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Sioux City: "Fall Classic Files"

by Mike G. Morreale
Sioux City sendoff
09.26.2009 / 07:00 AM

It was quite a weekend of hockey at the USHL Fall Classic. I'm heading home Saturday morning following two full days of hockey and several great memories.

Before I rip off the results from Thursday, I wanted to personally thank USHL Commissioner Skip Prince, Director of Communications Brian Werger and the whole Sioux City staff for their gracious hospitality. It was memorable and, hopefully, we'll have an opportunity to return in 2010.

The caliber of hockey in the USHL is great. The players are competitive, smart and humble and have one common goal -- but to attain the goal of reaching the NHL the USHL offers several options and therein lies the benefit of the 31-year league.

On Thursday, Des Moines defeated Youngstown, 3-2; Green Bay defeated Lincoln, 3-2 via shootout; Fargo defeated Indiana, 5-3; Chicago defeated Omaha, 5-4; Sioux Falls defeated Waterloo, 7-2; Cedar Rapids defeated Tri-City, 7-2; and host Sioux City defeated US NTDP, 2-1.

The Sioux City victory was a pretty exciting game as it was the final game of the night at Tyson Events Center and was decided via a shootout. For those of you scoring at home, the opening line combinations for Team USA were as follows:

Jason Zucker-Bill Arnold-Bryan Rust
Matt Nieto-Nick Shore-Brandon Saad
Michael Mersch-Chase Balisy-Bill Arnold
Austin Czarnick-Jon Merrill-Stephen Johns

Jarred Tinordi-Justin Faulk
Kevin Clare-Adam Clendening
Derek Forbort-Frankie Simonelli
Jon Merrill-Stephen Johns

G-Andy Iles

Here's a blow-by-blow account of the shootout in the Team USA-Sioux City matchup, which didn't make my recap:

USA-Brandon Saad, Save Matt Skoff
SC-Stephan Vigier goal, low left corner
USA-Luke Moffatt, Save Matt Skoff (left glove)
SC-Dan Dekeyser, Missed over net
USA-Jason Zucker, Save Matt Skoff (attempted 5-hole)
SC-Andrew Sinelli, Save Andy Iles
USA-Matt Nieto, Missed wide right
SC-Tom Olczyk, Save Andy Iles (right goalie pad)
USA-Justin Faulk, Save Matt Skoff (right goalie pad/glove hand)

It's interesting to note that Johns and Merrill both moved up to play offense with Czarnick on Friday night and Derek Forbort and Frankie Simonelli did the same against Tri-City on Thursday.

Well, that's it from Sioux City. Hope you enjoyed the coverage. Hang in there, the NHL season begins in a matter of days!

Sioux City blowouts highlight early afternoon action
09.25.2009 / 04:55 PM

A pair of blowouts highlighted the early afternoon contests here at the USHL Fall Classic as Cedar Rapids posted a 7-2 victory over Tri-City and Sioux Falls scored a 7-2 victory over Waterloo.

Sioux Falls received a pair of goals by forward Josh Holmstrom and Waterloo's Dayn Belfour had a rough outing, yielding 7 goals on 34 shots. Cedar Rapids, meanwhile, received goals from seven different players and goalie Matt Hemingway turned away 23 shots to notch the victory.

In Game 3 at the Tyson Events Center, Indiana and Fargo are knotted 1-1 through two periods. Chicago will battle Omaha will face off at the IBP Ice Center in about 30 minutes.

Anders Lee looks strong; Dayn Belfour in net
09.25.2009 / 02:45 PM

Pretty entertaining game at the Tyson Events Center this morning as the Green Bay Gamblers scored a 3-2 decision over the Lincoln Stars in a shootout. Green Bay's Anders Lee, the multi-sport star at Edina High School last season, had the game-tying goal midway through the third period to send the contest into a shootout.

Just my opinion but Lee, an All-State quarterback at Edina last season, was a fifth-round steal for the Islanders!

