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Great Falls wins long-awaited return home

01/17/2014, 4:15pm MST
By Tom Robinson - Special to USAHockey.com

Goals were tough to come by when the Great Falls Americans returned home for the first time in a month on Saturday night. The game went scoreless into the second overtime before Dylan Garton, a Great Falls native, gave the Americans a 1-0 win over the Billings Bulls in the American West Hockey League. Cody Page and Lucas Stover assisted on the goal.

Daniel Oordt had made 45 saves for Billings before Garton broke through. The win was the Americans’ second overtime victory in as many nights. The Americans topped the Glacier Nationals 5-4 Friday.

The second-place Americans (25-6-1) got 22 saves from Erik Powell for his third shutout of the season Saturday.

MOVING UP: Minnesota Junior Hockey League scoring leader Lane King earned a call-up to the North American Hockey League’s Brookings Blizzard after scoring 82 points in 29 games for the Great Lakes Division-leading Marquette Royals.

King had 69 assists and 23 power-play points with Marquette. He has 23 multi-point games, including an eight-point effort against the Wisconsin Rampage and three other games with at least five points.

PLAYOFF BOUND: The Flint Junior Generals and Granite City Lumberbacks clinched North American 3 Hockey League playoff berths on consecutive nights, joining the North Iowa Bulls, who were the first to clinch.

Flint’s Brett Leppek scored both goals and Anders Franke made 25 saves to lift the Junior Generals over the Metro Jets 2-1 Friday. Flint leads the East Division and has the second-best record in the entire NA3HL with a 31-3-2 record.

Christian Mohs and Zac Sikich each had four points Saturday when the Lumberjacks defeated the Peoria Mustangs, 7-3. Granite City (25-8-0) is second to North Iowa in the West Division.

SHOWDOWN SWEEP: The first-place Boston Junior Bruins won consecutive games from the Jersey Hitmen in a meeting of the two winningest teams in the United States Premier Hockey League Premier Division. Boston won 4-1 Friday and 3-2 Saturday.

Boston’s Brian Bowen broke a 1-1 tie and scored consecutive goals 1:42 apart late in the second period Friday. Sean Lawrence made 32 saves in the win and followed up with 33 more Saturday.

The Junior Bruins then went on to a 6-3 win over the Islanders Hockey Club Wednesday afternoon for their eighth straight win. Boston is 14-0-2-0 in the last 16 to improve to 28-3-2-1 overall.

COLLEGE COMMITMENTS: Two Waterloo Black Hawks veterans recently announced their college commitments. Defenseman Dane Cooper is headed to Brown University while forward Blake Winiecki has committed to St. Cloud State University.

Cooper, a third-year member of the United States Hockey League team, is a 19-year-old from Chicago. He has 10 assists and is plus-11 through 27 games.

Winiecki is tied for the team lead and seventh in the league with 16 goals, and he also has 11 assists in 31 games during his second season in the USHL. The Lakeville, Minn. native has five goals in his last three games, including his first hat trick Jan. 4 and a career-high, four-point game on his 20th birthday on Jan. 10.

Dubuque Fighting Saints defenseman Blake Hillman is committed to the University of Denver and Sioux Falls Stampede forward Dakota Joshua is committed to Ohio State University.

Hillman has a goal and six assists in 30 games. He shares the team lead at plus-12. The Elk River, Minn. resident will be 18 later this month.

Joshua has eight goals and 12 assists in 32 games. He has seven goals in his last 14 games. The 17-year-old from Dearborn, Mich. also played parts of last season with the Stampede and with the U.S. National Under-17 Team.

Sean Mostrom, a defenseman with the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees of the NAHL, is also headed to Denver. The 19-year-old from Wayzata, Minn. becomes the first active Killer Bee to commit to an NCAA Division I school. Mostrom, who has three goals and six assists in 25 games this season, played with the Alexandria/Brookings Blizzard in his previous two seasons in the league.

Aberdeen Wings forward T.J. Roo is headed to Bemidji State University. Roo, 19, from Champlain Park, Minn., has 10 goals and 18 assists as an NAHL rookie.

USHL LEADERS: Youngstown Phantoms scoring leader Kyle Connor scored his first USHL hat trick Saturday in a 6-3 win over Team USA. Indiana Ice goalie Jason Pawloski, who is second in the USHL with 17 wins, has held opponents to one goal or none nine times this season.

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.

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