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Dubuque sweeps Fargo for Clark Cup title

05/22/2013, 2:00pm MDT
By Tom Robinson

Frank DiChiara scored 8:17 into overtime Friday night to lift the Dubuque Fighting Saints to a 3-2 overtime victory over the host Fargo Force and a three-game sweep of their Clark Cup Final series.
The Clark Cup determines the United States Hockey League postseason and USA Hockey Tier I Junior National titles.
The Fighting Saints won the first two games at home and went to North Dakota looking for a sweep.
Dubuque was ready to celebrate earlier in the game until Fargo pulled goalie Cameron Johnson for an extra attacker and got a goal from Alex Iafallo with 29 seconds left in regulation to force overtime.
However, DiChiara converted a pass from Shane Sooth to end what had been an evenly played overtime.
Fargo scored first in the game on a power-play goal by Austin Ortega in the first period.
Brandon Carlson’s first USHL playoff goal tied the game for Dubuque in the second period. Then Sooth put the Fighting Saints in front with an unassisted, power-play goal at 8:05 of the third.
Dubuque’s Arthur Brey made 29 saves while getting his ninth win of the postseason. Johnson had 40 saves for Fargo.
Dubuque’s Mike Szmatula was named Clark Cup Most Valuable Player. Szmatula had three goals in the final and seven goals and five assists total in the playoffs.
The Fighting Saints won two of the last three titles under head coach Jim Montgomery, who is leaving the team to take over as head coach at the University of Denver.
COACHING NEWS: Brett Larson is leaving his position as head coach of the USHL’s Sioux City Musketeers to become associate head coach at Ohio State University. After winning just six of their first 37 games, the Musketeers closed out the season with a 17-9-1 run.
The USHL’s Lincoln Starts have signed head coach and general manager Chad Johnson to a two-year contract extension through the 2014-15 season. Johnson is 110-62-12 coaching the team in the last three regular seasons.
COLLEGE COMMITMENTS: Two USHL defensemen recently announced their college commitments.
Dubuque’s Carlson is headed to the University of Alabama-Huntsville. The 20-year-old from Ladera Ranch, Calif. was plus-10 with four goals and nine assists in 55 regular season games.
Cutler Martin of the Tri-City storm is headed to the University of Michigan, beginning in the fall of 2014. Martin, an 18-year-old from East Lansing, Mich., had four goals and 12 assists in 59 games.
ALL-NAHL: The North American Hockey League announced its All-NAHL Team and its All-Division teams, which were determined by voting by the league’s 24 head coaches.
The Austin Bruins placed forward Brandon Wahlin and Cody Dixon on the All-NAHL team while the Soo Eagles were represented by Jared VanWormer and goalie Tyler Marble. Topeka RoadRunners forward Kyle Sharkey and Wenatchee Wild defenseman Josh Hartley also made the team.
Wahlin and Dixon were on the Central Division team, along with Bismarck Bobcats forward Adam Knochenmus and goalie Aaron Nelson, Coulee Region Chill forward Mac Jensen and Brookings Blizzard defenseman Drew Brevig.
VanWormer and Marble were on the North Division team with Kalamazoo Junior K-Wings forward Robbie Payne and defenseman Brett Beauvais, Springfield Junior Blues forward Brett Skibba and Jamestown Ironmen defenseman Dylan Zink.
The Amarillo Bulls and Topeka each had two players on the South Division team. Goalie Paul Berrafato and defenseman John Rey represented Amarillo. Sharkey and Sean Gaffney gave Topeka two of the three forwards. Corpus Christi IceRays forward Rudy Sulmonte and Texas Tornado defenseman Nick Neville completed the team.
Wenatchee had half the West Division team — Hartley, forward Jono Davis and goalie Robert Nichols. The rest of the team was Fairbanks Ice Dogs forward Garret Clemment and defenseman Doug Rose, along with Kenai River Brown Bears forward Alex Jackstadt.
FRANCHISE MOVES: After five seasons in Wenatchee, the Wild is relocating to Hidalgo, Texas, where the team will be known as the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees beginning with the 2013-14 season.
“We are excited about the move to the Rio Grande Valley and our mission to field a championship-caliber team every season remains the same,” team president Bill Stewart said, according to a story on the league website.
Stewart said he expects head coach Bliss Littler and his staff to make the move to Texas.
The NAHL also announced the addition of a Cloquet, Minn.-based team, the Minnesota Wilderness, for next season. The team is taking over and relocating the dormant St. Louis Bandits franchise.
The Wilderness has been competing in the Superior International Junior Hockey League, a Canadian-based Tier II Junior League in which it won the last three titles.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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A follow-up to Ian Walsh's NHL career-path article (see Stripes - February 2015)

