Regular season concludes, playoffs begin this week
Anderson Cup Champions
The Green Bay Gamblers claimed the Anderson Cup on the final day of the regular season. They overcame 4-3 deficit late in the third period by scoring two goals in a span of 44 seconds to take the lead and eventually cap off the victory by defeating the Des Moines Buccaneers 6-4. It is the third regular season title for the franchise and first since capturing the prize in back-to-back seasons in 1995-96 and 1996-97. It was a tremendous turnaround for a club that had finished last overall in the standings a year ago with just 13 wins.
USHL Reaches One Million Attendance Mark
For the 10th consecutive season, the USHL has surpassed one million in attendance (1,037,149). This season's total nearly equals the combined total of the regular season and playoffs from a year ago. Lincoln led the league in attendance for the third consecutive season while Waterloo increased their attendance figure for an unprecedented seventh consecutive season. Fargo ranked fifth in league attendance during their inaugural season.
Chicago Steel forward Andrew Miller finished the year as the top scorer during the regular season amassing 82 points (32g, 50a). He also led the league in assists. Indiana Ice forward Mike Cichy and Fargo Force forward Andy Taranto were the top goal scorers in the USHL collecting 34 each.
Green Bay defensemen Nick Jensen had the top plus/minus rating (+34) of the season. Four of the top six players in that category were from Green Bay; Michael Forney (+33), Reed Seckel (+31), Dalton Speelman (+30).
35 Wins for Bennett
Indiana Ice goaltender Brett Bennett earned 35 victories this season, which was one shy of tying the USHL single season record held by Jeff Lerg who won 36 games during the 2004-05 season for the Omaha Lancers.
A total of 24 USHL players played a full 60-game schedule during the regular season. Indiana had a league-high four players appear in all 60 games on the team's schedule.
Danny Kristo (7g, 9a) of Omaha, Jordan Samuels-Thomas (7g, 2a) of Waterloo, and Dean Chelios (2g, 6a) of Chicago all ended the season on seven-game point streaks.
Despite missing the playoffs, the Sioux City Musketeers won four of their final five games scoring a total of 25 goals in those contests.
Cedar Rapids forward Ben Lynch scored a goal in each of his final three games of the season, including two game-winners. Sioux City forward Jarrod Mermis also ended the season on a three-game goal streak scoring a total of four goals.
The Tri-City Storm were 4-0 in overtimes this season, while the Chicago Steel had a perfect 5-0 record in shootouts during the regular season.
"Championships never get old. I know there's another one to go and our goal is focusing on winning the Clark Cup playoffs, but to play in the best junior hockey league in the United States and to be able to say after a 60-game season that 'We're the best,' I'll never forget that, and neither will these kids."
Green Bay head coach Jon Cooper to the Green Bay Press-Gazette following the 6-4 win vs. Des Moines on Sunday to claim the Anderson Cup.
St. Louis Blues center David Backes had a career night when he scored four goals, including the game-winner in a 5-4 win vs. Detroit on April 2nd. The fourth goal gave him a total of 30 on the season. Backes played two seasons in the USHL with Lincoln.
Aaron Palushaj signed with the St. Louis Blues after two seasons at the University of Michigan. He made his professional debut on Saturday, April 4th for the Blues' AHL affiliate in Peoria. Palushaj played two seasons for the Des Moines Buccaneers scoring 100 points (32g, 68a) in 114 games.
Michigan State senior goaltender Jeff Lerg is one of ten finalists for the Hockey Humanitarian Award presented annually to the college hockey player that most personifies true community spirit through the selfless commitment of leadership, effort and time. Lerg was the USHL Player and Goaltender of the Year following the 2004-05 season leading the Omaha Lancers to the Anderson Cup. He won 36 games during that campaign which is a USHL season record.
A total of 40 USHL alumni are on the rosters of the finalists for the NCAA Men's Frozen Four. Miami (OH), who is appearing in the first Frozen Four is school history, leads the way with 16 players who spent time in the league before their collegiate careers. (Vermont – 11, Bemidji State – 8, Boston University – 5).
Scott Clemmensen of the New Jersey Devils and Mark Eaton of the Pittsburgh Penguins were nominated for the Bill Masterton Trophy, which is awarded annually to the NHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey. Clemmensen (Des Moines) and Eaton (Waterloo) both spent the 1995-96 and 1996-97 seasons in the USHL.
The USHL is celebrating its 30th season of junior hockey in 2008-09. With over 160 players already committed to NCAA Division I schools and 16 NHL Draft picks playing in the league, the USHL is the nation's foremost producer of junior hockey talent. For more information, visit us on the web at www.ushl.com.
(Nathan also is a writer for Maineiacs Post to Post and the Maine Hockey Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)