit) and former Junior Bruin Max Bogdanovich (University of Maine commit).
Current Islanders Hockey Club NCDC goalie and Brown commit Jacob Zacharewicz also played in the 16U game.
Jackson Sterrett, a standout for the Skipjacks Hockey Club 18U team, committed to UMass-Lowell just over a month after the All-Star game.
The star of the show in 2016 was former South Shore King (and Boston Junior Bruin) Michael Booth, who scored three points to help Team National to the 9-4 win. Booth is currently in his second season with Boston College, and he made his commitment within weeks of the All- Star Game.
Although his team did not win, current University of Connecticut Captain Ben Freeman scored two goals for Team American, representing half of his team’s goals total.