The Northern Cyclones came back from a 2-0 series deficit and then came back from a 2-0 score deficit in the deciding fifth game to clinch the first championship in the reorganized Eastern Hockey League.
Jeremy Young’s unassisted goal with 8:48 remaining in Game 5 completed the pair of Cyclones comebacks by clinching a 3-2 victory over the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs. Both Northern and New Hampshire, the regular season champion, earned berths in the Toyota-USA Hockey Tier III Junior National Championships, which take place Thursday through Monday in Simsbury, Conn.
The 2012 national champion Monarchs landed a spot at nationals by winning a play-in game over the Boston Junior Rangers, the second-place team from the Metropolitan Junior Hockey League.
The Monarchs opened Game 5 with first-period goals from Eric Berglund and Hunter Laslo, but the Cyclones never slowed down, firing off 53 shots to eventually rally for the win.
Northern’s first goal came from Weston Moon, unassisted at 16:31 of the first period. Young assisted Daniil Kulikov’s game-tying goal at 7:24 of the first period before scoring the series-winner in the third.
SILVER CUP: Chris Amsden made 21 saves on Sunday as the North Iowa Bulls beat the Flint Junior Generals 3-0. The win allowed North Iowa to repeat as North American 3 Hockey League champions. Both teams clinched berths into the Tier III national championships.
North Iowa’s Tim Santopaolo scored the first goal and assisted on the second, scored by Rihards Marenis, in the championship game.
Amsden, forwards Marenis and Matt Kroska and defenseman Ron Lindgren all represented North Iowa on the all-tournament team.
Forward Austin Fletcher and defenseman Ryan Burr were the Flint selections to the all-tournament team.
NATIONAL PAIRINGS: The field is set for the Tier III Junior Nationals.
In Pool A, New Hampshire is joined by the Boston Junior Bruins of the United States Premier Hockey League Premier Division, the Helena Bighorns of the American West Hockey League, and the Marquette Royales of the Minnesota Junior Hockey League.
In Pool B, Flint and Northern join the Springfield Pics of the USPHL Elite Division and the Bellingham Blazers of the Northern Pacific Hockey League.
North Iowa is in Pool C with the USPHL Empire Division’s Florida Junior Blades, the Minnesota League’s Dells Ducks and the Metropolitan Junior Hockey League’s Boston Bandits.
Round-robin play is set for Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The three pool winners and one wild card will participate in Sunday’s semifinals to set up Monday’s final.
PLAYOFF PICTURE: The Amarillo Bulls and Austin Bruins clinched North American Hockey League division titles on the final weekend of the regular season.
Amarillo (40-14-6) won its third straight South Division title when it completed a weekend sweep of the Odessa Jackalopes.
Austin won its second straight Central Division title by taking two weekend games in Bismarck over the Bobcats. Austin’s Nick Lehr stopped 50 of 52 shots to finish as the league leader with 35 wins.
The Kenai River Brown Bears grabbed the last playoff berth in the NAHL’s final game Sunday when the Minnesota Magicians eliminated the Coulee Region Chill with a 7-3 victory.
The NAHL playoffs begin Thursday with Johnstown at the Port Huron Fighting Falcons. None of the other series opens before Friday.
COLLEGE COMMITMENTS: Two United States Hockey League goaltenders recently announced their college commitments.
Jordan Uhelski from the Muskegon Lumberjacks has committed to the University of Alabama-Huntsville for next season. The 20-year-old from Burton, Mich. went 10-8-4 with a 3.70 goals-against average and .890 save percentage.
Ryan Ruck of the Des Moines Buccaneers has committed to Northeastern University. The 19-year-old from Coto de Caza, Calif. is tied for third in the USHL with three shutouts and fifth in save percentage at .918.
Matt Perry, a forward from the NAHL's Bismarck Bobcats, has committed to the Air Force Academy. The 19-year-old from Lakeville, Minn. had seven points in 55 games this season. Perry had a hat trick in the Minnesota high school state championship game in 2013 while leading St. Thomas Academy to the title.
Aberdeen Wings forward Patrick Steinhauser has committed St. Lawrence University. Aberdeen is the third NAHL team for the 20-year-old from Plymouth, Minn., who has 21 points in 92 career games in the league.
Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees scoring leader Ben Greiner committed to Bowling Green University. The 20-year-old from Newport Beach, Calif. had 22 goals and 29 assists in 60 NAHL games.
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.