Photo by Hickling Images
Sunday marked the final day of USHL action the 2017 USHL Fall Classic, with three games being played to close out the five day, 23-game event. Below is a recap from Sunday's USHL games at the 2017 USHL Fall Classic.
Flying Aces Soar Past Storm
The Central Illinois Flying Aces closed out their preseason with a 6-3 triumph over the Tri-City Storm. Blake Evennou, Tyler Madden and Calen Kiefiuk all found the back of the net in the first period across a 7:09 span to give their team a 3-0 lead heading into the second period. After Jack Summers and Blais Richartz scored for the Storm in the middle frame to cut the lead to 3-2, Tyler Ward scored his third goal of the preseason to even the score at three early in the third. Central Illinois roared ahead in the last half of the final frame, getting goals from Cory Babichuk, Lucas McGregor and Regan Cavangh to pull away and earn the victory. Simon Butala dished out a pair of assists, and Kris Carlson made 23 saves on 26 shots to earn the win. The balanced Flying Aces offensive attack was on display again on Sunday, and if it continues into the regular season, Central Illinois will make some noise in the Eastern Conference.
Muskegon Muscles Past Madison
Goaltending was the story for the Muskegon Lumberjacks in their 2-1 victory over the Madison Capitols. Adam Brizgala, ready to take the full-time reins between the pipes following the depature of Keith Petruzzelli, stopped all but one of the 13 attempts he saw through two periods of play. Matthew Vernon, son of former NHL goaltender Mike Vernon, replaced Brizgala for the third period and was stellar, stopping all eight Madison shots he faced. A big question for the Lumberjacks this season is who will emerge as Brizgala's backup, and Vernon is making as good of a case as anyone. In three preseason appearances, the San Jose native allowed only three goals and finished with a 2.07 GAA and .921 SV%. Mikael Hakkarainen and Jachym Kondelik found the back of the net for Muskegon in the victory.
Phantoms Power Past Bucs
The final USHL contest of the 2017 Fall Classic was one of the more entertaining games all week long, as the Youngstown Phantoms took down the Des Moines Buccaneers by a score of 6-5. Five different players found the back of the net for Youngstown, in the game, including 2017 tender signee Trevor Kuntar, who found the back of the net twice. Curtis Hall added two more points (1G, 1A) to give him five points (3G, 2A) in the preseason. The Yale commit looks like he could become a breakout star in the USHL this season. The Phantoms appear ready for an even better season than last year, when they took the Clark Cup champion Chicago Steel to five games in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Scouts from all 31 NHL teams and over 55 NCAA Division 1 programs lined the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex all throughout the week to get a look at the talent across the USHL. "It's something that it's on the scouting map now," said Dan Marr, Director of NHL Central Scouting. "It's on the scouting cycle. And the fact that anytime you can get all these teams in one place, you're going to draw an NHL crowd. I don't know there's this many eyes on players at any other event in the world." The USHL was thrilled to have all 17 teams under one roof at the 2017 Fall Classic, and it gave all players the opportunity to be evaluated by over 250 scouts over course of the week.
Regular Season Around the Corner
Yesterday marked the end of the preseason for all USHL teams. It will be a quick turnaround from the Fall Classic to the start of the regular season. Each USHL team will have to cut their roster down to 23 players by Tuesday, October 3 at 6 PM central time. Teams will then have a chance to make roster adds (not including trades) that do not count down the annual 10 roster moves limit, on Wednesday, October 4. The 2017-18 campaigns will then commence on Friday, October 6, with 12 teams kicking off their regular seasons.
Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the USHL celebrates its 16th season as the nation's only Tier I junior hockey league in 2017-18. 30 or more players from the USHL have been selected in five consecutive NHL Drafts, and more than 400 players on team rosters last season committed to NCAA Division I schools, further establishing the USHL as the world’s foremost producer of junior hockey talent.