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by Staff Writer / Pittsburgh Penguins

The United States Hockey League announced that the USHL Fall Classic, long recognized as one of North America’s premier scouting venues for junior hockey, will return for the 2016-17 season. The preseason showcase will be played at two regional sites as USHL Fall Classic West will be hosted at Ralston Arena in Omaha, NE September 8-11th, and USHL Fall Classic East will be hosted at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry, PA September 15-18th. Schedules, tickets and additional venue information will be announced at a later date.

“NHL personnel look forward to the annual USHL Showcase tournaments as they provide a unique opportunity to view every USHL team and greatly assist in identifying and evaluating NHL Draft eligible prospects,” said Dan Marr, director of NHL Central Scouting. “For 2016, returning to the successful formula of hosting the events on two consecutive weekends and at two fantastic venues only adds to the experience for NHL scouts and USHL fans.”

“Both venues and markets have already proven to be successful hosting USHL events,” said Bob Fallen, USHL president and commissioner. “The benefit of having our league convene under two roofs on consecutive weekends is immeasurable. These events play a major role in helping coaches to evaluate personnel for the finalization of regular season rosters and provide a forum for communicating the USHL’s values to players that are new to Tier 1 junior hockey.”

In addition to the USHL Fall Classic, the USHL announced the addition of two invitational youth tournaments, one featuring many of the top Midget Minor teams and the other hosting many of the top Bantam Major teams from the United States and Canada. Every USHL team will have scouts in attendance for both tournaments. Leadership from college hockey and additional junior hockey leagues will also be in attendance.

“From a scouting standpoint, the USHL Fall Classic continues to provide NHL and NCAA scouts the chance to view some of the top junior hockey talent in North America,” said Doug Christiansen, USHL director of player development. “By adding the youth invitational component, we can provide USHL scouts with a glimpse of an upcoming crop of talent, while also providing a forum for us to educate young players and their families about the developmental path to the NHL through the USHL and other U.S. junior leagues.”

USHL Fall Classic West marks a return to Omaha after the Lancers successfully hosted the 2016 USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game. The Lancers will direct the hosting effort for all eight Western Conference USHL teams, in addition to Eastern Conference Team USA and 16 Midget Minor teams.

“Opportunity is what the USHL is all about. The event will provide the players in our league with a tremendous opportunity to showcase their abilities in front of college and NHL scouts,” said Bryan Marshall, Omaha Lancers president. “We’re excited to host everyone here in Omaha and look forward to putting on a great event for all.”

Ralston Arena, which opened in the fall of 2012, is the home of the seven-time Clark Cup Champion Omaha Lancers. The complex includes two sheets of ice, including a state-of-the art arena with a capacity of 4,000 fans.

USHL Fall Classic East marks a return to Cranberry, PA one season after the Pittsburgh Penguins successfully hosted the 2015 Pittsburgh Showcase, a regional USHL pre-season event. The Penguins organization will combine efforts with the USHL’s Youngstown Phantoms to host all nine Eastern Conference teams and 16 Bantam Major teams.

“The Pittsburgh Penguins are excited to welcome the USHL to the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex,” said Matt Herr, executive director/general manager of the expansive sports fitness complex which completed construction last summer. “Last year no junior league in the world had more players selected in the NHL Draft than the USHL, so we know our fans will be treated to a high level of junior hockey at the 2016 Fall Classic.

“The Penguins’ organization is committed to supporting hockey at all levels, and having a facility like the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex makes bringing these types of events possible. We’re looking forward to pairing one of the best training facilities in the world with one of the top development leagues in North America.”

The UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, which opened in the fall of 2015, is the official practice facility of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins and also home to the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite youth hockey program. The complex is 185,000 square feet and includes two sheets of ice with a combined 1,333 seats between the two rinks. Over 1,000 youth players participate in games, tournaments, camps and programs at the facility each year.

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