Schedule Shake-Up Announced For 2017-18 Season
The Eugene Generals announced today a new partnership with elite hockey programs within the Northwest as the Generals enter their second season as members of the United States Premier Hockey League.
The Generals will be playing an independent schedule locally with both elite Tier I 18U programs such as the Wenatchee Wolves, Everett Jr. Silvertips and Cour d’Alene Hockey Academy as well as colleges and universities from throughout the area, including Western Washington University and the University of Oregon.
The Generals will also play twelve games against other USPHL Elite teams at USPHL Showcase Series events in Illinois and Massachusetts (2). To that end, the Generals furthered the franchise’s commitment to development and advancement by formalizing an NCDC affiliate agreement with the Islanders Hockey Club earlier this offseason.
This year's slate of USPHL Showcase Series opponents includes the Daytona Ravers, Potomac Patriots, Florida Eels, Richmond Generals, Atlanta Jr. Knights, Hartford Jr. Wolfpack, Hampton Roads Whalers, Jersey Shore Whalers, Boston Bandits, Connecticut Nighthawks, Syracuse Stars and Team Beijing.
This model marks a departure from the previous twelve seasons of Generals hockey as the franchise will be playing the most unique and diverse schedule across the entire Tier III landscape.
“We were advised back in March that both West Sound and Seattle weren’t going to participate in the USPHL, so we started looking at other options to fill our local schedule,” said Generals GM Flint Doungchak. “We loved the USPHL showcases as those games were competitive while at the same time having many high-level scouts in attendance from the NCDC, colleges and even the NHL.”
Doungchak initially reached out to long-time hockey veteran Bliss Littler of the Wenatchee Wild for assistance and advice on how Eugene could get some local games while still focusing on the goal of player development.
“When Eugene called me back in March about looking for alternatives, I knew that we had to find a way to get them games locally and help a good franchise,” said Littler, Head Coach and General Manager of the Wenatchee Wild. “We just don’t have that many good programs around here. We need to figure out something to help hockey.”
Eugene sees the move as a better opportunity for their players to develop as they will now face fierce competition lead by strong, established franchises with strong records. The Generals and Wolves already have previous ties as the two teams were formerly members of the Northern Pacific Hockey League (NPHL).
“Those were great, challenging games of high-level hockey,” reflected Doungchak. “Most of the games we won or lost were decided by a goal and sometimes within the last minute of play. That’s good for our players and will improve our performance at those heavily scouted USPHL showcases. Of the ten times we lost last year, half of them were at showcases. Clearly we need to be better prepared near home so we can better deliver when we go east. Winning twenty nine divisional games sounds great, but really for development, it’s not.”
The Generals will be playing the area’s best Tier I 18U talent that is constituted of players who are looking for collegiate and higher-level junior opportunities.
The Generals will be facing off against three of the Northwest's preeminent programs in the Cour d'Alene Hockey Academy, Everett Jr. Silvertips and Wenatchee Wolves.
In addition, the Generals will be playing various college programs in the area including Western Washington University, the University of Oregon, and several more that have yet to be formalized on the schedule.
“It really serves two purposes,” said Doungchak. “Our players want to play at the highest college level possible, so it makes sense to expose them to college hockey right away in our backyard. If we can’t be competitive there against 18-24 year-old players, then we’ve probably got work to do in order to reach the goals that the players aspire to. Second - and this is the key - the vast majority of players will play on club hockey and not an NCAA team. Why not help them see the good options that include a great education? Help them make the transition?”
Western Washington University and the University of Oregon highlight the collegiate opponents that the Generals will be facing off against this season, with other collegiate opponents to be named at a later date.
For schools like Western Washington, the opportunity to play the Generals opens up a potential pipeline for recruiting and exposure, something that many club hockey schools have struggled with in the past.
“We get some great games while exposing young players to great hockey,” said Larry McDonald, Head Coach of the Western Washington University hockey team that was ranked sixth in the nation among NCHA teams. “I bet most young players don’t see our hockey as great hockey, but we aim to change that.”
The Generals will remain a Junior team in the United States Premier Hockey League with players ranging in age from 16-20 with an average age of just over 18 years. Most college teams consist of players that have completed their Junior eligibility and many are as old as 24.
“Some of our best players in the past have played at places like Western and Eastern Washington,” commented Kern. “Kyle Ruchas is an alum playing at Eastern Washington and Brett Sparks will be joining him there next year. Playing bigger and faster guys should be great work for our younger, less experienced team.”
Final game scheduling should be completed by the end of June. The Generals will open up their thirteenth season of play at home against the Wenatchee Wolves on Friday, September 8th at 7:35pm. Tickets will go on sale when the full schedule is compete and both single-game and season ticket packages will be available at that time.
“Ironically, I was worried about what the next step for Eugene would be when all of this happened, but now the solution will be way better for our players, “reflected Doungchak. “In fact, this may be something that we look back upon and say, ‘Aren’t we glad that happened.’”