TORONTO -- It was a bittersweet ending for defensemen Joshua Jacobs and Ryan Mantha of the Indiana Ice of the United States Hockey League this season.
Three days after helping lead the organization to its second Clark Cup championship in 10 seasons after beating the Waterloo Black Hawks in the USHL championship series, the league completed a dispersal draft of those players that were on Indiana's season-ending roster and affiliate list.
"It was very strange," Jacobs said. "A lot of guys were heading to college but some of the younger guys were staying and needed more time, but we celebrated like it was our last hurrah. Seeing the players getting drafted was kind of bittersweet, but it was also a good thing for them and they'll get a new insight into next year and more options, more intelligence from other coaches."
Jacobs and Mantha are participating in the NHL Scouting Combine this week. Jacobs, No. 43 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of the top North American skaters eligible for the 2014 NHL Draft, had five goals and 23 points in 56 games this season. Mantha, No. 149, had two goals and nine points in 24 games with the Ice following his trade from the Sioux City Musketeers in January.
"It was exciting the whole way through and we just fought until the end," Mantha said. "At the time everyone was wondering what we were going to do [at the end of the season], especially with the guys coming back. Most of the guys were going to college and those coming back were part of the dispersal. We all thought that we might as well go out winning since the team wasn't going to be there next season."
Indiana was granted dormancy for the 2014-15 season and temporary withdrawal from on-ice competition as the organization intends to focus on development of a new facility and a permanent home in the Indianapolis area.
"My fondest hockey memory was winning that Clark Cup; it was an unbelievable experience," Jacobs said. "A group of 23 brothers came together and we had a great coaching staff that helped us become better players on and off the ice."
Indiana coach and general manager Jeff Brown was named the USHL General Manager of the Year at the conclusion of the season. He led the Ice to a 42-11-7 record (91 points) during the regular season, and the team finished first in the Eastern Conference by 17 points. It was the most wins in the 10-year history of the Ice. The team also tied a league record this season with 21 victories on the road and ranked second with 21 home wins.
"Playing in Indiana this year meant everything to me," Jacobs said. "We had the players and the coaching staff, as well as the ownership [Paul Skjodt]. We couldn't have done a better job; starting the season 0-3-1 and ending with a Clark Cup championship. It couldn't have ended on a better note."
Jacobs will attend Michigan State University in 2014-15. Mantha will attend either the University of North Dakota or join the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League. The Greyhounds selected Mantha in the fifth round of the 2012 OHL priority draft and hold his Canadian Hockey League rights.
"Everything is an option right now, and whoever drafts me, I'll listen to what they have to say," Mantha said. "They decide what they want me to do and what they think is best for my development. I'll talk to the team and probably go by their advice."