It’s become one of the premiere youth hockey events of the fall – and that’s even without who else is in the building.
The United States Hockey League (USHL) Fall Classic marks the opening weekend of the country’s top junior league. It also brings top youth hockey teams from across the United States to the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Pittsburgh, Pa., for a weekend tournament that runs in conjunction with the USHL’s first games of the season.
All of the USHL member clubs play a pair of games to kick off their respective seasons in the same building as the youth tournament, which means a scouting bonanza for both the youth and junior levels of play.
“The Fall Classic has become a top-tier hockey event in the United States for scouts and fans alike,” said former USHL President and Commissioner Tom Garrity at the time of the announcement that the showcase would return in 2021. “With all 16 USHL teams in attendance, and a plethora of youth teams, scouts from every level of hockey and every type of hockey fan will find something to interest them at this event. Our partnership with the Pittsburgh Penguins for this event is always top notch and we anticipate another amazing event to kick off next season.”
This unique event offers an exclusive opportunity for youth hockey players to experience and learn about the USHL, which represents the best of American junior hockey. Geographically, though, it is contained primarily in the midwest region of the country. Players from the likes of Florida or California rarely get to see a USHL contest up close, but at the UPMC this upcoming weekend, they get to see the entire league in action in between their own games.
Along the same lines, the leadership for USHL clubs get a great look at a whole bunch of talented youngsters. That’s one of the obvious reasons that highly-ranked programs seek out the USHL Fall Classic, and the 2021 edition of the event — after a one-year hiatus — features some elite competition. A total of 86 youth teams will be arriving in Pittsburgh this week; 18 at the 14U level, 22 at the 15U level, 26 at the 16U level and 20 at the 18U level.
At each age group, there is top-level talent, too. In 14U play, scouts will get an early look at a 2007 birth-year class with such teams as the World Hockey Hub’s No. 4-ranked Pittsburgh Penguins Elite and No. 6 Mid-Fairfield Jr. Rangers.
In the 15U age group, teams will get a crack at the No. 2, No. 6 and No. 10-ranked squads. The No. 2 Bishop Kearney Selects, fresh off putting on a clinic at the Minnesota Blades Fall Showcase last weekend, arrive in Pittsburgh with a substantial amount of momentum. Meanwhile, the No. 6 Northeast Wisconsin Jr. Gamblers and the No. 10 Pittsburgh Penguins Elite will be looking to make statements of their own.
The 16U group is just as, if not more, loaded. Five top-ten teams will suit up at the UPMC: No. 2 Compuware, No. 4 Florida Alliance, No. 6 Team Wisconsin, No. 7 Windy City Storm and No. 10 New Jersey Avalanche. With the changes in college hockey recruiting rules that reined in early commitments, the ’05 class will be even more hungry to impress the coaches and scouts in attendance.
The players will also get to see just some plain and simple great hockey when they’re not worrying about their own games, too. The USHL is the main gateway to college hockey for a reason. For more information regarding the USHL Fall Classic, click HERE.
When the Minnesota Blades bring together some of the most notable programs in the country, it gives the youth hockey community an early measuring stick to see how top teams stack up at the start of the season.
The annual Minnesota Blades Fall Showcase brought in 14U, 15O, 16U and 18U teams to the Brooklyn Park Ice Arena in Minneapolis. While most of the teams were still finding their sea legs with both bright spots and blunders this early in the season, a few took advantage of the opportunity to solidify themselves as contenders for national supremacy.
At the 15U level, Bishop Kearney continued its early-season dominance. Fresh off winning the Eastern Alliance Kick-Off, BK posted an impressive 4-0 record over the weekend. Ranked the No. 2 team in the 2006 birth-year in our preseason rankings, and No. 6 world-wide, BK Selects have already compiled a very impressive resume.
They started with a 7-0 shutout victory over Team Wisconsin to open their showcase schedule in style on Thursday, and they never slowed down. Then, BK went on to beat Detroit Little Caesars 6-4 Friday and topped the host team Blades 5-4 on Saturday. Before heading home to New York on Sunday, they polished off a perfect weekend with a 5-2 victory over No. 4-ranked Chicago Mission.
