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Midwest Showcase Recap - History Made In The Heartland

The Eugene Generals (22-6-2, 46pts) posted a 3-0-1 record while earning 7 of a possible 8 points earlier this week at the 2016 USPHL Midwest Showcase, only the franchise’s second ever USPHL Showcase Series event.

Currently in their first season as members of the United States Premier Hockey League, the Generals have been the Pacific Division leaders since the opening weekend of the season, however the team struggled in its very first showcase back in early November, the Islanders Hockey Club Showcase in Andover, Massachusetts. Handed a formidable four-game schedule, the Generals finished winless after their trip to the east coast as three of their four games were decided by two goals or less (vs. Boston Jr. Bruins – 2-1; vs. Atlanta Jr. Knights – 3-1; vs. Carolina Eagles – 4-2). Coincidentally, all three of those aforementioned opponents opted to move multiple players from their Elite Division team to their USP3HL team at the I.H.C. Showcase, perhaps in anticipation of their matchup with the Gens.

 

The Rundown

Held at the Leafs Ice Centre in West Dundee, Illinois, the Midwest Showcase included a total of 13 USP3HL teams (above) representing three divisions – the Midwest, North and Pacific – as well teams from the Midwest Division of the Elite League. Right in the heart of numerous Division III schools, the Midwest Showcase provides collegiate and NCDC scouts the opportunity to see players in attendance firsthand – not just once, but on multiple occasions due to the high volume of games.

In addition, the Midwest Showcase (like all USPHL Showcase Series events) provides an exciting opportunity for teams to play cross-divisional games and see how they stack up against the rest of the country.

Note: As in all USPHL Showcase Series games, Midwest Showcase games included a format of two, 25-minutes periods with a five-minute, three-on-three overtime period to follow if still tied followed by a three-man shootout. 

 

 

Sunday, December 18th vs. Alpena Flyers: 5-2 WIN

Entering the day in search of the franchise’s first USPHL Showcase Series win, Frazier Mohler would score the first Generals goal of the 2016 USPHL Midwest Showcase exactly eleven minutes into the game, but his strike would be the only goal of the first period as the Generals would hold a 1-0 lead into the intermission. 

The second period proved to be a polar opposite of the first as the two teams combined to light the lamp six times starting with goals from Brett Sparks and Jack Thornton in the first 2:13 of the period. Alpena would follow with a pair of goals of their own to cut their deficit back to just one, but the Generals would net a pair of late insurance goals as Jack Thornton would score again, this time a top shelf backhanded goal with two minutes to go, and Logan Sanders followed suit a minute later to cap off a 5-2 win for the Generals. Eugene goaltender Christopher Alexakis stopped 27 of 29 shots to earn the win.

The victory marked the very first USPHL Showcase Series win in franchise history as the Generals, currently in their first season as members of the United States Premier Hockey League, failed to net a win in their first USPHL Showcase Series event, the Islanders Hockey Club Showcase in Andover, Massachusetts. 

 

Monday, December 19th vs. Motor City Hawks: 3-1 WIN

After making history the night before, the Generals looked to keep the momentum rolling against a deep Motor City team that provided a contrast in style of play compared to most Midwest Division teams. Heavy on skill and depth, the Hawks posed a tough like-for-like matchup with the Generals, but Eugene would take a 1-0 lead for the second straight day as Frazier Mohler scored to put the Generals ahead less than two minutes into the game. The 1-0 Eugene lead would hold until the waning moments of the period as the Hawks would tie the score with less than two minutes on the clock to send both teams to the intermission tied at 1-1.

In the second period, the stalemate continued for more than 17 minutes as both goaltenders continued to turn away shot after shot, but the Generals broke through with less than eight minutes remaining thanks to Baxter Cox who put the Generals back in the driver's seat with his 24th goal of the season. Still clinging to a 1-0 lead in the final moments of regulation, captain Logan Sanders would seal the victory with an empty net goal to cap off a 3-1 win for the Generals.

Eugene goaltender Christopher Alexakis, making his second start in as many days, stopped 25 of 26 shots faced while earning his 14th win of the season, good for third overall in the USP3HL in wins. 

 

Tuesday, December 20th vs. Ironwood Yoopers: 3-2 WIN (OT)

With signs of tired legs starting to set in after two close games in as many days, the Generals took the ice against a Yoopers squad that had entered the matchup having played only one Midwest Showcase game. Ironwood looked to follow the Alpena blueprint of hitting early and often in hopes of rattling a young, undersized Generals squad, however the benefits of the Generals’ much ballyhooed strength and conditioning program were once again apparent as the Gens lack of size certainly didn’t equate to a lack of strength.

For the third time in as many days, it was Frazier Mohler who opened the scoring as he put the Generals ahead less than two minutes into the game, but Ironwood would respond quickly with a goal of their own just three minutes later before then taking a lead of their own at the 12:07 mark, the first time that the Generals would trail at the Midwest Showcase.

The Yoops continued to hold their 2-1 lead into the intermission as well as late in the the second (and final) period, but Generals Team Captain Logan Sanders tied the game at 2-2 after teeing up a one-timer that rocketed past Ironwood netminder Dylan Barnes to eventually force overtime.