Lincoln goalie Jared Coreau, who finished with 22 saves in the game, actually stopped two penalty shots in the third period but still lost in the shootout.

One other interesting tidbit in the game was Detroit Red Wings 2009 pick Nick Jensen (150th overall) of Green Bay going toe-to-toe with Lincoln's Nate Baumbick despite giving up two inches and 10 pounds. It was a pretty good tussle too!

In the other game this morning over at the IBP Center, Des Moines scored a 3-2 triumph over Youngstown behind a 37-save performance by Charles Williams. DJ Vandercook's goal with just 1:54 remaining in the third snapped a 2-2 tie.

In the second game at Tyson Events Center, Dayn Belfour, the son of former NHL netminder Ed Belfour, has yielded two goals on nine shots as the Waterloo Black Hawks trail the Sioux Falls Stampede, 2-1. Sioux Falls goalie Clay Witt had just three saves in the first.

I also had a nice chat with Green Bay second-year coach Jon Cooper, who led the club to the biggest turnaround in USHL history in 2008-09 and was named the league's GM of the Year. Cooper spent much of the afternoon trying different line combinations even strength and on the power-play. He still got the win.

Fall Classic enters Day 2
09.25.2009 / 10:35 AM

I'm just about set for Day 2 of the USHL Fall Classic at the Tyson Events Center here in downtown Sioux City this morning. I'll get to watch eight more teams before heading back to the East Coast on Saturday morning.

Last night, the NTDP posted a 3-1 victory over the Tri-City Americans due in large part to a suffocating defense that limited Tri-City to just 13 shots on goal. The recap and post-game reaction is here.

Basically, NTDP coach Kurt Kleinendorst would like to see his club become harder to play against. Overall, though, he was very pleased with the effort.

The other results for Day 1 of the Fall Classic:
Sioux Fall 4, Chicago 1
Indiana 4, Lincoln 3 (shootout)
Des Moines 4, Green Bay 2
Omaha 4, Youngstown 2
Waterloo 4, Fargo 2
Cedar Rapids 4, Sioux City 1

I caught up with Cedar Rapids defensemen Mac Bennett (drafted 79th overall by the Canadiens in June) and Nolan Zajac (yes…that's Travis' brother) late Thursday night. Zajac actually notched two assist in his team's triumph. Bennett finished with a plus-1 rating for the game.

I'll post some results as the day moves along so keep checking in.

Today's slate at Tyson:
Green Bay - Lincoln
Waterloo - Sioux Falls
Indiana - Fargo
Team USA - Sioux City

Today's slate at IBP Center
Youngstown - Des Moines
Cedar Rapids - Tri-City
Chicago - Omaha

Excitement in Sioux
09.24.2009 / 04:38 PM

The final 10 minutes of the second period between Omaha and Youngstown might have been some of the most entertaining of the early morning for me.

Geez, first it was Youngstown's Adam Berkle throwing a big hit on Omaha's Michael Chiasson from behind before 'The Kid' Seth Ambroz stepped in to defend his teammate. About six minutes before this erupted, Youngstown's Brett Gensler scored his second of the game off a picturesque shorthanded breakaway to pull the first-year Phantoms into a 2-2 tie.

With 2:19 left in the middle period, Nick Oddo of Omaha was issued a penalty shot after he was pulled down on a shorthanded breakaway of his own. His attempt off the backhand went high and wide as Youngstown goalie Jordan Tibbett stood his ground.
Tibbett played for the Phantoms last year in the NAHL. He has three years of junior-level experience and was considered one of the top goalies available. He's from Indianapolis.

I'm at Tyson Events Center now getting prepared for Team USA's under-18 team against the Tri-City Storm.

Sioux Falls notches win; Youngstown takes 1-0 lead
09.24.2009 / 03:15 PM

The Sioux Falls Stampede opened the USHL Fall Classic with a 4-1 victory over the Chicago Steel at IBP Ice Center Thursday morning. The Stampede used a 3-goal third period to close out the Steel.

