USHL champs head to Russia for tournament play Fighting Saints heading to Russia

SOUTHAVEN, Miss. – It will be “From Russia With Hockey” for the 2013 USHL Clark Cup champion Dubuque Fighting Saints to start their season in late August. The Fighting Saints will begin their defense of the USHL title on Russian soil by participating in the third annual Junior Club World Cup tournament.

Not many teams get to begin their pre-season action in a location half a globe away. But, it will be the second straight year for a USHL team to do so. A Dubuque rival just 90 miles away, the Waterloo Black Hawks played for the USA in last year’s event.

Waterloo finished second in the JCWC to the Sudbury Wolves, an Ontario Hockey League major junior team that is back to carry the Canadian flag and defend its title this season.OMSK_2011_WorldCup_PRODv

Other teams in the week-long event will come from Belarus, Czech Republic, Latvia, Finland, Sweden, and the host Omsk Hawks.

The JCWC is organized by the Russia Ice Hockey Federation, the Junior Hockey League and the Russian Ministry of Sport.

When the Saints won the USHL regular-season Anderson Cup last spring, USA Hockey approached the team with the invite to represent the United States in the JCWC.

Team president Dan Lehv said, “We are thrilled for the opportunity to represent the City of Dubuque, the USHL and the United States of America. USA Hockey provided a grant to support our participation in the tournament, and we’re grateful for their partnership.”

Lehv said local sponsorship is helping to fund the trip. They also received aid and direction in the planning from the Waterloo and Sudbury organizations.

At the JCWC, the eight teams are divided into two pools of four clubs each. Dubuque is in Pool “A” and will face off against HC Riga (Latvia), Vitkovice Steel (Czech Republic), and Omsk (Russia). From there, the top two teams of each pool will be paired in single-elimination semi-finals, with the winners to play for the JCWC championship.

Under the direction of first-year coach Matt Shaw, the Dubuque team going to Russia will have eight returning players from last year’s USHL championship team. They will be led by returning goaltender Arthur Brey. The Yorba Linda, Calif. native led the USHL with a 2.22 goals-against-average last season.

While the Saints will be across the globe, American fans will be able to follow the team’s progress in the JCWC. But, it will come after some sleepless nights, or a willingness to listen “after the fact.”

The time difference between Iowa and Omsk is 12 hours, so much of the action will be played during the early morning and overnight hours in the US.

Battling the time difference and jetlag will be Saints’ broadcaster and Coordinator of Media Relations Zach Fisch, who will broadcast all of the Dubuque games on the radio back to fans at home.

The team has also set up a special website that contains information about the team, the tournament, along with a blog and a listen live link for the broadcasts.

Flagship station KIYX-FM 106.1, Superhits 106 will have a spot on their website where fans outside the station’s listening area can listen live. Those broadcasts will then be archived for on-demand listening shortly after the end of each game for those not able to be up for each early morning faceoff.

Being able to broadcast the games from such a distance was not an easy thing to do. Video streaming became prohibitive, so the team wanted to have radio broadcasting capabilities at the very least.

Fisch said, “We really worked hard to try and make something video wise happen, but the resources were limited to carry any video live. With that, we really pushed to have the games broadcast on the radio, and thanks to a laptop, a headset, an Ethernet line, and Skype, we are able to do a radio broadcast from across the world.”

The JCWC will not be the only hockey action for the Fighting Saints during the trip. Dubuque meets another Russian team in the country’s capital city at a historic arena, one day before the event starts.

Lehv said, “We will be playing one exhibition game in Moscow on August 23 against Red Army Moscow in Red Army Club Arena. We’re excited to play in a building so rich in history.”

Months of planning have been done to make a venture like this possible, but in the end team officials say it will be worth the effort.

Lehv said, “This is an event that our players, coaches and fans will be talking about for years to come. As an organization that embraces these types of opportunities, we hope it will allow us to continue to attract the best players to Dubuque, and continue to give our fans and sponsors reasons to be excited about Fighting Saint hockey.”

And so, it’s “bezopasnyye puteshestviya” (safe travels) and “udachi” (good luck) to the Fighting Saints as they represent the Red, White, and Blue overseas in the JCWC.

NOTE: I’m always looking for story ideas about happenings around the USHL for this section of Pro Hockey News. Contact me at bob.bakken@prohockeynews.com with your ideas.

Schedule of games for Dubuque Fighting Saints in Russia (all times Central)

Friday, August 23 – at Red Army (Russia) in Moscow (3:00 AM)
Sunday, August 25 – vs. HC Riga (Latvia) in Omsk (2:00 AM)
Monday, August 26 – vs. Vitkovice Steel (Czech Republic) in Omsk (3:00 AM)
Wednesday, August 28 – vs. Omsk Hawks (Russia) (7:00 AM)
Thursday, August 29 – TBD (Semi-final)
Saturday, August 31 – TBD (Championship Game)

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