Bishop Kearney’s Christian Humphreys made our list of top 2006 birth-year players last year, and he’s picking up right where he left off. Meanwhile, the Selects have a goaltending tandem of Patrick Curtatone and Jackson Silverberg that should have the BK program feeling confident for the remainder of the 2021-22 youth hockey season.
The showcase opener for the 15s was a battle of in-state powers, as the Blades started things off with a bang against a Shattuck-St. Mary’s team that won the 14U national championship a season ago. The All-Minnesota battle went the Blades’ way, as the host team prevailed 3-2.
And while Chicago Mission fell to Bishop Kearney in the final day, it was the 15O squad’s only loss on the weekend. On Thursday, they beat Little Caesars 6-5 and on Friday, they took care of Team Wisconsin 5-3. Saturday’s matchup was a convincing 4-0 victory over Florida Alliance to give Mission a three-win weekend.
The 16U age group was a star-studded affair, as well. Six of the eight teams participating in the showcase appeared on our preseason rankings: No. 1 Detroit HoneyBaked, No. 3 Chicago Mission, No. 4 Florida Alliance, No. 5 Shattuck-St. Mary’s, No. 6 Team Wisconsin and No. 7 Windy City Storm.
Unfazed by the status of their counterparts, the Minnesota Blades made sure to establish themselves in the conversation with three straight wins to begin the weekend. The Blades took down Shattuck 4-3, then shut out Little Caesars the next day. And on Saturday, they recorded a dominating 7-1 win over defending national champion HoneyBaked to put an exclamation mark on their weekend.
It’s a full roster of names to keep an eye on, but two to highlight are forwards Cam Briere and Simon Seidl. Briere, a dual citizen, was playing for the Nashville Jr. Predators before making the move north to Michigan, and he’s already made a verbal commitment to Nebraska-Omaha. Seidl, meanwhile, is the younger of two brothers who were adopted and brought stateside from the Democratic Republic of the Congo a decade ago. Seidl and his brother, Sawyer, have been profiled by the likes of NHL.com and NBC Sports for their on-ice talents and unique background. Simon is a 2006-born forward who played up an age group this weekend for the Blades’ 16U squad.
World Hockey Hub will have continued coverage of the 16U, 15O and 14U age groups in the U.S., as well as worldwide content throughout the entire 2021-22 season. Follow us on Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook for the latest news from the world of youth hockey.
It’s finally here, people.
The 2021-22 youth hockey winter season is underway.
In the United States, there’s already been a flurry of hockey action, as top teams across the country have started competing in big-time tournaments, making their marks on the new campaign.
It’s wonderful to see, of course, after the 2020-21 campaign was made so difficult by COVID-19. Challenges will continue to present themselves, but some events have helped the hockey community return to some sense of normalcy.
While some teams begin play with familiar foes close to home, two major tournaments have already brought together top talent to start the season with a bang.
The Eastern Alliance Kick-Off took place over the weekend. While no individual statistics were available online, the championship scores certainly tell the biggest stories of the event.
At the 16U, the Boston Jr. Eagles beat the Long Island Gulls 2-1 in overtime to secure a championship in their age group. The Jr. Eagles finished with a 6-1 record, out-scoring their opponents 32-13.
Defenseman Aidan Connors scored the game-winner in extra time for the Eagles, while Jake McManus — fresh off an appearance at the USA Hockey Select 16 Camp in which he recorded four points in five games — had the lone goal in regulation for the squad.