Michael Voran scored two third-period goals and Matt Zarbo and Matt Lindblad each had assists on both goals as Sioux Falls overcame a 1-0 deficit with 4 unanswered goals. Sam Coatta also struck for Sioux Falls in the third. Chicago defenseman Kevin Lind, who is headed to Notre Dame next fall, was issued three penalties in the game. Lind did perform admirably along the blue line, however, as did Steel forwards Alex Krushelnyski, Brendan Woods and Sahir Gill.

I'm currently eyeing the big youngster from Omaha -- Seth Ambroz. The kid is just 16 years-old, the youngest player in the USHL. He hasn't showed any signs of tentativeness on the ice though - a credit to him. I had a nice long chat with Ambroz earlier today and teammates have dubbed his rocket shot 'The Rolston' in honor of the hard slapshot possessed by the fiery New Jersey Devils forward Brian Rolston.

Pretty cool stuff. Omaha is playing Youngstown, which is in its first season in the USHL. Youngstown is playing a spirited, aggressive game and actually grabbed a 1-0 lead seven minutes into the first period on a breakaway goal by Brett Gensler. Defenseman Luke Eibler notched the nice assist to spring Gensler into the open.

Omaha got the equalizer just 1:16 into the second when Troy Power knocked in a puck off a feed from Nick Oddo, who is headed to the University of Nebraska-Omaha. The Lancers then gained their first lead, 2-1, when Colin Markison (University of Vermont) connected off feeds from Tyler Lapic (Wisconsin) and Joe Lavin (Notre Dame), a fifth-round draft choice of the Chicago Blackhawks in '07.

I'll probably stay for two periods of the Omaha-Youngstown game in order to get down to Tyson Events Center in time to watch the NTDP's inaugural contest against Tri-City.

Zombo connects
09.24.2009 / 12:05 PM

Dominic Zombo, the son of former NHL defenseman Rick Zombo, scored the only goal of the second period to pull Sioux Falls into a 1-1 tie with Chicago here in the opening game of the USHL Fall Classic. Zombo is a pretty gritty kid. He stole the puck behind the Chicago cage and wrapped one in. He's 5-9 and 174 pounds but really is a spark plug out there.

Skating is a big deal to a majority of the scouts on hand here at the IBP Ice Center -- and why not. Skating is the one area that is beaten to death in the notebooks and skating is what will eventually turn the average player into the best player.

Third period about to start.

A who's who in hockey talent
09.24.2009 / 11:42 AM

First period complete here at the IBP Ice Center between the Chicago Steel and Sioux Falls Stampede. Chicago holds a 1-0 lead on a goal by Russian native Andrei Kuchin. Assists went to Brendan Woods and Sahir Gill.

This Chicago team is chock full of familiar names. Jake Chelios, the son of Chris Chelios; Alex Krushelnyski, the son of Mike Krushelnyski and Brendan Woods, the son of Washington Capitals assistant coach Bob Woods, are all skating for the Steel.

Chicago defenseman Kevin Lind, who skated with John Moore last season, has taken two penalties in the game. He's obviously a very talented kid but sitting in the box won't get  him the exposure he needs in front of the numerous scouts in attendance.

By the way, I'm sitting alongside NHL Central Scouting guru Jack Barzee. Jack's busy highlighting names and jotting down notes while I'm pounding on the keyboard. Just another day at the office.  

Hockey hot topic in Sioux City!
09.24.2009 / 8:30 AM

Arrived in Sioux City at approximately 4 p.m. on Wednesday but didn't reach my hotel in the downtown area until about 5:30 p.m. because I was stuck behind the longest freight train in the history of mankind! This thing had to be 200 box cars long.

