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Ice Dogs Sweep to Robertson Cup title

05/15/2014, 5:30pm MDT
By Tom Robinson - Special to USAHockey.com

The Fairbanks Ice Dogs followed up the best record in the North American Hockey League regular season by capturing the Robertson Cup as NAHL playoff and USA Hockey Tier II junior national champions.

Fairbanks took advantage of earning the home ice for every game of the last two rounds by sweeping the Austin Bruins in the championship series. The Ice Dogs won 5-4 in overtime Friday night then finished off the Bruins with a 6-2 victory Saturday.

Fairbanks goalie Kevin Aldridge was named the Robertson Cup Playoffs Most Valuable Player after he made 31 saves Friday and 19 Saturday. Aldridge finished the playoffs 10-4 with a 1.86 goals-against average and three shutouts.

Colton Wolter scored two goals in the clinching game for Fairbanks, one to break a 1-1 tie early in the second period and another for a 5-1 lead in the third. Viktor Liljegren also scored two goals while Jacob Getz added a goal and two assists.

Tayler Munson had two goals in Game 1 for the Ice Dogs, including the overtime game-winner.

Drew Anderson had a goal and three assists for Austin. Teammate Jay Dickman had two goals and an assist in Game 1 and added a goal and an assist in the second game.

The title was the second in the last four years for the Ice Dogs.

CLARK CUP: Joe Sullivan’s goal 6:49 into the second overtime Saturday night lifted the Indiana Ice over the host Waterloo Black Hawks 3-2 and evened the United States Hockey League’s Clark Cup Final at one game apiece.

The best-of-five series, which continues Friday and Saturday in Indiana, determines the USHL postseason and USA Hockey Tier I junior national championships

Waterloo won the series opener 4-2 Friday, when goalie Cal Petersen made 32 saves. Tyler Sheehy and Hayden Shaw each had a goal and an assist for the Black Hawks in the win.

The teams traded four special teams goals Saturday. Waterloo took a 2-1 lead when John Wiitala scored a short-handed goal 39 seconds into the third period. Indiana’s Mitch Hults tied the game on the same power play less than a minute later.

NAHL STARS: The NAHL named league, division and rookie all-star teams based on voting by the league’s head coaches.

The all-NAHL team included two Topeka RoadRunners players: forward Tyler Poulsen and goalie P.J. Bridges. The rest of the team was Kenai River Brown Bears forward Alec Butcher, Amarillo Bulls forward Mike Davis, Bismarck Bobcats defenseman Nate Repensky, and Aberdeen Wings defenseman Jake Horton.

Repensky and Horton were also on the Central Division all-star team with two Austin players: Dickman, a forward, and goalie Nick Lehr. Bismarck forward Stanislav Dzakhov and Aberdeen Wings forward T.J. Roo also made the team.

Butcher made the Midwest Division team with goalie Kasimir Kaskisuo and defenseman Terry Leabo of the Minnesota Wilderness, forward Tyler Munson and defenseman Nick Hinz of Fairbanks, and forward Parker Tuomie of the Wenatchee Wild.

Topeka’s Poulsen and Bridges were on the South team with Amarillo Bulls forwards Mike Davis and Tyler Gernhofer, as well as defensemen Dylan Abood from the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees, and Sam Piazza from the Wichita Falls Wildcats.

The North Division team featured Port Huron Fighting Falcons forward Bryan Yim and defenseman Jonathan Kopacka, Janesville Jets forward Robin Hoglund, Michigan Warriors forward Colin Larkin, Johnstown Tomahawks defenseman Mitch Hall, and Springfield Jr. Blues goalie Stefanos Lekkas.

Aberdeen’s Roo was also on the all-rookie team with Wenatchee forward Parker Tuomie, defenseman Matt Nuttle and goalie Chase Perry; Austin forward Guillaume Leclerc; and Fairbanks defenseman Wyatt Ege.

COACHING CHANGE: John LaFontaine, who led Shattuck-St. Mary’s to a Toyota-USA Hockey Tier I 14-and-Under national championship this spring, has been named as coach of the NAHL’s Wichita Falls Wildcats.

LaFontaine coached the Bozeman Icedogs in the America West Hockey League and NAHL from 2000-07.

Two other NAHL teams announced new head coaches. Tom Upton is the new coach and general manager of the Minnesota Magicians, who just completed their first season, and Jon Rogger was named coach of the Amarillo Bulls.

Upton was assistant coach of the USHL’s Cedar Rapids RoughRiders during the 2013-14 season.

Rogger moves to Amarillo from the USHL’s Des Moines Buccaneers, where he was coach for two seasons. He replaces Dennis Williams, who is becoming coach of the Bloomington Thunder, a USHL expansion team.

COLLEGE COMMITMENTS: Aberdeen defenseman Dillon Eichstadt has committed to play at Bemidji State University. Eichstadt had four goals and 31 assists in 51 games last season. The 20-year-old is returning to his hometown in Minnesota to start his college career.

