Cole Bruns opened the United States Hockey League with a record stretch of five straight shutouts in September and October.
He did not stop there.
The Omaha Lancers’ goalie added another shutout in November and now another in December during Friday’s 1-0 victory over the Fargo Force. The seven shutouts bring Bruns within one of the USHL record for the Tier I era (since 2002). The all-time USHL record belongs to Dallas Stars goalie Dan Ellis, also with Omaha, who had 11 in 1999-2000.
Bruns needed just 16 saves in the latest shutout. The 19-year-old from Prairie Grove, Ill. had a bit more work the next night with 33 saves in a 5-2 win over the Lancers. In addition to shutouts, Bruns leads the USHL in goals-against average (1.77) and save percentage (.935) and shares the lead in wins (13).
USHL ROUNDUP: Team USA forward Jack Eichel is tied for 10th in the USHL in scoring despite playing in only 10 games. Eichel has 13 goals and 10 assists during that time. He has scored in all but one game and has multiple points in eight of 10 games.
Team USA players get in fewer games because their USHL schedule is split between the U.S. National Under-17 Team and U.S. National Under-18 Team. The two teams make up the U.S. National Team Development Program, which is based in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Ryan Lough of the Green Bay Gamblers scored seven goals in a four-game scoring streak.
Joel L’Esperance scored four goals and Garrett Gamez had four assists when the Tri-City Storm defeated the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders 6-3 Saturday. Gamez assisted on three of L’Esperance goals. Gamez now has eight points in five games since starting the season scoreless in 16 games.
The Dubuque Fighting Saints have won 11 straight home games.
NOR-PAC LEADERS: The Bellingham Blaze and West Sound Warriors continue to battle at the top of the Northern Pacific League standings.
Bellingham took the lead in standings points while West Sound maintains the highest winning percentage after the Blaze both two games, including one in overtime.
The Blaze recovered from a two-goal deficit to win 3-2 on a Kristjan Toivola power-play goal 1:49 into overtime Friday. Toivola also assisted on Dawson Quint’s game-tying, power-play goal in the third period. Micky Turner and Scott Hansen each picked up their second assist of the game on Toivola’s winner.
Cody Rich’s second goal of the game lifted Bellingham to a 4-3 win Saturday.
COLLEGE COMMITMENTS: Austin Vieth of the USHL’s Waterloo Black Hawks has committed to the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The forward from Marinette, Wis. will be 20 next week. He has eight points in 20 games.
Lincoln Stars defenseman Jared Kolquist is headed to Merrimack College. Kolquist, 20, from Hermantown, Minn., has seven points in 22 games.
Sioux Falls Stampede forward Griffen Molino committed to Western Michigan University. The 19-year-old from Trenton, Mich. leads the team with 18 assists and also has three goals in 24 games.
Fargo forward Alex Jackstadt will return to his hometown to play for the University of Alaska Anchorage. Jackstadt, 19, has two assists in 21 games.
Goalie Brandon Wildung, from the North American Hockey League's Minot Minotauros, has committed to Mercyhurst University. The 19-year-old from Minneota, Minn. went 7-1 in November. He has a 2.52 GAA.
Nick DeCenzo, a forward with the Brookings Blizzard, has committed to Army for next season. DeCenzo leads the team in scoring with 19 points during his third season with the Blizzard. He is a 20-year-old from Hibbard, Minn.
Andy Faust, a forward with the Eastern Hockey League’s Connecticut Oilers, is also headed to Army. Faust, a 19-year-old from Stillwater, Minn., is eighth in the league in scoring with 30 points in 24 games.
Cameron Spicer, a defenseman from the Eastern League’s New Hampshire Junior Monarchs, will play at the University of Maine. The 17-year-old from Erie, Colo. has 12 points in 24 games.
Steve Thulin, a goalie with the United States Premier Hockey League’s Connecticut Yankees, committed to the University of Connecticut. The 20-year-old from North Reading, Mass. has a .928 save percentage.
Ryan Ferrill from the Philadelphia Flyers committed to Holy Cross. The 20-year-old forward from Havertown, Pa. has 13 goals in 17 games.
ONE-TIMERS: Defenseman Brogan Rafferty had two goals, including a game-winner, and two assists while going plus-4 to help the Coulee Region Chill sweep an NAHL home-and-home series from the Minnesota Magicians. … The Metropolitan Junior Hockey League will have 25 games at its MJHL Winter Showcase Friday through Sunday at the Ice Line Quad Rinks in West Chester, Pa. … Lucas Linville made his NA3HL debut a success with a hat trick, including the game-winning goal, for the Metro Jets in a 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Vengeance.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
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.