Anyway, former NHL linesman Pat Dapuzzo, a native of Hoboken, N.J., is staying at my hotel as are the boys from the USHL's Lincoln Stars. The big Lincoln star last year was, of course, Corban Knight, who was drafted 135th overall by the Florida Panthers. Knight is now with the Alberta Junior Hockey League's Okotoks Oilers. He'll attend the University of North Dakota beginning the 2010-11 season. There might be another team staying, but I didn't see anyone else rolling in last night.

Dapuzzo, if you'll recall, needed some 60 stitches to close a gash near his eye and nose while doing, what would be, his final NHL game on Feb. 9, 2008. He was accidentally clipped in the face by the skate blade of then Flyers forward Steve Downie. Pat told me his trip to Sioux City was his first trip in a plane since that accident.

Just a heads up if you haven't yet heard.

Two of Team USA's games at the Fall Classic will be available via webcast on The U.S. National Under-18 Team's games against Tri-City and Sioux City will both air on B2 Networks. Each game is available for $7 and only requires a high speed internet connection and the newest version of Windows Media Player. For more details, visit

I'm going to head out to the IBP Ice Center this morning to watch the Chicago Steel battle the Sioux Falls Stampede (10:30 a.m. ET). I'll hang out to then catch the Youngstown Phantoms, who are entering their first season in the USHL, against the Omaha Lancers and 6-foot-3 forward Seth Ambroz, who I believe is the youngest player in the USHL. I'll then shoot over to the Tyson Events Center to watch the US NTDP play Tri-City and, finally, Cedar Rapids against host Sioux City at 8 p.m. (ET) to close out the night. Looking forward to some great hockey!

I'll provide some recaps between periods of each game I attend so keep checking back for goal scoring updates and/or quick player reports.

Heading out to Sioux City!
09.23.2009 / 9:00 AM

Well, I'm all packed and ready to depart Newark International for my connecting flight in Minneapolis to Sioux City, Iowa this morning.

That's right. Sioux City, Iowa! Is this a first for I'll have to look into that. Anyway, I'll be nestled along the banks of the mighty Missouri River to witness one of the most talked-about preseason amateur hockey events in the country -- the USHL Fall Classic!

It's a great opportunity for us to check out the 14 clubs participating in the United States Hockey League, the only Tier 1 junior hockey league in the States. Over 180 players from the 2008-09 campaign already committed to NCAA Division I schools and 17 NHL Entry Draft picks were selected from the league's rosters this past season.

I intend to maintain a blog, which I hope to update regularly throughout the course of my three-day stay in Sioux City. I'll be spending much of my time at the Tyson Events Center, home to the Sioux City Musketeers, to watch many of the games. On Thursday, I'll see Indiana against Lincoln, Green Bay against Des Moines, the U.S. National Team Developmental Program's under-18 team against Tri-City and Cedar Rapids against the host team. The IBP Ice Center will also offer three games on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

I'm told there will be well over 200 NHL and collegiate scouts in attendance and I hope to get the chance to speak with them on the importance of this tournament and the impact it presents.

I took a quick scan of a few of the rosters this morning and noticed Montreal Canadiens 2009 pick Mac Bennett (79th overall) will be playing for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders. I'm looking forward to watching Bennett as I missed last year when his high school team, Hotchkiss in Connecticut, traveled to New Jersey to face the Garden State's No. 1 team - Delbarton.

Jake Chelios, the son of the ageless wonder, Chris Chelios, is starring for the Chicago Steel. He's a forward though. I've also been hearing many good things about forward Seth Ambroz and Shattuck St. Mary's (Minnesota) product Erik Haula, who was chosen 182nd overall by the Minnesota Wild last June. Both will play for the Omaha Lancers. Heck, even Ed Belfour's son, Dayn Belfour, will be in goal for the Waterloo Black Hawks.

In addition to all that, though, I'll get to see the NTDP under-18 club as well. It's a great chance to see these kids finally come together in a great atmosphere. I'll give you the blow by blow over the course of the next three days, in addition to filing some intriguing stories.

Keep checking in!

--Mike G. Morreale
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