By Joshua Boyd / USPHLPremier.com
Islanders Hockey Club
Seed: New England #2
Seeding Round Schedule
All games at Utica University Nexus Center
Day 1: Thursday, March 23, vs. Toledo Cherokee, 5 p.m. EST
Day 2: Friday, March 24, vs. Florida Eels, 4 p.m. EST
Remainder of schedule determined by seeding round results
The Islanders Hockey Club remain in familiar territory, having qualified for four consecutive Premier National Championships. But familiarity isn’t to be confused with comfort – the Islanders are not satisfied just with making it. They want to finally make good on their legacy of being a Nationals regular by being a Nationals champion.
“The Islanders have had very strong teams at the Premier level for several years, dating back to when our current NCDC coach Tim Kyrkostas was coaching the team,” said Assistant Coach Kevin Smith. “Having continued success and regularly earning our way to Nationals only further solidifies the program as a great place for good players to play, develop, and move on to higher levels.
That regular record for NCAA and other college hockey advancement, however, means there’s a lot of turnover each year. They call come into the Premier team, however, being fully educated on the expectations not just of how they develop, but team success expectations.
“With a number of players moving on to higher levels of hockey each year, there are only a handful of players on this year’s team that have had the experience of playing in Nationals. We’ll rely heavily on those guys to help the other players along,” Smith added. “As a group we’ll be able to use the experience of playing in Nationals the last several years to understand that everything is going to be ramped up – the speed, the skill, and the intensity. I think we have a hard-working, skilled team that could surprise some people in Utica.”
They’ve put together some strong runs, including going 2-0-1 with a tie at the 2021 Nationals. In the round robin format of that year, they just missed the semifinals by a goal differential tiebreaker after tying the eventual National Champion Charlotte Rush in one of the most exciting Nationals games of recent years.
The Islanders have certainly seen firsthand just what it takes to go far, and they hope that despite their second seed in the New England Division, they’ll fare well in the two-game seeding round and pave a good path to the finals. They’ve certainly been putting in the workload at home in North Andover, Mass.
“At this point of the year it’s more about managing workload and making sure everyone is ready for the gauntlet of Premier Nationals,” said Head Coach Jay Punsky. “Every game is going to be difficult so it’s important that all our players are well rested heading into Utica. This group plays very well as a team so we won’t be making many adjustments aside from what is necessary based on our opponents.”
They made the right adjustments for two earlier opponents in the playoff rounds to reach Nationals. The Islanders drew first the Boston Advantage and a week later, the Boston Junior Bruins in a 2v3 series.
“The Bruins and Advantage are exceptionally skilled and well-coached teams. The matchups were very competitive for us and we found ourselves down in Game 1 of both series,” said Punsky. “We were able to find a way to win and I think that experience will be helpful against the strong competition we’ll face in Utica.”
The Islanders were led offensively by Worcester State University recruit Brady Carpenter, who put up 45 points in 39 games. Trystan Swiger was right behind at 44 points. Ean Badgett finished sixth in save percentage in the USPHL Premier at .935, and was also top 10 in goals against average at 1.99.
Scoring depth has been key for the IHC Premier team during the season and it lasted right into the playoffs – that depth will be 100 percent mandatory for success at the National level.
“We have a very deep team and had 13 different players contribute with goals during our first two series. A few of the top players to watch out for up front are Brady Carpenter, Evan Armit, Trystan Swiger, and Wilhelm Patriksson,” said Smith. “All are dangerous offensive threats. On the backend, Jamie Eyre and Daniel Stjernquist are shutdown defensemen who played big minutes for us in all situations. Ean Badgett was huge in net earning all four playoff wins to this point.”
So, yes, practice is in the cards just about every day for the team. There’ll be time for at least one social gathering as well, keeping pre-Nationals spirits high.
“Between the hectic playoff schedule and practices, there isn’t a whole lot of time,” added Smith. “However, the players will be having a team event to get everyone together before we leave for Utica.”