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Luukko, Saints Win USHL Title

by Staff Writer / Philadelphia Flyers
Flyers scouts will have their eyes on the upcoming 2011 NHL Draft slated for just over a month from now. Recently, however their attention has been diverted to a pick that is very familiar to them.

Flyers’ 2010 draft pick, Nick Luukko and the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the United States Hockey League took home the Clark Cup, the USHL’s League Championship, this past weekend with a 6-1 win in Game 4 over the Green Bay Gamblers to win the best-of-five games series 3 games to 1.

Not a bad start to his junior career.

“It still really hasn’t sunk in yet, but it was great to win a championship,” said Luukko. “The season overall, we had a great year especially for an expansion team. To win a championship as an expansion team you don’t see that everyday.”

Luukko was selected by the Flyers in the sixth round (179th overall) of last year’s draft and recently completed his first season in the USHL with Dubuque after graduating from the Gunnery Prep High School in Washington, Conn.

Over the course of the playoffs, the 6’2’’, 185-pound defenseman posted a goal and four assists for five points in 11 playoff games. His five points tied for the team lead among defensemen en route to the title.

In addition he recorded a plus/minus rating of +5, while his lone goal of the postseason was the game-winning tally in overtime of a 2-1 Game 1 victory for the Fighting Saints in their first round series against Fargo.

“It was definitely new to me,” said Luukko. “Playing in Prep school it was always one-game elimination. Playing in the USHL playoffs, it was pretty similar to the NHL. We were playing series, back-to-back nights and playing the same opponents four-five times and getting to know your opponent it was basically like a war.”

In his rookie campaign with the first-year Dubuque club, Luukko recorded 17 points (7G-10A) and 20 penalty minutes in 45 regular season games.

Dubuque finished the 60-game regular season with the top record in the Western Conference at 37-14-9 for 83 points. The Fighting Saints then went 9-2 in the playoffs to capture the Clark Cup for the first time in the city of Dubuque in 26 years, since the 1984-85 season.

His regular season was cut short after missing 15 games due to an injured wrist suffered back in October, however he attributes that time missed to helping his game both off and on the ice.

"It was a good experience for me. It was something I’ve never had to go through before with an injury. I got to focus on things I could improve upon and watch the game more, and when I came back I felt like I got back into things right away."

And the results proved it. He finished the season strong with points in four of the last five games leading into the USHL playoffs.

"We had a first-round bye, so we were coming off a week and a half lay-over and we were a little rusty for the first couple periods, but we were able to get it together and won it in overtime. It was a good start to the postseason.”

The championship game turned out to be the largest crowd to see a game in the history of Dubuque hockey with 3,480 fans inside the Mystique Ice Center.

A native of local West Chester, Pa., Luukko will leave the USHL as a champion and head into the NCAA hockey world. He has committed to, and will be attending the University of Vermont in the Hockey East Conference this fall.

* News feature & footage courtesy of KCRG-TV9 in Dubuque, Iowa *
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