Preview: Central Illinois vs. Team USA – USHL Fall Classic

Flying Aces get USHL Fall Classic underway with tilt against U18s

CRANBERRY TOWNSHIP, Pa. — The Central Illinois Flying Aces (1-0-0) take on Team USA (1-0-0) on Friday afternoon at 3 p.m. in its first of three games in three days at the 2017 USHL Fall Classic in Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania.


Last time out: Five different players scored and twelve different players recorded a point in the Flying Aces 5-2 win over the Chicago Steel on Saturday. The victory marked the first official win of the preseason and the first of head coach Mike Watt’s tenure. Maxim Andreev, Lucas McGregor, Drew Elser, Roman Ahcan and Simon Butala all potted goals for the Aces.

Joel Farabee scored twice during regulation and added the only shootout goal in Team USA’s 7-6 shootout win against the Muskegon Lumberjacks on Saturday. Oliver Wahlstrom, Gavin Hain, Patrick Giles and Jonathan Gruden added the other tallies for the U18s.


USHL Fall Classic
For the first time since the 2012-13 season, all 17 USHL teams will compete at the same Fall Classic. For the last four seasons, the Fall Classic had been split into two regions. It’s one of the premier events of the season for the USHL with coaches and scouts from nearly all NCAA Division I and NHL teams. The Fall Classic is also the last chance for coaches to evaluate their team’s talent to make final cuts prior to the start of the 2017-18 regular season. USHL teams must make the necessary drops to get down to their 23-man roster by Oct. 3.


Scouting Team USA
All but three of Team USA’s players are holdovers from Team USA’s Under-17 team from last season. Forward Gavin Hain and goaltenders Jonathan Mor and Drew DeRidder are the additions. DeRidder played last season with Cedar Rapids and was 0-3-0 against the then-Bloomington Thunder, surrendering 10 goals in three games.

The U18s have scored seven goals in each of their first two preseason games, which also included a 7-2 victory over the North American Hockey League’s Minnesota Wilderness on Sept. 16.

Last season, the Flying Aces finished 3-1-0 against the U17s, which now make up a bulk of the U18s roster. The three wins came by a combined 13-4 margin.

Need to Know
Despite limited opportunities, the Flying Aces special teams were perfect in their preseason debut against the Steel. The power play converted on its only opportunity with a first period tally from Maxim Andreev and then killed off three of the Steel’s man advantages.

Between an unofficial exhibition contest against Muskegon on Sept. 16 and the win in the official preseason opener against Chicago, the Flying Aces have outscored opponents 9-3.

Trailing 3-0 against Muskegon after the first period on Saturday night, Team USA scored four times in the second period to take the lead. The U18s converted also converted on one of six power play chances in the game.

Both teams have a new head coach heading into the 2017-18 campaign. Central Illinois’ Mike Watt is in his first season as head coach and general manager after serving two seasons as an assistant coach, while Seth Appert joins the U.S. National Team Development Program after spending 11 seasons at the helm of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.


Players to Watch
Central Illinois:
Roman Ahcan — An eighth round pick by the Flying Aces in the 2017 USHL Phase II Draft, Ahcan picked up his first goal of the preseason on Saturday against Chicago. Ahcan posted 51 points, including 18 goals, while serving as an assistant captain at Burnsville High School (MN) last season.

Team USA: Joel Farabee — Farabee is the leading returning scorer for Team USA and registered 23 points in 30 USHL games last season while splitting time between the U17s and U18s. The Boston University commit tied for the team lead with his three points on Saturday against Muskegon.


Drawing Connections
Central Illinois goaltender Zach Stejskal and the Team USA’s Gavin Hain were both key parts of Grand Rapids High School’s Class 2A Minnesota high school boys hockey championship team last season.


Future teammates
Central Illinois’ Cameron Burke and Team USA’s Jake Pivonka, Spencer Stastney, and Trevor Janicke are all committed to the University of Notre Dame. Team USA’s Ty Emberson and K’Andre Miller and the Flying Aces Roman Ahcan and Brady Smith are all recruits of the University of Wisconsin. Calen Kiefiuk (CIL), Mattias Samuelsson (USA), and Bode Wilde (USA) are all University of Michigan commits.

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