It was a ⭐️ studded final at the EAK Showcase in Mass today. The matchup was between @eagles_u16 and @LIGullsHockey . Both teams are loaded with talent and put on a show.— Puck Prospects (@puckprospects_) September 6, 2021
🚨: Jake McManus| 1-0 🦅
🚨: Thomas Zocco | 1-1 Tie
🚨: Aidan Connors| 2-1 🦅 (OT Winner) pic.twitter.com/Lp6MBlXSx0
Bishop Kearney appeared in the 15U final as well, and this time the squad emerged victorious, topping Boston Advantage 4-3. The BK Selects went on an undefeated 7-0 run through the weekend tournament, with a whopping 43 goals for and only 12 against. In the elimination rounds of the tournament, BK posted 5-1 wins over the New Jersey Rockets and the North Jersey Avalanche on Sunday. Then on Labor Day, a 5-2 win over the Valley Forge Minutemen and a 4-3 championship victory over Boston Advantage.
The BK Selects brought in Los Angeles native Jackson Silverberg to compete for time with incumbent Patrick Curtatone, and the duo is getting things done between the pipes thus far.
And in the 14U Red Division championship, the Neponset Valley River Rats posted a 6-5 victory over Bishop Kearney. The River Rats finished the tournament with a 5-2 record, and a 26-17 goal differential. It was an impressive conclusion for head coach Dan Panciocco’s club, after Neponset Valley opened the tournament with a 3-1 loss to the Yale Jr. Bulldogs and a 3-0 loss to the South Shore Kings before ripping off five straight wins.
In Michigan, Total Package Hockey (TPH) hosted its Grand Rapids AAA Kick-Off Classic, welcoming teams from as far away as Florida and Tennessee to Hockeytown West for a slate of games in the final weekend of August. This past weekend, two leading Labor Day tournaments in the New England area teamed up to host the Eastern Alliance Kick-Off in Marlborough, Mass.
They didn’t bring the entire youth hockey community together for either of the big weekends, but it certainly provided an early flavor of teams and players to keep an eye on this season.
At the Kick-Off Classic, participating teams played four games apiece in a showcase-style format. While no trophies or medals were awarded, the scoresheets still tell a significant story.
In the 14U age group, Florida Alliance posted a 4-0 record during their brief stay in Michigan. Tommy Fellman led the way in points, as he racked up one goal and five assists; teammates Nolan Mara and Jason Musa both recorded two goals and two assists apiece. Between the pipes, Frank Copestick posted two shutout victories.
Host team Fox Motors had one overtime loss keep them from a perfect record; Carter Dominowski (three goals, one assist) and Travis Lefere (two goals and two assists) led Fox on the scoresheet. Zander Holsinger allowed only three goals while recording two wins.
Eight teams showed up for the 15U division, and Little Caesars delivered a perfect 4-0 record after making the three-hour drive west. Caesars’ Charlie Michaud — a Denver native who played in Canada for St. George’s School last season — posted four goals and two assists for six points over the four contests, while teammate Austin Baker recorded three goals and two assists.
J.J. Salajko — son of Detroit Red Wings goalie coach Jeff Salajko — and Garrett Dudlar split the wins for the Little Caesars squad.
Jordan Geike of the Windy City Storm and Chicago Mission’s Jake Merens are both top 2006-born prospects and teammates at this summer’s USA Hockey Select 15 Camp. Both tied Michaud for most points in the age group, as each chipped in six for their respective clubs. Between the pipes, Aidan Rasmussen helped his Nashville Jr. Predators to a 3-1 overall record by leading them to a 2-1 win over Mission and a 3-1 win over the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies.
At 16U, Fox Motors enjoyed its home cooking, as the host team posted a 4-0 record, thanks to an eight-point weekend from Blake Bechen and a five-point performance from Allan Bottari. James King picked up two wins between the pipes, including a 5-0 shutout win over Michigan Hockey Advancement.
Annelies Bergmann, a Cornell University commit, continues to impress against the boys, as the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies goaltender led her club to two victories – a 3-1 win over Compuware and a 5-1 win over the Jr. Predators. Overall, the Jr. Grizzlies finished in second on the weekend with a 3-0-0-1 record.
It’s just a taste of some of the top teams and players to get out of the gate first in the 2021-22 season. World Hockey Hub will have much more from youth hockey in North America, Scandinavia, Europe and Russia all season long! Follow us on Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook for the latest news, updates, rankings and events.