Matt Penta made 48 saves Sunday when the Valley Junior Warriors pulled off the only upset in the first round of Eastern Hockey League playoffs with a 5-2 victory over the Connecticut Oilers.
The higher-seeded team won seven of eight first-round series. Connecticut, the third seed, opened Friday with a 3-1 win at home over Valley, the 14th seed. But Penta made 34 saves in the loss and followed that up with 25 in Saturday’s 4-3 home win to even the series. The Warriors advanced by winning on the road in the deciding game.
Joseph Gilhooly led the New York Bobcats past the Boston Junior Rangers, getting a hat trick by scoring all three goals in Saturday’s 3-1 win, then providing the game-winning goal among his two goals in Sunday’s 5-4 win.
The New Hampshire Junior Monarchs, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights, Northern Cyclones, Hartford Junior Wolfpack, Philadelphia Little Flyers and Boston Bandits also advanced with two-game sweeps.
PLAYOFF ROUNDUP: Peter Mingus scored two special teams goals Tuesday when the West Sound Warriors opened the best-of-five Northern Pacific Hockey League Cascade Cup Finals with a 4-2 win over the Bellingham Blazers. Both teams had won their semifinal series with three-game sweeps.
Mingus opened the scoring 2:59 into the game with a short-handed goal and then put West Sound ahead 2-1 on a power-play goal at 3:43 of the second period. The Warriors held onto the lead after that. Forrest Savel made 42 saves in the win.
Sean Lawrence saved 48 of 49 shots as the Boston Junior Bruins swept the Portland Junior Pirates in two games in the first round of the United States Premier League Premier Division playoffs.
The Jersey Hitmen also advanced with a sweep while the South Shore Kings and Islanders Hockey Club won three-game series.
SCORING STARS: Matt Kroska of the North Iowa Bulls set a North American 3 Hockey League modern day (since 2006) scoring record by increasing his season total to 111 points. The 20-year-old from Elko, Minn. had four goals and three assists in three weekend wins.
“His production and the production of his line is something that I have never seen at this level,” Bulls coach Todd Sanden said in a story on the league website. “He shows so much leadership on a daily basis and, despite all his success and points, Matt still remains hungry and trying to become a better player each day in hopes of earning an NCAA commitment.”
Lane King of the Marquette Royales averaged three points per game on the season to win the Minnesota Junior Hockey League scoring title with 25 goals and 98 assists in 41 games.
MINNESOTA WRAP-UP: The Hudson Crusaders secured the third seed in the Minnesota Division when the Minnesota League wrapped up its season.
The Crusaders had climbed from fourth to third when they beat the Rochester Ice Hawks 7-1 Friday and the second-place Maple Grove Energy 3-2 Saturday. On Sunday the Crusaders became the only team to shut out the division champion Dells Ducks this season when Matt Goedeke made 32 saves in a 3-0 win.
Dells won the Minnesota Division with a 38-6-2-0 record. Marquette went 37-9-0-0 to win the Great Lakes Division.
BOUNCING BACK: Fargo not only broke a 10-game United States Hockey League winless streak, but the Force won three games in a row for its longest winning streak of the season.
Fargo piled up 51 shots in a 4-3 overtime win over the Sioux City Musketeers on Feb. 26. Andrew Zerban scored the overtime game-winning goal and had goals in each of the other wins, giving him a four-game, goal-scoring streak.
COLLEGE COMMITMENT: Mitch Maloney, a forward with the USHL’s Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, has committed to play at Ferris State University. The 19-year-old from Macomb, Mich. has seven goals and seven assists in 20 games since joining the RoughRiders in late December.
ONE-TIMERS: Aberdeen goalie Henry Dill has allowed two goals or fewer in nine straight North American Hockey League games, including stopping 68 of 70 shots in a pair of weekend wins that put the Wings in the Central Division lead. … Hayden Stewart is 7-0 with a 0.72 goals-against average and a .968 save percentage since joining the USHL's Indiana Ice. ... Vince Bartkowiak had two goals and five assists when the Chicago Junior Bulldogs won a pair of games to remain alive in the NA3HL playoff race. … The NA3HL announced the format for its playoffs and Silver Cup Championship, which will bring the four survivors of two rounds of divisional playoffs to Geneva, Ill. March 27-30 for a three-game, round-robin followed by a championship game. … The St. Louis Junior Blues clinched an NA3HL playoff berth with Sunday’s 6-3 win over the Wisconsin Whalers.
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.