In the OT period, Cole Bloemer would complete the Generals comeback as he scored just 59 seconds into the frame before being swamped by teammates as the Generals would move to 3-0-0 at the Midwest Showcase behind a dramatic finish on Day Three. Generals starting goaltender Christian Zecchetto finished with 36 saves on 38 shots while earning the win. 

  

Wednesday, December 21st vs. Tri City Icehawks: 3-2 LOSS (SO)

Facing off against the Midwest Division’s last place team on the final day of the showcase, some (including perhaps some overconfident Generals players themselves) had assumed that a win would be a foregone conclusion after posting a 3-0-0 record over the previous three days. However, the Icehawks apparently didn’t get the memo as the Generals fell in a shootout by a final score of 3-2 despite holding a 2-0 lead late into the second period and a 2-1 lead with under 90 seconds to go.

Yet another physical affair, the game’s early headline involved an ugly scene as Icehawks defenseman Montana Shoup was ejected after a dangerous sequence that saw Cole Bloemer have his helmet ripped off and head repeatedly punched and hit into the ice. However, the scary scene would be soon forgotten as numerous Icehawks parents and fans in attendance roared while their team completed the comeback to force overtime before eventually winning in a shootout.

Tri City goaltender Troy Stevens was superb between the pipes, particularly when the pressure ramped up as he stopped 31 of 33 shots overall, including all 9 faced in the overtime period and the shootout. The game served as a vital reminder to the Generals that in the nation’s top collegiate development league, nothing can be taken for granted as the Icehawks played a stellar game from the opening whistle and undoubtedly deserved the win.

 

 

Notable Performances

Christopher Alexakis, Christian Zecchetto, and Jamie Frantz

There was no chance that we could pick just one netminder from this group as it was a collective effort this week with all three combining to post stellar numbers in Illinois. Christopher Alexakis, the team’s primary goaltender, started the first two games of the Midwest Showcase and stopped 52 of 55 shots over the two games to earn the win in each game. On Day Three, Italian import Christian Zecchetto put forth perhaps his best start of the season, a 36-save performance against the Ironwood Yoopers that earned “Zecchy” his fourth win. Not to be outdone, young goaltender Jamie Frantz followed suit with a stellar performance the following day as he stopped 26 of 28 shots faced, albeit in a shootout loss to the Tri-City Icehawks. Together, the trio combined to post a .934 SV% over the four games in the Midwest. 

 

Frazier Mohler

In the midst of his first season with the Generals, the young forward entered the Midwest Showcase having consistently shown steady signs of improvement game-by-game throughout the 2016-17 season. However, the Arizona native turned into the tone setter during the team’s time in Illinois as Mohler scored the game’s opening goal in each of the Generals’ first three games at the Midwest Showcase. Having originally started the season as a defenseman, Head Coach Justin Kern’s decision nearly a month ago to move Mohler exclusively to forward has continued to pay dividends. Mohler finished the showcase as the top goal-scorer for a Generals team that arrived in Illinois with two of the USP3HL’s top five scorers (ArbelovskyCox).

Brett Sparks

In contrast to Mohler, Sparks is a former forward turned defenseman and has been part of the veteran backbone that anchors the Generals blue line. Despite that, the Portland native has continued to pile up forward-like numbers as Sparks tallied two goals and three assists during Midwest Showcase helping him move back into third overall on the team in total points (33). Over the past eight games overall, Sparks has amassed 14 points (10 goals, 4 assists.)

 

 

What’s Next

Now, the Generals enjoy some much-deserved time off as the team will immediately start their holiday break before returning to Eugene and getting back to work on January 3rd. Awaiting the Generals in the new year will be the Tri City Outlaws as the two teams will meet for a two-game series in Eugene on Friday, January 6th and Saturday, January 7th to begin the remainder of the USP3HL regular season. The Gens will enter their matchup with the Outlaws holding an 11-point lead in the Pacific Division standings over the second-place Seattle Ravens. Having amassed 46 points through just 30 games, the Generals are in the midst of the franchise’s best season since the 2009-10 when the team posted a 26-4-0 record through 30 games.

The matchup with the Outlaws on Friday, January 6th also marks the Eugene Generals Military Appreciation Night. In honor of our armed forces and the sacrifices they continue to make in order to protect our country and our freedom, the Eugene Generals will proudly don one-of-a-kind camouflage jerseys that will be available for purchase via online auction. 

The puck will drop between the Generals and Outlaws at 7:30pm PST at The Rink Exchange and tickets are available at EugeneGenerals.com.

 

In Conclusion…

This past week at the Midwest Showcase included some historic and unforgettable moments in Generals franchise history, none of which would have been possible without the incredible support, love and dedication from our #GensFam. For 12 seasons now, the Generals have been incredibly fortunate to have such amazing and inspiring people continually push the team towards success. To all that have so tremendously supported us – our fans, player parents, billet families, volunteers, coaches, staff, and the Eugene Jr. Generals – thank you ALL for continuing to enable us to make tremendous strides, both on and off the ice.

However… our work is far from done. The team will now prepare for getting back to work in anticipation of chasing down the Pacific Division crown, and beyond. On behalf of the entire Eugene Generals organization, we wish you all a very happy holidays and we can’t wait to see you all at The Rink Exchange soon… GO GENERALS!