BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — The Central Illinois Flying Aces announced on Wednesday that defenseman Simon Butala will serve as captain for the remainder of the season.
In addition to promoting Butala (University of Maine) from alternate captain to captain, Flying Aces head coach and general manager Mike Watt also named Calen Kiefiuk (University of Michigan) and Jamie Armstrong (Northeastern University) alternate captains.
“With the injuries that we have right now and trading [former captain] Cam Burke, it was something we had to do,” Watt said. “We want to give those guys more responsibility within the dressing room to help lead the team. Those guys are very befitting of that responsibility.”
A native of Downingtown, Pennsylvania, Butala is in his fourth season in the USHL and second with the organization. Butala played in 56 games last season when the team was known as the Bloomington Thunder and recently played in his 100th career USHL game on Feb. 24 against Team USA. A 6-foot-1, 190-pound rear guard, Butala served as an alternate captain through the first two-thirds of the season. He has posted a career-high six points this season on two goals and four assists.
"It's an honor to be named captain," Butala said. "This is something I've wanted since my first USHL game, and I'm excited to lead this group of guys."
The first tender in team history, Kiefiuk is one of the key members of a talented group of 2000-birth year players currently on the Flying Aces' roster. After playing in 52 games for the Thunder last season, Kiefiuk has excelled in his second season in the USHL. The Macomb, Michigan, native is currently second on the team in scoring with 30 points, which is almost three times as many points as he had in his rookie campaign a season ago. In 101 career USHL games, Kiefiuk has 16 career goals and 41 career points.
Despite being limited by injury this season, Armstrong is one of the more veteran players on the Flying Aces roster and has quietly had a strong season offensively. The Warwick, Rhode Island, native posted two points in 13 games last season for the Sioux City Musketeers. Through 25 games this season, Armstrong has already tabbed eight more points with six goals and four assists.
The Flying Aces return home this weekend for a two-game series against the Muskegon Lumberjacks. Friday night is Chicago Blackhawks and Superhero Night, featuring appearances from 2010 Stanley Cup Champion Ben Eager, the Blackhawks official mascot Tommy Hawk, and superheroes, including Batman, Wonder Woman and more. Saturday night is St. Patty’s Night, featuring a Flying Aces t-shirt giveaway for the first 500 fans courtesy of Zozzaro Chiropractic and Rehab. The Flying Aces will also be wearing special St. Patrick’s jerseys that fans can win during the game through a silent auction.
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.