The United States Hockey League today announced that Jim Montgomery of the Dubuque Fighting Saints has been named the 2012-13 USHL General Manager of the Year as determined by a vote of USHL coaches and general managers.
Montgomery was the architect of the most successful season in the history of the Dubuque Fighting Saints. The team posted a 45-11-8 record and earned a League best 98 points in the standings to capture the USHL Anderson Cup. It brought the title back to Dubuque for the first time in 30 years. The Saints compiled a stellar 25-3-4 record at the Mystique Community Ice Center, the most home victories in team history and tying a USHL Tier 1 era (2002-present) mark for wins on home ice. They would also go on to win the Clark Cup in the postseason, the second time in three years under Montgomery that they have won the title.
After returning just four regular players from the 2011-12 season, Montgomery had the daunting task of replacing nine of the top ten scorers, including a pair of first-round picks in the 2012 NHL Draft – Zemgus Girgensons and Mike Matheson. The general manager did so by recruiting a trio of forwards that would light up the scoreboard and each tally 30 goals or more this season – Mike Szmatula (37), Peter Quenneville (33), and Frank DiChiara (30). It was just the second time in the Tier 1 era that a USHL team had three players each score 30 goals (Indiana Ice, 2010-11).
While replacing a large chunk of the roster from last year, the success this season came from a group that Montgomery kept mostly intact from the first day of training camp. He made very few roster moves throughout the season, but those he did make had significant impacts. He acquired goaltender Christian Frey who would post a 7-2-2 record over his 12 appearances, plus added affiliate player Karson Kuhlman and veteran forward Joseph Manno from the collegiate ranks, both of whom were key contributors over the second half of the season and in the playoffs.
The Saints received significant contributions from several youngsters this season, including a pair of players that Montgomery signed to tenders – Seamus Malone and Keegan Ford. Both played the season as 16-year-olds and were regulars in the lineup. Malone produced 27 points (6g, 21a) and a plus-12 rating in 50 games as a forward while defenseman Ford tallied 16 points (4g, 12a) and a plus-19 rating in 43 contests. Another 16-year-old, Dylan Gambrell, was selected by the team in the first round of the 2012 USHL Futures Draft and played a huge role for the Saints, scoring 27 points (9g, 18a) and posting a plus-14 rating.
While Montgomery’s team showed no shortage in offense, Dubuque was also the USHL’s top defensive team this season, giving up a League low 154 goals. The defense was backstopped by goaltender Arthur Brey who would post an impressive 24-6-4 record and lead the League with a 2.22 goals-against-average in just his first USHL season. Montgomery also brought in a pair of first-year defensemen to lead the defense. Niklas Nevalainen posted a plus-51 rating to lead the USHL while Jeff Taylor was third with a plus-41 mark.
"For the last three years, the Dubuque Fighting Saints have been a standard-bearer for the USHL, and a much of the credit for their success, both on and off the ice, goes to Coach Montgomery," said USHL President and Commissioner Skip Prince. "It all came together this past season, as Jim led the Saints to League trifecta – the Clark Cup, the Anderson Cup…and even the Cowbell Cup as the winner of the series with rivals Waterloo and Cedar Rapids. It's been a pleasure and a privilege to see him build a new tradition of excellence in Dubuque, and we congratulate him as he takes his skills to the University of Denver next year. Well done!"
Montgomery continued to develop NHL Draft prospects, including four players from this season’s team that were listed on the NHL Central Scouting final rankings in advance of the 2013 NHL Draft. Defenseman Michael Downing leads the group and is projected to be an early-round selection, while forwards Quenneville, DiChiara, and John Stevens have garnered attention from NHL scouts. Dubuque also had 18 players on the season-ending roster who have earned NCAA Division I hockey opportunities following their USHL careers.
Over three seasons in the USHL, Montgomery’s teams posted a 118-45-21 record, a .698 winning percentage. It is the second time he has been named USHL General Manager of the Year. He now moves on to college hockey as he recently accepted the position of head coach at the University of Denver.
(Nathan can be reached at email@example.com)