As you may have read in this article last week, the Lumberjacks' hockey operations department is in preparation for the USHL Futures Draft tomorrow (Tuesday) night at 7 p.m., in which every hockey player born in 1996 will be available for selection, save for the few who have signed pre-draft tender agreements with various league clubs.
The USHL announced this morning that league broadcast partner FASTHockey.com will be providing a live webcast of the Futures Draft, featuring interviews, highlights and analysis of the ongoing event. Sign up for an account on FASTHockey.com, if you haven't already done so, to watch this first-of-its-kind presentation.
Click here for additional information on the Futures Draft in general, including high-quality insight on league rules regarding the status of the players taken and how likely they are to play next seasons for the teams that select them. Thanks to league communications maven Brian Werger for that!
In other USHL news, we are down to four teams still alive for the 2012 Clark Cup, as Lincoln and Waterloo will clash in the Western Conference's final series while Green Bay and Indiana square off in the East. The West series begins Wednesday and the East's best start their battle Thursday night.
Both Lincoln and Waterloo advanced to the conference final with four-game series triumphs over Fargo and Omaha, respectively. Both the first-seeded Stars and the Black Hawks, the West's No. 3 seed, dropped the first game of their series before surging back with three wins in a row.
Their similarities don't end there, as Lincoln's 21 home wins and Waterloo's 20 put them first and second in that category among Western Conference teams. They also split their four-game regular-season series and finished just four points apart in the standings at the end of the year.
Back East, it's easier to analyze this series from a Lumberjacks perspective since Green Bay and Indiana took on Muskegon a combined 16 times during the 2011-12 season. As referenced in the best games post from last week, the Jacks had much more success against the Ice (four wins) than they did against the league best Gamblers (one win), who posted the best record in the USHL's Tier I era at 47-9-4.
Indiana finished 17 points behind Green Bay in the East standings, but the Ice would've been first if they played in the West. "What-ifs" are dangerous, but this is a solid Indiana club that swept the defending Clark Cup champion Dubuque Fighting Saints in the East semifinals. Second-year Ice sniper Daniil Tarasov is pushing hard with seven points (3g, 4a) in three playoff games, and NHL Draft goalie prospect Jon Gillies was quite strong vs. Dubuque, stopping 94 of 100 shots tossed his way.
Green Bay showed a bit of vulnerability in its series against Youngstown, which it wrapped up in four games. The Gamblers lost at home in Game 2, but won twice in northeast Ohio to knock out the feisty Phantoms, a fitting finish for a team that won a league-record 25 road games. Boosted by an unprecedented shorthanded hat trick in Game 3, Chicago Blackhawks prospect Alex Broadhurst has seven points in the playoffs thus far, and future Miami RedHawks goalie Ryan McKay was good enough to keep the Clark Cup favorites moving along.
Indiana was more impressive in the conference semis, but it's difficult to bet against Green Bay's impressive track record. It's so difficult that I'm not going to do it. I say that the Gamblers' superior defensive depth puts enough of a kibosh on Indy's playmakers for the No. 1 overall seed to advance to the Clark Cup Final as expected. Gamblers prevail in five games.
Shifting gears on this Monday post, my wife Jillian and I are competing in the annual Riverbank Run 25K, which will commence next Saturday, May 12 in nearby Grand Rapids. This is the second time for me and the third for Jillian in this world-renowned race, and our training this year has been fueled by a powerful cause.
Safe Haven Ministries, which assists women and children in dangerous situations at home.
We are close to our goal, but that doesn't mean we can't exceed it! Visit our team page for more information on how to donate to Safe Haven, but beyond that, be on the lookout for family and friends whom you believe may be living under the threat of domestic violence. Thanks!