For the last 15 years, Ian Walsh has crisscrossed the United States as an NHL official. In this Part 2 of our conversation with Walsh, the 42-year-old Philadelphia native fielded a series of questions discussing life on the road, his conditioning schedule, mentors, on-ice struggles, the evolution of the game and advice for aspiring officials. 

USA Hockey: How do you think you've been able to maintain all of the officiating success you've had over the last 15 years?

Ian Walsh: I believe one of my strengths as an official is my work ethic. I come to the rink every night ready to work hard and give 100 percent. I also believe I am very coachable, and when I'm offered a suggestion for improvement, I try very hard to implement that advice into my game.  

USAH: What is your conditioning schedule like during the NHL season? How about during the off-season? 

Walsh: During the season, conditioning work is more about maintaining what you built up over the summer. The workouts aren't as intense but you must continue to take good care of your body. Game-day workouts usually include a 30-minute bike ride or a couple miles run at the hotel gym. I also like to do some core work and light strength training on top of that. 

The weather in Portland is amazing in the summer, and I prefer to be outside and on my road bike. I usually get in about four days a week of riding outdoors to help build my endurance and strength. I try to play hockey a few days a week as well to help work on my skating.

USAH: When did you realize you finally had cemented your career as an official? What was that feeling like?

Walsh: I don't know if you ever get that feeling. Every night is a different challenge in our league. It is a hard, hard league to officiate. The scrutiny of every call, every goal, ever non-call is such a challenge for all of us. The best players and coaches in the world expect us to perform at such a high level every night, and we have to be ready for anything that comes our way. It’s a privilege to be on the ice in the NHL, and I think that is something no official takes for granted.

USAH: What has been your biggest accomplishment to date as an official? 

Walsh: Being chosen to participate in four Stanley Cup playoffs is what I'm most proud of. It’s an incredible honor to be selected and that’s the goal for every official each year. Also, being part of the team that was chosen to represent the NHL at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics was a phenomenal experience and a great opportunity.

USAH: What has been the biggest hurdle/obstacle you've had to overcome in your officiating career? 

Walsh: I’ve been lucky so far, knock on wood, that I haven’t had any serious injuries. Other than some bumps and bruises, I’ve been relatively injury-free in my career. The biggest challenge is to be able to bounce back from calls you made that aren't correct. In this day and age, we usually know within minutes after the game if we made a wrong decision. When you make a call that impacts the game, it’s hard on the mind. Unfortunately, we make mistakes and what most people don't understand is that nobody takes it harder than the official making that mistake. Being able to bounce back from a mistake is something all officials must learn to do.

USAH: Who has had the most impact on your officiating career over the past 15 years? What has that person or those people taught you?  

Walsh: Nobody has helped me more over my NHL career than fellow referee Paul Devorski. I've worked a lot of games with Paul and we’ve had the opportunity to travel together on the road. As an elite, veteran referee, he has been able to pass down some of his knowledge to me to help me become a better official. Paul is retiring this year, and our staff will sorely miss him.

USAH: How has the game changed, besides speed, since you started in the early 2000s?

Walsh: I would say the biggest change besides the speed of the game would be the use of technology. It is amazing what you see at rink – teams have iPads on the bench, super slo-motion video replays, hi-def video scoreboards, etc. With all that technology, it makes the officials job appear easy. People forget that the official on the ice sees a play one time, in real time, and must make a split-second decision on that play. It often appears quite different when you see a replay in super slo-mo on hi-def after a game.

USAH: What advice can you give aspiring NHL/professional league officials as they progress in their career? 

Walsh: I would say make sure you have a backup plan. Making it to the NHL is everyone’s goal, but there are very few jobs available. There are so many factors that go into hiring an official and a lot of those are out of your control. Go and work the highest level available to you. Don't worry about other officials, if you are good enough, the NHL will find you. Also, control what you can control – always work on your skating, know your rules and come to the rink every night with a strong work ethic and a great attitude.

Tag(s): Junior Notebooks