Danny Fetzer, a forward with the Chicago Steel of the USHL, has committed to Minnesota State University-Mankato. Fetzer, a 21-year-old from Chicago, had 23 points in 55 games is his second season in the league.

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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INTEGRITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY IN OFFICIATING

08/25/2015, 3:30pm MDT
By USA Hockey

No one has ever said that officiating, and especially officiating ice hockey, was easy. Rule knowledge, communication skills, fitness, skating and a natural presence are just some of the skills necessary to be a successful official.  Some possess more of these skills and those are the officials who advance to higher levels. But regardless of the level achieved or the skill set the official possesses, the one quality that should be equal among every official is a high level of integrity.

The national official staff members, along with our volunteer referees-in-chief and local supervisors, have heard growing concerns over a decreasing level of integrity among our youth hockey officials. It’s sometimes said that no one is holding them accountable. A portion of this perception is likely a typical “blame the officials” mentality, but some anecdotal evidence suggests there is also some merit to this concern. That’s alarming to USA Hockey, as it affects the credibility of our entire program, along with every member it represents. The blunt truth is this: even one official who isn’t on the up and up can and will damage the credibility of all officials who do take pride in the integrity of their work.

Whether we like it or not, officials are under a microscope, and by the nature of the business, are held to a very high standard. When we signed up for this officiating gig, we committed ourselves to represent the game of hockey, USA Hockey, our local group of officials and ourselves as people of integrity who accept the responsibility and guardianship of enforcing the rules in a fair and consistent manner. Most importantly, we must remember that the game is bigger than all of us and that the game itself is what we serve. Those who lose sight of that not only compromise the competitive fairness of the games, they also make life more difficult for all of the officials by damaging the credibility of the officiating community.

An example of this type of unacceptable behavior occurred last season. A Level 2 adult official tended to work his games with a chip on his shoulder. He often created confrontation with coaches, alienated his younger partners with inaccurate advice and disregarded their help in attempting to get some calls and rule applications right. Even though the help they were providing was correct, he chose to maintain his incorrect position that affected the outcome of several games. He also tended to identify certain players and single them out for various infractions and/or on-ice lectures as a means of emphasizing his authority.

Once the trends were identified, concerns were voiced by several parents and coaches to the local assigner and supervisor, who acknowledged they had never seen the official’s work, but would keep throwing him out there working the same teams and levels that had expressed concerns regarding his attitude. This included intentionally assigning him a playoff game involving the coach who was the most vocal in expressing concerns. This official was then instructed to “throw the coach out if he says anything.”

That playoff game went without a hitch – a tight 2-1 game with a couple of close off-side plays and maybe an icing or two missed. In the post-game dressing room, the official in question, in the presence of his partners and the officials scheduled to work the next game, said, “It’s always a great day when you can make one or both of the coaches mad. It’s too bad the white team coach didn’t want to play along today.” The partners sat there in silence until finally a 12-year-old Level 1 official who was working the next game said, “I don’t think that’s right. We’re not supposed to bait coaches.”

The official got dressed quickly and left the room without saying another word. Kind of ironic that it was the innocent 12-year-old that seemed to “get it” and instill a sense of accountability among those in the room. Imagine how any 12-year-old player feels on the ice when they see the official(s) displaying an attitude that is simply not to the standard the game deserves. And yes, more often than not, they can see through those who do not have the level of integrity expected.

Fortunately, these types of officials are few and far between. But they do exist and to simply stick our heads in the sand and not address the concern is irresponsible. Each of us, as officials, has an obligation to behave in a professional manner at all times and take our role seriously. We have made a commitment to approach each game with the understanding that the game is about the players and we should be invisible until the players require us to appear as a result of infractions that occur. Respect is a two-way street and simply putting on the sweater with the USA Hockey crest suggests respect is warranted, but only if supported by your actions.

USA Hockey has an obligation to create a non-threatening environment that promotes respect for officials and an opportunity for officials to improve through education and evaluation. USA Hockey does this through playing rules, points of emphasis, zero tolerance policies and comprehensive education programs for officials, coaches, parents and players.

In return, the game expects USA Hockey officiating members to bring a professional image to every contest and an attitude that creates a positive environment and makes the game better. We realize everyone makes mistakes – it’s part of the game. However, laziness or unprofessional behavior is unacceptable and being creative in rule enforcement and not holding players/coaches accountable for infractions will only make the next team of officials’ jobs much more difficult and set them up for failure.

The reality is that the game official must always hold themselves to the highest level of integrity and behavior both on and off the ice. Maybe that’s fair, or maybe not, but it is the expectation we are required to meet.

As we head into the 2015-16 season, ask yourself if you are willing to meet that expectation. If the answer is yes, welcome back and we look forward to a great season.

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