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Helena Bighorns take final AWHL title; NA3HL awaits in 2015

03/27/2014, 6:00pm MDT
By Tom Robinson - Special to

The Helena Bighorns will try to extend their championship streak to eight straight seasons — and a third league — in the 2014-15 season.

The Bighorns completed a three-game sweep of the American West Hockey League’s championship series Friday night. The win came just hours after it was announced that the league’s seven teams would join the North American 3 Hockey League next season.

Helena won all three titles since the AWHL resumed play in the 2011-12 season. The Bighorns also won Cascade Cup championships in the previous four seasons as members of the Northern Pacific Hockey League.

The Bighorns ended the season on a 137:32 unscored-upon streak that culminated in a title-clinching 4-0 victory over the Great Falls Americans.

Helena is headed back to the Toyota-USA Hockey Tier III Junior National Championships, where it won the title in 2011 and finished third each of the past two years. This year’s tournament is April 3-7 in Simsbury, Conn.

Dylan Webster and Damon Hanson scored six points each and Helena allowed only four goals in six playoff games while improving to 52-1-1 combined for the AWHL regular season and playoffs. Austin Brihn made 18 saves in the clinching shutout.

The addition of Helena, Great Falls, the Billings Bulls, Bozeman IceDogs, Gillette Wild, Glacier Nationals (from Whitefish, Mont.) and Yellowstone Quake (from Cody, Wyo.) from the AWHL as the new Frontier Division will increase the NA3HL membership to 28 teams for the 2014-15 season. The changes are pending formal approval by USA Hockey in June at the Annual Congress as part of the junior recertification process.

“What a great opportunity it is for both the NA3HL and the AWHL to join forces as proud members of USA Hockey in step with creating the best Tier III junior property in the country,” NA3HL president and NAHL commissioner Mark Frankenfeld said in a story on the league website.

The NA3HL’s North Iowa Bulls are the defending Tier III national champions.

MORE TITLES: The Marquette Royales won the Minnesota Junior Hockey League’s Bush Cup and the Boston Junior Bandits won the Metropolitan League’s Keegan Cup.

In the Minnesota League, Jeff Salzbrunn scored on an assist from Lane King four minutes into overtime to lift the first-year Royales to a 3-2 championship game victory over the Dells Ducks. The Royales made it to the final by beating the Hudson Crusaders in three games in the semifinals. The Ducks swept the Illiana Blackbirds.

The teams traded overtime game-winners in the first two games. Marquette’s Dallas McLaughlin, who had a hat trick in a Game 2 loss, scored five goals in the Royales’ 6-4 win in the deciding game.

The two teams, who each won regular-season division titles, advance to Tier III nationals.

The Junior Bandits won an all-Boston Metro final 4-2 over the Junior Rangers. The Junior Bandits went 38-1-3 in the regular season and 7-0 in the playoffs. Mike Taormina was named playoff MVP.

The Junior Bandits reached the final by winning three games in a round robin among division playoff champions: 4-1 over the New Jersey Avalanche, 4-3 over the Boston Junior Rangers and 2-1 over the Richmond Generals. Cody Braga had a hat trick against New Jersey and had the empty-net goal to clinch the final.

The Junior Bandits earned a spot at Tier III nationals. The Junior Rangers will play the Eastern League runner-up for a berth.

PLAYOFF ROUNDUP: The Northern Cyclones kept their championship hopes alive through a triple-overtime game Sunday night, then won again on Tuesday to extend the first Eastern Hockey League championship series to a fifth and deciding game Thursday night.

The New Hampshire Junior Monarchs won the first two games of the series and carried a 3-2 lead into the third period of the third game. Northern defenseman Grant Gallo forced overtime in Game 3 with a power-play goal 2:47 into the third. The game then remained tied through more than 80 shots and nearly 59 minutes until Will Norris broke the tie at 1:49 of the third overtime. Evan Morelli made 74 saves in the win. Jake Theut had 64 saves in the loss.

The Cyclones then rolled to a 6-1 win Tuesday.

The defending champion North Iowa Bulls, Dallas Junior Stars, Flint Junior Generals and St. Louis Junior Blues advanced to the NA3HL’s Silver Cup Championship Thursday through Sunday in Geneva, Ill.

Following a three-game round robin, the top two teams will play for the title and both will advance to nationals.

Blake McIntyre’s second goal, in overtime, lifted Dallas over the Topeka Capitals 4-3 in the third game of their series.

St. Louis also needed three games against the Peoria Mustangs, and North Iowa needed three against the Granite City Lumberjacks. The Flint Junior Generals swept the Cleveland Lumberjacks.

NUMBER ONE: The Fairbanks Ice Dogs defeated the Kenai River Brown Bears 3-2 in a shootout Friday to clinch the overall North American Hockey League regular-season title and home ice throughout the Robertson Cup playoffs. Fairbanks is 43-14-1.

The Michigan Warriors and Janesville Jets clinched spots in the Robertson Cup playoffs.

