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Kyle Lee Comes up Clutch Twice For Fairbanks

05/06/2014, 11:45am MDT
By Tom Robinson - Special to USAHockey.com

Fairbanks Ice Dogs forward Kyle Lee returned from an upper-body injury in time to play in Game 5 of the first-round Robertson Cup series against the Kenai River Brown Bears.

All Lee did was score the overtime goal that advanced the Ice Dogs — the regular-season North American Hockey League champions — to the next round.

So when the Ice Dogs found themselves again in overtime in the fifth and deciding game of their Robertson Cup Midwest Division Final series, Lee had reason to be comfortable with the situation.

And again, all he did was produce another overtime game-winner, this time against the Wenatchee Wild.

“I wanted to be the hero of that game, too, just like everyone else,” Lee said. “I remembered the goal I had scored against Kenai [River].

“I was hoping I would get a chance to score another.”

Lee had to work for both goals, Ice Dogs coach Trevor Stewart said.

“Both of the goals were a result of him just going to the net,” Stewart said.

Lee left the playoff opener against Kenai River after suffering an injury on his third shift. In seven playoff games, he has two goals — the two overtime winners. In two seasons, all three of his playoff goals have been game-winners.

“He works hard,” Stewart said. “He battled through some injuries this year. He got hurt in our playoff run, then he came back for Game 5 against Kenai River.

“We weren’t even sure if he could play, and he said, ‘There’s no way that I’m not playing.’ Then he came through at the time when his team needed him most. It was kind of the same way in Wenatchee.”

Said Lee: “There was no doubt I was going to play.”

At 5-foot-8 and 170 pounds, Lee, a 20-year-old from Wausau, Wis., said crashing the net is not always his most effective way of scoring, but it worked on the two overtime goals. He had 19 goals and 25 assists in 58 regular-season games.

After going 45-14-1 in the regular season, the playoffs have been a challenge for the Ice Dogs while playing without Chandler Madry for five games, scoring leader Taylor Munson for four games and Lee for three-plus because of injuries.

All are back as the team heads to the semifinals, still in title contention, largely because of the two clutch goals by Lee.

Against Kenai River, Lee got a pass from Lonnie Clary from behind the net. He missed his first attempt but kept battling in front until he batted home the rebound.

The winner against Wenatchee, which put the Ice Dogs in this weekend’s Robertson Cup semifinals on home ice, came on the power play.

“He was just kind of cruising by the front of the net,” Stewart said. “Doug Rose got a shot in, kind of a harmless shot it seemed like. Kyle got his stick on it and deflected it between the goaltender’s legs.”

The Ice Dogs have held opponents to 2.2 goals per game during the playoffs.

Defensemen Nick Hinz, Wyatt Ege and Duggie Lagrove have also contributed offensively. Hinz shares the team playoff scoring lead with Brett Gervais at a goal and seven assists each. Ege has a team-high four goals, including the winner in Game 2 of the Wenatchee series, after scoring just three in 59 games during the season. Lagrove is tied for third on the team with six playoff points.

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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Life of an NHL Official: Part II

02/25/2015, 11:00pm MST
By USA Hockey Officiating Program

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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