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Top Junior Players Receive End-of-Year Honors

05/29/2014, 3:30pm MDT
By Tom Robinson - Special to

Omaha Lancers defenseman Tucker Poolman received the Dave Tyler Junior Player of the Year award given by USA Hockey. Poolman led United States Hockey League defensemen with 15 goals — 10 of which came on the power play — and was third among USHL defensemen in scoring with 41 points in 58 games.

Poolman, a 20-year-old from Grand Forks, Minn., also helped the Lancers lead the league in fewest goals allowed and penalty killing percentage.

Cal Petersen of the Waterloo Black Hawks was named as the Dave Peterson Goalie of the Year. Peterson led the league with 27 wins, including 12 straight at one point.

The Waterloo, Iowa, native and University of Notre Dame recruit was a fifth-round pick by the Buffalo Sabres in the 2013 National Hockey League Entry Draft.

USHL AWARDS: USHL scoring champion Jake Randolph of the Omaha Lancers was named the league’s Forward of the Year in voting by the league’s coaches and general managers.

Randolph led the scoring race by 12 points with 26 goals and 60 assists in 60 games. The 60 assists set a USHL Tier I era (since 2002) record.

Other awards included: Hayden Hawkey of Omaha as Goaltender of the Year; P.K. O’Handley of the Waterloo Black Hawks as Coach of the Year; Robby Jackson of the Chicago Steel as Rookie of the Year; Jeff Brown of the Indiana Ice as General Manager of the Year; and Brandon Montour of the Waterloo Black Hawks as Player of the Year and Defenseman of the Year.

Hawkey led the league with a 1.99 goals-against average, the lowest in the league’s modern era, while going 22-6-3.

Jackson set a modern era record for scoring by a USHL 16-year-old with 42 points on 28 goals and 14 assists.

O’Handley led Waterloo to the Anderson Cup for the best regular-season record of 44-11-5.

Brown guided the Ice to the Eastern Conference title and the Clark Cup as playoff champion.

COACHING MOVES: Luke Strand has been named coach and general manager of the Madison Capitols for the organization’s return to the USHL for the 2014-15 season. Strand was GM of the Sioux City Musketeers last season after coaching the team from 2009-11.

The Odessa Jackalopes have removed the interim label from coach Greg Gatto, who guided the team through the last 10 games of the North American Hockey League season.

The Southern Tier Xpress, which will begin play in the North American 3 Hockey League next season in Jamestown, N.Y., have named Rylan Galiardi coach and Seth Wolfe associate head coach.

Also in the NA3HL, the LaCrosse Freeze will have Ryan Egan as coach and general manager and the Fort Worth Brahma will have Al Rooney as coach for their debut.

USPHL CHANGES: The United States Premier Hockey League will expand its Premier Division to 11 teams next season with the addition of the Rochester Americans and Springfield Pics.

The USPHL is also adding to the Providence Capitals to its Junior Elite and Midget 16U Divisions for next season.

COLLEGE COMMITMENT: Lucas Kohls of the NAHL’s Austin Bruins has committed to the University of Massachusetts-Lowell. The 20-year-old from Forest Lake, Minn. played both forward and defense for Austin. He had 18 goals and 23 assists in 74 games.

SPRING SHOWCASE: The Boston Junior Bruins won the A Division and the Jersey Hitmen won the B Division of the USPHL Spring Showcase.

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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When it comes to women’s hockey, there is no argument that USA Hockey and Hockey Canada have the two premier programs in the world. Earlier this month, their young talent took to the ice in Lake Placid, New York, as a part of the U18 and U22 Select Series.

While there were several athletes on both teams who competed for their country in such an event for the first time, it also marked a special occasion for Melissa Szkola. An experienced official who has worked a handful of International Ice Hockey Federation events, Lake Placid marked her first USA-Canada affair. USA Hockey caught up with the Michigan native to talk about the amazing international experience and her evolving officiating career.

USA Hockey: What was it like to be a part of the U22 and U18 Select Series’

Melissa Szkola: The experience was wonderful. It was fantastic. We’ve essentially got the two best teams in the world competing against each other, so the learning experience, working with the officials that we have, is always amazing. You leave here a better person, a better official; that’s what we’re here for. That’s what I look forward to the most at these big-time events: the level of hockey and what you get out of it as a whole.

USAH: How did you first get into officiating?

Szkola: It’s been nine years since I got my start. I was a competitive figure skater and my older brother played hockey, so I’ve always been around the game, but it was my husband who actually got me into the officiating side of it. When we started dating, he was a roller and ice hockey official. He asked me to come with one time and I said ‘okay.’ That’s how I got started. It’s something he and I have in common and he is my biggest supporter. I wouldn’t be here without him.

USAH: So nine years under your belt, how would you describe some of your past IIHF events?

Szkola: I’ve had a handful of experiences with international tournaments. Each one has brought a new set of skills to my plate. You learn a lot about yourself and you learn a lot from your supervisors from different countries as well. To get out and work with other female officials and learn from them and your supervisors is amazing.

Being in another country, where sometimes there aren’t people who even speak English, is a really unique experience as well. The communication that you learn to speak with non-English speaking officials really makes you appreciate what you have in common – hockey.

USAH: How did the Select Series compare to those events?

Szkola: The level of play, it’s definitely much higher at the Select Series than any of the championships that I’ve been to. I wouldn’t say that the intensity is much different, because at each level they are competing for their highest achievement. The intensity is the same, the importance is the same, but the level of play is definitely much better; it’s faster, it’s crisper. Your awareness just has to be that much higher.

USAH: Did calling a game with high-caliber players like those at the Select Series shake up any nerves?

Szkola: I’ll be honest, I was a little nervous before we got on the ice. I’ve watched Team USA and Team Canada compete before, so you know the level at which they intend to play. Being out there with it, you just know where the emotions can go sometimes. It was a little nerve-wracking before the start, but as soon as that puck drops, you have a job to do. USA Hockey does a fantastic job developing us; I feel like they wouldn’t put you out there if you weren’t ready. Once that puck drops, you’re kind of at home.

USAH: What’s next for your officiating future?

Szkola: The support that I have, not only from my hometown in Michigan, but also the support and development USA Hockey has given really sets you up for success if you want to take it in that direction. That is my goal. I do want to skate in the Olympics. Moving forward I am going to continue to improve upon each experience that I have, because you can always be better. Mistakes do get made, so you learn from those and improve yourself. 

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