No, the Cape Cod Islanders aren’t a professional team, and you'll never mistake them as one. The club plays in the North American 3 Hockey League (NA3HL), which is a Tier III junior association for players aged 20 and under.
While the league might be two stages below the top junior leagues in the country, heading to the Falmouth Ice Arena for a game is always a good time because the Islanders have some highly skilled players and play an exciting brand of hockey. Plus, it gives you the chance to see some of the best young hockey players to come out of Cape Cod, in addition to imports from around the United States, Canada, and Europe.
Check out a game in the near future because you never know, you might end up as one of the Islanders’ biggest fans.
The Team’s History
The Cape Cod Islanders first appeared in 2008 in the International Junior Hockey League, where they were known as the Cubs and twice won the league championship. In 2012, the team moved to the Northern State Hockey League, where they spent two seasons before going to North American 3 Eastern Hockey League. They now play in the Coastal Division of the North American 3 Hockey League, a massive association with teams all over the country.
Over the years, the Islanders have developed a few players who have moved on to play at higher levels. For example, four alumni ended up playing in ACHA Division I at the University of Rhode Island, Slippery Rock University, and Kent State University. Other players have made NCAA Division II and III teams, in addition to ACHA Division II clubs, after completing their tenures on Cape Cod.
And that’s in addition to the players who have gone on to the pro ranks. The list of pro players is headlined by Daniil Tarasov, who moved to the USHL, the country's top junior league, after playing on Cape Cod. From there, he joined with the Worcester Sharks of the American Hockey League, and on April 2, 2013, he signed his first NHL contract with the San Jose Sharks. Tarasov ended up playing five games in San Jose, picking up one assist and becoming the first and only Islander alumni to make the NHL. He is currently playing in the Kontinental Hockey League in Russia for his hometown team, Moscow Dynamo.
As impressive as Tarasov's rise from the Islanders was, he's not the only former player to end up in the pro ranks. Other former players Maxime Dordet, Ilya Koposov, Andrei Shebelbain, Gregor Lanziner, and Alexander Shalamov have gone on to play professional hockey in Europe, which is no small feat when coming out of the Tier III ranks.
Information on the Season
The North American 3 Hockey League has 36 teams from cities all over the country, including College Station, Texas, Lafayette, Louisiana, Rochester, Minnesota, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Butte, Montana, and Long Beach, New York. The league spans almost the entire country, but due to geographical limitations and the cost of travel, teams only play within their division until the league championships.
When the playoffs hit, the top four teams in each of the league’s six divisions qualify. Two rounds are then played to determine the division’s champion. That winner advances to the Fraser Cup, which is the league’s championship tournament. The six teams play a mini round robin consisting of two games each, which is followed by single-game semi-finals and finals. The Fraser Cup runs until the end of March, at which time the season is over.
A Cool Way to Spend an Evening
The great thing about the Cape Cod Islanders is that there are usually a bunch of kids who grew up on Cape Cod on the team. In the 2018-2019 season, players from Yarmouth, Harwich, Sandwich, Barnstable, and Centerville, along with another player from just off the Cape in Dartmouth, were on the club, so heading out to watch a game means supporting some local players in the process.
The league is also one of the country's top training grounds for future student-athletes, so it's well worth supporting a great cause and getting some enjoyment out of it in the process.