CHICAGO – The United States Hockey League today announced the Member Clubs that will participate in the USHL Atlantic Challenge from September 6-8th, 2013 in New York and New Jersey. The preseason event, featuring three teams from the USHL Western Conference and three from the Eastern Conference, will be largest exhibition of USHL talent outside of the League’s Midwest base in its eleven-year history as USA Hockey’s only Tier 1 junior league.
First announced in February, the USHL Atlantic Challenge is being hosted by a trio of youth and junior hockey organizations on the East Coast – the Long Island Gulls, New York Bobcats, and North Jersey Avalanche. In addition to the preseason games played by USHL teams, the event will feature an invitational tournament for some of the region’s top under-14, under-16, under-18, and junior teams.
“‘The Challenge’ provides a unique opportunity for players, parents, and fans on the East Coast to see and experience the USHL brand in person,” said USHL President and Commissioner Skip Prince. “It takes seeing the size, speed, and skill of our players, more and more of whom are coming from the Atlantic and Northeast region…the quality of our coaches…and the intensity of the game at this level to understand just how good junior hockey in America can be.”
The exhibition series will also provide NCAA and NHL scouts to ability to get an early look at the 2013-14 class of USHL players, many of whom will play for NCAA Division I schools located in the region at the conclusion of their USHL careers.
Three teams from each of the USHL’s two conferences are set to participate. The Eastern Conference will be represented by the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, Muskegon Lumberjacks, and Youngstown Phantoms, while Western Conference representatives will be the Sioux City Musketeers, Sioux Falls Stampede, and Waterloo Black Hawks.
There are a number of connections from the USHL organizations to the region and to the host teams. Cedar Rapids RoughRiders goaltender Chris Birdsall and Youngstown Phantoms forward J.J. Piccinich both played their youth hockey for the North Jersey Avalanche before signing tenders prior to the 2012-13 USHL season. Youngstown defenseman Jimmy Mazza played for the New York Bobcats before his USHL days, while both RoughRiders forward Alec Marsh and head coach Mark Carlson are natives of New Jersey. The Muskegon Lumberjacks also used the recent USHL Draft to select a player from the host North Jersey Avalanche as they used their first-round pick (7th overall) in Phase 1 of the Draft on forward Grant Jozefek.
One of the host venues for the USHL Atlantic Challenge – the Ferraro Brothers Ice Center in East Meadow, New York – has strong connections to the League and a participating team. The brand new facility is owned and operated by a pair of USHL alumni, Chris Ferraro and Peter Ferraro, who played part of the 1991-92 season for the Waterloo Black Hawks. They combined for 200 points (97g, 103a) that season, finishing as the League’s top two scorers, and Peter was named USHL Forward of the Year. Chris had won the same honor the previous season with the Dubuque Fighting Saints. Both Ferraro brothers were selected in the 1992 NHL Draft by the New York Rangers.
USHL games and the invitational tournament competition will also take place at The Ice House arena in Hackensack, Jersey. The four-surface facility is home to the North Jersey Avalanche.
A full schedule of games for the USHL Atlantic Challenge will be released this summer.