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Junior Notebook: USHL Fall Classic Features Close, Exciting Games

By Tom Robinson, 10/04/18, 8:30AM EDT

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Three games went to overtime in the league’s opening weekend

The United States Hockey League delivered a new twist last Thursday when its Fall Classic commenced not as a preseason event, but instead, as the opening salvo of regular-season games for the first time. In a hotly contested start, the event featured three overtime contests and another one-goal game among the five games played.               

By the time the Fall Classic concluded Sunday, only four of the USHL’s 17 teams had made it through their first two games unscathed.

The Tri-City Storm and Team USA, which won the weekend’s only shootout Saturday, each won a pair of one-goal games. The Muskegon Lumberjacks and Des Moines Buccaneers joined them at 2-0 for the weekend at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry, Pennsylvania.               

Tri-City edged the Youngstown Phantoms, 5-4, Thursday, then won again the next day, beating the Madison Capitols, 2-1, to become the first team to get to 2-0.               

USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program joined Tri-City at 2-0 Saturday when it topped the Sioux Falls Stampede, 5-4, in a shootout. It then defeated the Omaha Lancers 2-1 in the final game of the event.               

Benji Eckerle, who had an assist earlier, scored consecutive goals in the second and third periods to open a 5-3 lead for Tri-City Thursday.               

Alaskan Isaiah Saville, who backstopped the U.S. Under-18 Men’s Select Team at the 2017 Hlinka Tournament, made 21 saves in Friday’s win.               

The NTDP came from two goals down in the third period in its shootout win. USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game Most Valuable Player Matt Boldy started the comeback and Patrick Moynihan and Ryder Rolston followed with goals for a 4-3 lead.               

Domenick Fensore, one of the players to connect in the shootout, then scored the third-period game-winner Sunday.              

Muskegon also had to pull out a close one, beating the Fargo Force 4-3 Friday before stopping the Sioux City Musketeers 6-3 Saturday.               

Des Moines was the most dominant team. The Buccaneers beat Madison 5-2 Thursday and the Chicago Steel 10-5 in Friday’s final game.               

Muskegon’s Egor Afanasyev, from Moscow, Russia, had a Friday hat trick among his four goals.               

Des Moines scored five more goals than any other team in the league.               

Former USA Hockey Boys Select 17 Player Development Camp all-star Blake Pietila stopped 51 of 55 shots to help make the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders one of three teams to go 1-0-1-0. The Central Illinois Flying Aces and Waterloo Black Hawks also went 1-0-1-0 while the Sioux Falls Stampede matched them at three standings points by going 1-0-0-1.              

EHL SHOWCASE: The New Jersey 87’s, Philadelphia Little Flyers and Seahawks Hockey Club each went 2-0 when the Eastern Hockey League held its first Showcase of the season with 16 of 18 games at the Rodman Arena in Walpole, Massachusetts, being decided by three goals or less.               

New Jersey won in a shootout and in overtime. Cam Lindsay scored two goals, including the overtime game-winner, in Monday’s 4-3 win over the Connecticut Chiefs.               

The Little Flyers improved to 9-0.               

D.J. Paxson made 34 saves in a 1-0 win over the Boston Jr. Rangers Sunday, giving the Seahawks their first 2-0 showcase weekend in franchise history.               

NAHL LEADERS: Defenseman Brenden Datema had a goal and an assist in each game of a two-game weekend sweep of the Topeka Pilots, giving the Amarillo Bulls the North American Hockey League’s best record at 6-1.               

Datema scored the game-winner in Friday’s 5-4 victory. The Michigan native leads NAHL defensemen with 11 points and the Bulls have won six straight since dropping their opener.              

The Johnstown Tomahawks took over the East Division lead at 6-2 when Oliver Benwell scored twice and added an assist Saturday in a 5-3 victory that completed a weekend road sweep of the New Jersey Titans.               

STILL PERFECT: The L/A Nordiques made it to 8-0 in the North American 3 Hockey League while the Helena Bighorns and Milwaukee Power each improved to 7-0.               

The Nordiques won three times on the weekend, but had their perfect mark in serious jeopardy in the last of those games Monday.              

Cole Ouellette scored with eight seconds left in regulation to force overtime where Colby Audette scored to secure a 7-6 victory over the Northeast Generals.       

ONE-TIMERS: John Stampohar, a 20-year-old defenseman from Grand Rapids, Minnesota, playing for the NAHL’s Fairbanks Ice Dogs, has committed to Canisius College. Stampohar’s former teammate at Grand Rapids High School, Zach Stejskal, now a goalie for the NAHL’s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights, stopped 78 of 81 shots in a pair of weekend wins, one of which came in overtime. The duo won a Minnesota Class AA high school state championship together with the Thunderhawks in 2017.

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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