|Jacks Futures Draft pick Tristan Rostagno|
Photo Credit: Ron Chmill
While Tristan Rostagno has been part of the Lumberjacks' organization for only about a week, he had an idea that Muskegon might be in his future for about a month prior to last Tuesday's USHL Futures Draft.
Rostagno (pronounced ros-TAHN-yo) was one of a handful of prospects who participated in Lumberjacks practices during the final two weeks of the 2011-12 season, so the 6-foot-1 defenseman from the Milwaukee suburb of Pewaukee, Wisc., got a firsthand impression of the organization ahead of time.
"It's a great atmosphere," Rostagno said over the phone recently. "I loved the coaches and the facilities, and the players treated me well for the couple of days I was in Muskegon."
Because the Jacks invited Rostagno to L.C. Walker Arena for a closer look, he had a good idea that Muskegon would attempt to draft him on the evening of May 1. When he saw on USHL.com that the Jacks had taken him in the fifth round, he savored the moment.
"My family and I were following the draft in our living room," he said. "We were all sitting there waiting to see my name pop up."
Lumberjacks Assistant Coaches Dave Noel-Bernier and Steve Palmer each got a look at Rostagno this season, as he played out his freshman year at Arrowhead (Wisc.) High School and also skated regularly for the Team Wisconsin midget minor program. No matter what jersey he wore, he stood out for his punishing physical style.
"I enjoy grinding in the corners and getting the puck," said the 15-year-old Rostagno, who also recorded 14 points (6g, 8a) in 19 games in his first season on the competitive Wisconsin prep circuit. Despite his youth, Rostagno was named to the Classic Eight All-Conference Team and was the Arrowhead Warhawks' varsity defensive MVP.
That Rostagno was able to attract attention for his defensive play is impressive considering he hasn't been playing on the blue line for that long. Rather, his initial on-ice experience came at forward.
"I've had a couple of years of experience [as a defenseman] to get used to the position," he said. "I feel like now I can see plays developing and use my puck skills to make a move and dump it off to a forward at the right time."
As far as this summer is concerned, Rostagno is looking ahead to making a return appearance in Muskegon and displaying his well-rounded game. Of course, he fully understands that improvement needs to be a constant goal.
"I just need to keep practicing and getting better," said Rostagno. "I'm trying to get stronger and faster."
Now, for your update on the USHL postseason, where one team has already clinched a spot in the Clark Cup Final, and it's certainly no surprise.
For the second straight spring, the Green Bay Gamblers have swept the Indiana Ice in the best-of-five Eastern Conference Final. The Gamblers, who posted the best regular-season record of the USHL's Tier I era at 47-9-4, improved their postseason results to 6-1 with a 2-1 decision Sunday afternoon at the Pepsi Coliseum in Indianapolis.
Smiths Creek, Mich., native Nicholas Schilkey (Ohio State) converted the third period game winner, and Chicago Blackhawks 2011 draft pick Alex Broadhurst (Nebraska-Omaha) picked up an assist to give him a Clark Cup Playoffs-leading 12 points (7g, 5a) in seven postseason tilts. Broadhurst's goal with 40 seconds left in last Friday's Game 2 completed a late rally that kept Indiana from tying the series.
Third-year Gamblers goalie Ryan McKay (Miami), who was the backup during Green Bay's Clark Cup championship run two years ago, has stopped 163 of 178 shots in the playoffs as he tries to anchor the team to its second title in three seasons.
So now the Gamblers wait for the winner of the Western Conference Final, where Waterloo leads Lincoln two games to one after the Black Hawks stomped the Stars 5-0 Saturday night at home. Fourth-year USHLer Tyler Zepeda capped a two-point night with a late goal, putting him at 11 postseason points, one behind Broadhurst.
Just as impressive, defenseman and Yale recruit Mitch Witek has 10 points after two goals and a helper Saturday, and dynamic 16-year-old Taylor Cammarata (Minnesota) has ridden a five-game scoring streak to nine total points in nine playoff games.
The Black Hawks, third-seeded in the West, can eliminate the conference champion Stars and move on to the final round with a win tonight (Monday) at Waterloo's Young Arena. Remember that you can watch all the Clark Cup action live or on-demand at FASTHockey.com; follow the results at the Pointstreak.com bracket page or on USHL.com!