BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — Maksim Zhukov stopped 33 shots to help the Green Bay Gamblers stymie the Central Illinois Flying Aces in a 4-1 win on Saturday night at Grossinger Motors Arena.
Flying Aces forward Max Andreev (Cornell University) notched his 30th point of the season with a second period goal, but Green Bay (19-16-4, 42 points) added two goals in the third period to preserve a win in the series opener between the teams.
Mac Welsher pushed the Gamblers ahead a little more than five minutes into the first. He followed up Nolan Moyle’s initial shot and lifted the rebound past Flying Aces goaltender Ryan Snowden to make it 1-0.
With a little more than a minute to play in the first, Brock Caufield doubled the Green Bay advantage to two. Caufield evaded a hip check and cut toward the net through the right circle. Alone against Snowden, Caufield beat the Flying Aces netminder upstairs to make Green Bay’s advantage 2-0 with only 68 seconds left in the opening frame.
In the early stages of the second period, Central Illinois (12-26-5, 29 points) climbed within one thanks Andreev, its leading scorer. After Calen Kiefiuk’s wraparound attempt was stopped by Zhukov, Andreev picked up the rebound at the side of the net and jammed the puck past the near post. That tally was the ninth of the year for Andreev, who became the first Flying Aces player to reach the 30-point plateau this season.
Jackson Charlesworth increased the Gamblers’ advantage back to two in the third period. His shot from the point deflected past Zach Stejskal, who replaced Snowden after the first period, to make it 3-1 with 10 minutes, 30 seconds gone in the third. Trenton Bliss then tallied an empty-net goal with 1:01 left in regulation.
Central Illinois will go for the series split with the Gamblers on Sunday afternoon, which is the Flying Aces seventh game in 12 days. Sunday is a Princess and Pirate Party, featuring a tiara and eye patch giveaway for the first 250 kids for both items. Kids tickets are just $5 on Sunday, and there will be a free postgame skate on the ice at Grossinger Motors Arena with the Flying Aces players. Faceoff is slated for 4:07 p.m.
Known as the Bloomington Thunder from 2014-17, the newly-rebranded Central Illinois Flying Aces are a member of the top junior hockey league in the United States, the United States Hockey League (USHL). The only Tier I junior hockey league in the country, the USHL has become renowned for developing the next stars of both Division I college hockey and the NHL. At the start of the 2017-18 season, there were 128 active USHL alumni on NHL rosters, with at least one USHL alumnus playing for each of the 31 teams. In total, there have been 253 USHL players who have gone onto NHL careers, including Patrick Sharp, David Backes, Johnny Gaudreau, and Joe Pavelski, among others. The players in the USHL range in age from 16-20 years old, 95 percent of whom will go on to play college hockey at the Division I level. For more information, visit flyingaceshockey.com or ushl.com or download the USHL Mobile App on the Apple App Store or on Google Play.