BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — The Central Illinois Flying Aces, a proud member of the USHL since 2014, announced on Friday its 30-man roster and 18-player affiliate list for the 2017-18 season.
Included on the 30-man roster are ten returning players from the 2016-17 team and 20 NCAA Division I commits. There are also 23 players on the 30-man roster who played junior hockey during the 2016-17 season.
“There’s a lot of buzz around our organization with the rebrand and the new color scheme and logo,” General Manager and Head Coach Mike Watt said. “It’s a fresh start and a great new crew coming in. We’re excited to get the season underway.”
Cameron Burke (University of Notre Dame) is the leading returning scorer from the Aces’ 2016-17 squad. The Boxborough, Massachusetts, native registered 19 points while playing in all 60 games during his rookie campaign. He’s joined by returning forwards Marko Reifenberger (UMass Amherst), Calen Kiefiuk (University of Michigan), Griffin Lunn (Colgate Univeristy), Will Garin, and Drew Elser (University of Connecticut).
Central Illinois also returns a core group of defensemen that includes Bloomington native Brady Smith (University of Wisconsin), Simon Butala (University of Maine), Jason Smallidge (Nebraska Omaha), and Charlie Raith. That group combined to play 186 games last season.
Outside of returners, the Thunder also have a strong group of newcomers highlighted by strong goaltenders. University of Minnesota Duluth commit Zach Stejskal helped backstop Grand Rapids High School (MN) to a state championship before joining the Aces for the season’s final month in 2016-17. In 12 games with Grand Rapids, Stejskal had a 2.47 goals-against-average and a .920 save percentage. Erik Gordon (College of the Holy Cross), who was on the Aces affiliate list last season, is coming off a superb campaign in the North American Hockey League that saw him garner All-NAHL Second Team and NAHL All-Rookie Team honors while totaling a 24-3-0 record, a .928 save percentage and a 1.89 goals-against-average. Brandon Bussi, the third netminder on the 30-man roster, also played in the NAHL last season, splitting time between the New Jersey Titans and the Amarillo Bulls. A St. Lawrence University commit, Bussi picked up nine wins and posted a 3.29 goals-against-average and .905 save percentage.
The 30-man roster and 18-player affiliate list indicate players who have been invited to compete in the Flying Aces preseason camp, which is set to begin in early September. In addition to those players, several other players not on the 30-man roster or affiliate list will compete in the preseason camp. The full roster and affiliate list is below.