COLLEGE COMMITMENTS: Chris Buchanan, a defenseman with the Fargo Force of the United States Hockey League, has committed to play at Bentley University. The 19-year-old from San Jose, Calif. is in his second season with Fargo after playing one season with the Alaska Avalanche of the North American Hockey League.

Topeka RoadRunners forward Jake Kamrass committed to UMass-Lowell. The 20-year-old from Norcross, Ga., who is second on the NAHL team in scoring with 56 points in 58 games, will join his older brother, Zach, at UMass-Lowell.

QUICK STRIKES: Brian Pinho of the Indiana Ice needed just 6:23 of the second period to produce a natural hat trick in Saturday’s 4-3 win over the Youngstown Phantoms, giving the Washington Capitals’ draft pick 22 points in the last 14 USHL games.

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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Update on 2015-16 USA Hockey Officiating Registration

07/08/2015, 5:15pm MDT
By David LaBuda, USA Hockey National Referee-in-Chief

District Referees-in-Chief implement changes to registration procedures

As we enter the 2015-16 registration season for officials, I want to give an update of what changes to expect this season.

The Officials Section has been busy since the 2015 Winter Meeting, working on implementing the registration changes that were discussed and voted on by the district referees-in-chief, along with refining the testing and online seminar programs.

For 2015-16, there will be an informational video available before an official registers with USA Hockey outlining the requirements and commitment that an individual will need to fulfill in order to complete their registration.


Next, and a very important change, starting with this season, in order to register for a seminar, an official will have to first register as an official (online) with USA Hockey in order to gain access to the online program to register for a seminar.

This change was due to a number of individuals who would never register as an official with USA Hockey and then ‘no show’ to the seminar that they registered for, which frequently led to other registered officials being denied attendance at that seminar because the seating capacity had already been reached.

This change will provide more incentive for every individual who registers as an official -- and registers for a seminar -- to attend that seminar and complete the registration requirements.

The open-book testing process has also been modified for the coming season. What hasn’t changed is that a Level 1 official will still have to answer the first 50 questions, while Level 2, 3 & 4 officials will have to answer 100 questions. However, the passing score for a Level 2 official has been modified to 80 from 85. All other passing scores remain the same as last year. Those minimum passing scores are 35 for a Level 1 official and 90 for Levels 3 and 4.

While an official is taking the open-book exam, there will be immediate feedback provided after each answer is submitted. If the question was answered incorrectly, the rule reference for that missed question will be given with the appropriate rule book language.

After completing all of the required questions, a summary will be sent of all incorrect responses with their rule references. If a passing score is obtained, then the open-book exam requirement will be complete.

If the result is a failing score, after the seven-day waiting period has passed, the official will only have to retake those questions that were incorrectly answered on their first open-book exam. The retake questions will be based on the same rule reference as the originally missed questions, but will cover a different aspect of the rule.

Once all of the retake questions are answered, the number of correctly answered retake questions will be added to the original test score to hopefully obtain a passing grade. As a reminder, there is no third attempt to pass the open-book exam.

During the winter meeting, the Officials Section spent considerable time discussing seminar program feedback, and in particular, the online modules. All feedback was taken seriously and an action plan was discussed and adopted.

Two work groups were established to address the new classroom curriculums and to improve the online video modules. Both were comprised of grassroots members who could bring a grassroots perspective to their work. Both groups have completed their work and their recommendations have been adopted. The new shortened classroom curriculums have been distributed for application to this coming seminar season and the online modules are being re-engineered with improved formatting, better sequencing, animation replacing some video clips and reduction of music and voice-overs to allow the viewer to better focus on the presented material.

We’ve also evaluated the number of required modules for each level, and based on the user analytics that the first years’ experience produced, we have reduced the number of required modules in some cases.

Lastly, as a reminder, once an official begins their first online module, they will need to complete all of their online module training within a specified time period. The online module completion time periods are 60 days for Level 1 registered officials and 45 days for Levels 2, 3 and 4. If all of the required and elective modules are not completed within the specified time frame, the official will have to restart all of the module training from the beginning. This requirement was waived during last year’s registration season due to the delayed rollout of the online module program, but it’s back in place this year.

This completion requirement was put in place by the District RICs to encourage all officials to complete their registration as early as possible and to provide continuity in the overall seminar education process.

As a reminder, to complete an official’s registration an applicant must:

  • Register online with USA Hockey
  • Register and attend a classroom seminar (reduced attendance times depending on registration level)
  • Complete the required and elective online training modules within the required time frame
  • Pass the open-book exam at their registration level
  • Pass the closed-book exam (no closed-book exam at Level 1) for their registration level
  • Complete their online USA Hockey SafeSport training at the end of every two-year cycle


Work will continue on improving our educational programs, and as always, we will continue actively listening to your constructive feedback. Without your involvement and support as a community, we cannot continue moving forward.  Acknowledging that improvements were needed was only one step in the process.  Implementing those changes in a way that meets the needs of our officiating community is the next step and we’re excited to be taking that step.

Have a great 2015-16 season and as always, skate hard and have fun when you’re on the ice.

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