- Created: 02 February 2017
As the regular season prepares to wrap up, EGHN's Alex Stimson takes a look at six of the major headlines across the country in the USPHL. This week, Stimson recaps the 2017 Heritage Classic, breaks down the recent NCDC Futures Draft, and explains how the playoff picture became much clearer this past weekend.
1. Riverkings And Cougars Clash Outdoors In Chicago
The Chicago Cougars and the Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings of the USPHL's Elite Division faced off in second annual USPHL Heritage Classic on Monday, February 6th at MB Financial Park in Rosemont, Illinois. The Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings defeated the Chicago Cougars by a final score of 1-0.
After last year's inaugural event that featured the Detroit Fighting Irish and the Motor City Hawks facing off in Detroit, the USPHL once again embraced outdoor hockey as this year's Heritage Classic also served as a fundraiser for former Chicago Cougar Matt Olsen who was paralyzed from the shoulders down after an on-ice accident during a January 2016 game.
"We are very excited and grateful to host the USPHL Heritage Classic this year," said Cougars head coach Brad Stoffers ahead of the game. "It means a lot to have our team and the city of Chicago be a part of this, and we know it is an experience that the players and teams involved will never forget."
For more information, please visit USPHL.com/HeritageClassic.
2. NCDC Holds First Future's Draft
The National Collegiate Development Conference (NCDC), the USPHL's tuition-free division that will begin play in September later this year, held its first-ever Futures Draft last week in Boston, Massachusetts.
Comprised of six rounds, a total of 66 selections were made by the 11 member teams - the Boston Bandits, Connecticut Jr. Rangers, Islanders Hockey Club, Jersey Hitmen, Boston Junior Bruins, New Jersey Rockets, Northern Cyclones, P.A.L. Jr. Islanders, Rochester Monarchs, South Shore Kings, and Syracuse Stars. Players selected in the NCDC Futures Draft were born in the years 2001 and 2002.
"Things got real today for the NCDC," said USPHL Commissioner Jeff Nygaard. "There has been a couple of years of planning and hundreds of discussions to get the NCDC set for launch. Today we executed our first major endeavor and there will be many more in the future. We have a lot of great operators in this division and the enthusiasm for this draft, and this level of play, is off the charts."
You can find the full NCDC Futures Draft list at USPHL.com.
3. Playoff Picture Beings To Clear Up
This past weekend, the Generals clinched the USP3HL Pacific Division regular season title after defeating the West Sound Warriors on Friday night. With 63 points through 40 games played, the Generals have posted their highest season point total since the 2009-10 season (76) with four games still left on the schedule this season. Now, the Generals will prepare for the Pacific Division Championship Series, a best-of-three series matchup against the Seattle Ravens that will determine the Pacific Division's representative in the USP3HL Playoffs.
Two more teams locked up regular season division titles this past weekend as the Traverse City North Stars clinched the top spot in the Midwest Division while the Florida Jr. Blades earned the first overall seed in the South Division. Currently, the Jersey Hitmen lead the Islanders Hockey Club by two points in the North Division while also having a game in hand over I.H.C.
Click here more information on the upcoming USPHL Playoffs.
4. Record Setting Season Continues
Serving as the primary puck-stopper among a talented three-man rotation of netminders, Christopher Alexakis has shined in his first season with the Generals. The Anchorage, Alaska native is currently ranked third in the USP3HL in wins (18), fourth* in save percentage (.935) and eighth in goals against average (2.07). On Tuesday, Alexakis was named as the USP3HL's Star of the Week for the second time this season (*minimum 800:00 minutes played).
Meanwhile, second-year forward Cody Arbelovsky currently ranks second in the USP3HL in both overall points (77) and goals (41) while also ranking ninth in assists (36). Arbelovsky's 41 goals are tied for second in Generals history with Ryan Schank (2005-06) for the most goals scored in a single season in Generals history. With four games remaining this season, Arbelovsky trails only Michael Frei's 46 goals during the 2008-09 campaign, the single-season record for most goals scored by one player in Generals franchise history. Earlier this season, Arbelovsky broke the Generals' single-game franchise record for goals scored with six against the West Sound Warriors on 9/23/16.
As a team, the Generals' 63 points through 40 regular season games (with four games still remaining) are the franchise's highest point total since the 2009-10 season when the team notched 76 points in 50 regular season games. In addition, the team's 211 goals this season are also the most since the 2009-10 season (254). Currently, the Generals' 211 goals are second overall in the USP3HL behind only the Florida Jr. Blades (261).
5. Charlotte Shaves Heads, Saves Lives
Last week, the Charlotte Rush partnered with the Extreme Ice Center and the St. Baldrick's Foundation to collaborate in raising money towards the fight against cancer. The event was partially created to honor Nicole Defeo who is currently battling cancer and is the sister of Rush goaltender T.J. Defeo, however the festivities quickly took on a life of their own as Rush players and staff helped raise awareness via social media and by engaging with their local community.
Rush goaltender T.J. Defeo and his sister, Nicole, share a moment together as Rush players shave their heads to commemorate the special event with the St. Baldrick's Foundation.
When it was all said and done, the Rush easily surpassed their initial fundraising goal of $15,000 as the organization helped raise over $35,000 to be donated to the St. Baldrick's Foundation. In a showing of true USPHL unity, their opponents for that weekend - the Carolina Eagles - helped raise over $7,000 to be donated as part of the Rush's fundraiser.
6. Monday Headlines
With only two weeks left in the USP3HL regular season, plenty of postseason implications are on the line this weekend. How will the headlines look on Monday? Find out below:
Decatur Downs Hawks, Clinches Second Seed - The Hawks have been hitting their stride in the second half of the season, but USP3HL leading point scorer Joey Starcevich and the Decatur Blaze prove too tough to handle as they sweep the two-game series and clinch the second seed in the upcoming Midwest Division Playoffs.
Another Blades Shutout Ties Tier III Record - FJB will tally their 16th shutout of the season this weekend in one of their two games vs. the Florida Eels to tie the Tier III record for most shutouts in a season, set by the USPHL Elite Division's Dells Ducks just last year. The Blades have shutout the Eels in three of four previous meetings this season.
Hitmen Whacked By Whalers - With the Hitmen on the verge of clinching the USP3HL North Division regular season title, in-state rival Jersey Shore will cause the Hitmen to postpone their postseason celebration by taking at least one of two games against Jersey this weekend to set up a dramatic final week of the season as the Jersey Hitmen and the Islanders Hockey Club will face off for a two-game series next weekend that will decide the North Division regular season champion.
Looking for a wider look around the USPHL? Check "Kleiner's Seven Things" from the USPHL's Mike Klein every Wednesday evening at USPHL.com.
The Eugene Generals Hockey Network will be back in action this weekend as the Generals host the Seattle Ravens in what will serve as a preview of the upcoming Pacific Division Championship Series. Liuve video coverage begins at 7:00pm PST on both Friday and Saturday evening at EugeneGenerals.com.