SOUTHAVEN, Miss. – Most USHL teams are getting into the pre-season action as just days remain before opening night rosters are set and the first games of the 2013-14 regular season are played. Only Omaha and Team USA had not taken the ice prior to the start of the Fall Classic this week.
Defending champion Dubuque has followed its bronze medal performance in the Junior Club World Championships played in Russia with a strong showing in a 5-1 victory over Eastern Conference rival Green Bay last Sunday.
Five different Saints scored for Dubuque, with Josh Betinol adding an assist to his goal and Shane Eiserman chipping in a pair of helpers to lead their team in scoring.
The Hawks opened with a 3-1 win Friday over Muskegon, followed by a 4-0 shutout of Cedar Rapids on Saturday and a 2-1 Sunday conquest of Sioux City.
Black Hawks’ veteran forward Jake Horton has led the team’s success with a pair of goals and an assist for three points. The native of Lake Elmo, Minn. scored single goals in the Sioux City and Cedar Rapids wins, and opened the Challenge with an assist against Muskegon.
He has been aided by John Wiitala and Liam Pecararo, who each have a goal and an assist in the early going.
Wiitala is a returning forward from Lakeville, Minn. who scored six goals for 11 points last season in Waterloo.
Pecararo is also a veteran for Waterloo from Canton, Mass. who netted eight goals for 13 points last year. Liam has committed to play college hockey at the University of Maine.
The group is part of a team coach P.K. O’Handley says is already adopting a “hard hat” attitude before the regular season even starts.
O’Handley told the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier before the Atlantic Challenge started, “This group works hard. We still have a ways to go, but the fact they work so hard and haven’t relented to that point is a real positive.”
Sioux Falls’ C. J. Franklin has made the most impact on the league’s pre-season boxscores thus far with three goals and a trio of assists for six points in three games.
The Forest Lake, Minn. veteran is committed to play collegiately at Minnesota State-Mankato. Franklin scored twice in a 5-4 win over Cedar Rapids to open their play at the Atlantic Challenge last Friday. That effort was followed by another Franklin goal in a 3-2 Sioux Falls loss to Youngstown during the same event.
Cedar Rapids’ Andrew Poturaski splashed onto the pre-season spotlight Tuesday night with a hat-trick in the RoughRiders’ 5-3 victory over Dubuque. The Williamsville, N.Y. native committed to the University of New Hampshire added an assist against Youngstown Sunday in the Atlantic Challenge.
Poturaski hopes to pick up momentum from a successful season last year where he scored 12 goals for 33 points in 53 games with Cedar Rapids.
Fall Classic Week gets underway in Sioux City, Iowa for Western Conference teams Wednesday, Sept. 11. It wraps up with Eastern Conference teams playing Friday-Sunday Sept. 13-15 in Indianapolis, Ind. This year marks the first time in the seven year history of the Fall Classic that the event has been held in two different cities.
Still, the Sioux City Musketeers expect to host about 200 college and NHL coaches and scouts during the two days of games at the Tyson Events Center. Indianapolis should attract a similar number of coaches and scouts for their part in Fall Classic Week.
USHL Fall Classic West Game Schedule (all times Central)
Wednesday, Sept. 11
10:00 a.m. – Sioux Falls Stampede vs. Omaha Lancers
1:00 p.m. – Lincoln Stars vs. Des Moines Buccaneers
4:00 p.m. – Fargo Force vs. Tri-City Storm
7:00 p.m. – Waterloo Black Hawks vs. Sioux City Musketeers
Thursday, Sept. 12
10:00 a.m. – Des Moines Buccaneers vs. Fargo Force
1:00 p.m. – Tri-City Storm vs. Waterloo Black Hawks
4:00 p.m. – Omaha Lancers vs. Lincoln Stars
7:00 p.m. – Sioux Falls Stampede vs. Sioux City
USHL Fall Classic East Game Schedule (all times Eastern)
Friday, Sept. 13 – Pan Am Pavilion
2:00 p.m. – Chicago Steel vs. Team USA
5:15 p.m. – Dubuque Fighting Saints vs. Youngstown Phantoms
Saturday, Sept. 14 – Bankers Life Fieldhouse
10:15 a.m. – Team USA vs. Youngstown Phantoms
1:30 p.m. – Dubuque Fighting Saints vs. Chicago Steel
4:45 p.m. – Cedar Rapids RoughRiders vs. Muskegon Lumberjacks
8:00 p.m. – Green Bay Gamblers vs. Indiana Ice
Sunday, Sept. 15 – Pan Am Pavilion
12:30 p.m. – Green Bay Gamblers vs. Cedar Rapids RoughRiders
5:45 p.m. – Muskegon Lumberjacks vs. Indiana Ice