The United States Hockey League today announced the coaches who will lead the 40 USHL players during the 2012 USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game presented by CCM. The game is scheduled for Tuesday, January 24th, 2012 at the L.C. Walker Arena in Muskegon, Michigan.
Legendary coaches Ron Mason and Dave Siciliano will serve as honorary coaches during the event while Derek Lalonde of the Green Bay Gamblers and Chad Johnson of the Lincoln Stars, whose teams were leading their respective conferences on January 1st, have been selected to lead the two teams.
Mason is the all-time wins leader in NCAA hockey history with 924 career victories he earned at three different schools – Lake Superior State University, Bowling Green State University, and Michigan State University. He had a 23-season tenure at Michigan State (1979-2002) and led the Spartans to 21 appearances in the NCAA tournament, a record for a coach at a single school. Mason guided Michigan State to the NCAA Championship in 1986, a team that included Team USA head coach Danton Cole. During 36 seasons as a college coach, Mason’s teams won 20-or-more games in 30 seasons, won 10 CCHA regular season and 13 CCHA tournament titles, and advanced to the NCAA Frozen Four on eight occasions. He is currently a senior advisor to the Muskegon Lumberjacks in the USHL.
Siciliano coached in the USHL for 15 seasons and ranks second all-time on the League wins list with 522 career victories, only seven behind the top spot held by Mike Hastings (529). Siciliano led the Thunder Bay Flyers in the USHL from 1986-93, compiling an impressive 249-77-10 record during that time. His teams won 30-or-more games in all seven of those years when the USHL had just a 48-game regular season schedule. Siciliano led the Flyers to the Anderson Cup title four times and claimed consecutive Clark Cup championships (1988, 1989). His second stint in the USHL was with the Sioux City Musketeers, leading them to 273 wins over eight seasons (2000-08). The team earned a 41-16-4 record during the 2001-02 season and went on to capture the third Clark Cup title in team history. His career winning percentage in the USHL stands at .675. Siciliano is now a senior advisor to the USHL, assisting in hockey operations matters.
Lalonde is in his first USHL season and has led the Green Bay Gamblers to best overall record in the League at 26-5-1 (53 points). Green Bay is the highest scoring USHL team averaging 4.50 goals per contest while they also give up the fewest in the League at 2.34 per game. Four Gamblers are currently among the top ten in USHL scoring while the team also boasts the top three scoring defensemen in the League. Lalonde spent the previous nine seasons coaching at the NCAA Division 1 level. He was on the staff at the University of Denver for five years prior to coming to the USHL and helped the team four consecutive berths in the NCAA tournament.
Johnson in his second season as the head coach of the Lincoln Stars and has guided the team to a 19-11-2 record (40 points) in 2011-12. The Stars are the fourth highest scoring team at 3.38 goals per contest, which includes the top scorer in the League, forward Kevin Roy who has put up 50 points (27g, 23a) this season. Johnson guided the Stars to a 33-22-5 record and a playoff berth during his first season as head coach. He began his coaching career in Lincoln, serving as an assistant for three seasons (1996-99) and helped the Stars capture the Clark Cup in 1997. Prior to his return to Lincoln, Johnson spent two seasons on the staff for the Fargo Force and helped them reach the Clark Cup Final series in consecutive years (2009, 2010).
The 2012 USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, which is the first of its kind for the USHL, will showcase many of the top USHL players eligible for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. A total of 30 players selected are in their first year of eligibility for the NHL Entry Draft. Seven of the players are draft-eligible for the second time this year. In addition, the USHL will showcase three players who are eligible to be drafted by NHL teams in 2013.
A live broadcast of the game will be available for free through the USHL’s exclusive online broadcast partner, FASTHockey. Viewers can watch the game live via multiple formats – the USHL’s Facebook page, through a previously established FASTHockey account, or Roku users can watch the game on the platform’s USHL channel. To view the USHL free game broadcast, fans must first register and create a free account on FASTHockey http://ushl.fasthockey.com.
(Nathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)