The 2020-21 PWHPA season opened with a bang on Friday night in Hudson, New Hampshire. The New Hampshire Regional Training Hub became the first group to take to the ice when they took on two USPHL NCDC teams in exhibitions at Cyclones Arena in Hudson, New Hampshire. The Regional Training Hub fell 5-0 to the Islanders Hockey Club on Friday night, and then 5-1 to the Boston Junior Bruins on Saturday.
Although not the final results they were hoping for, there is a lot of optimism following the first weekend of action in New Hampshire.
The USPHL’s NCDC conference is one of the top Junior leagues in the United States. A tuition-free Tier 2 circuit, the NCDC is known for its long and proven track record of advancing players to the NCAA level. In fact, the Bruins and Islanders are two of the most successful teams in league history. Both have sent over a dozen players to the Division 1 level each over the last three seasons. The Bruins also saw Drew O’Connor sign an NHL contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins this past May.
This was some stiff competition for the PWHPA.
Even though the wins were not there, the impression was made. Islanders Hockey Club coach Tim Kyrkostas was especially impressed. After leading his team to a fourth place finish in the NCDC a season ago, Kyrkostas’ team is expected to compete for a Dineen Cup this winter. He lobbied for some reinforcements after the game.
“Tim asked me if some of our players still had Junior eligibility after the game,” Regional Training Hub GM and Coach Bill Flanagan told ‘The Women’s Hockey Tribune’. “They were really impressed with the competitiveness of the game and of our team’s performance.”
The New Hampshire Regional Training Hub was completing a wild week which saw them go from tryouts to games. The group came together for the first time on September 12th, skating then and on the 13th before roster decisions were made. The first official practice was on September 16th, while game one took place on September 18th. By the time a week had passed in the season, the team had been on the ice five times.
“I know our team really came together and worked hard at the end of a long week,” Assistant General Manager Alex Thomas said. “Calling the game on the live stream, I think you could see the team gel in real time. The chemistry was maybe off the first few shifts, but then these women started to click and you could see it. I think anyone that paid attention and watched would tell you the score wasn’t reflective of the performance.”
Team USA star Amanda Kessel agreed. Following her debut on Saturday, Kessel was excited for the season to come, specifically mentioning that this could be a special group as the chemistry grew.
The optimism is clear, and it’s understandable. The New Hampshire Regional Training Hub features top-end players at all levels, with Katie Burt leading the way in goal. Megan Keller, Kali Flanagan and Codie Cross stood out defensively, while Alex Carpenter, Hayley Scamurra, Kessel, Haley Skarupa and Makenna Newkirk led a balanced attack.
With an eye towards future games, the New Hampshire Regional Training Hub is pleased with how the season began.
“This past weekend began our series against NCDC teams. These teams are high-level division 1 and pro prospects,” Flanagan said. “Our women held their own, and played a strong, competitive game. The complementary dialogue with the opposing coaches was awesome! For those that were there and understand the competition, our women won!”
The PWHPA and USPHL agreed to play exhibition games back in June. The expectation is the New Hampshire Region will play most, if not all, of the 13 teams in the NCDC conference. No further games are scheduled at this time, but that will change.