Cranberry Township, Pa. — The USHL Fall Classic kicked off Wednesday at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex with three preseason games.
With rosters still in flux and coaches giving chances to some players on the bubble of making teams, the games were somewhat sloppy.
Fargo Force easily dispatched Cedar Rapids, 4-1, in the first game of the day. Bartek Bison scored a rebound goal on the power play just 30 seconds into the game to start the scoring for Cary Eades’ team. John Schuldt, Brian Hurley and Dante Sheriff also added goals for Fargo.
In the second game of the day, Sioux Falls erased a 2-1 deficit by scoring four goals in the third period to slip past Green Bay by a score of 5-3. Linemates Nolan Walker and Matt Quercia led the way with a goal and an assist each. Colin Swoyer, Jaxon Nelson and and Carson Dimoff also scored for the Stampede. Trenton Bliss, Michael Bevilacqua and Robert Hermann tallied goals for Green Bay.
Zach Metsa’s goal 33 seconds into overtime lifted Youngstown past Waterloo, 5-4, in the final contest of the night. Max Ellis, Eric Esposito, Curtis Hall and Craig Needham also found the back of the net. Ethan Johnson, Matt Koopman, Jack Drury and Garrett Klee scored for Waterloo.
Sacrificing the Body
Jack Drury, who also had an assist, gave up his body during a third period penalty kill. The Harvard commit blocked six shots on the shift with the Black Hawks holding on to a late lead that eventually evaporated.
Drury is a solid two-way center who projects as a bottom six forward at the next level. Despite his two points, the way he played in all three zones is what was most impressive Wednesday.
Hall’s NHL Potential
Curtis Hall was the best 2018 NHL Draft prospect on display Wednesday. In addition to his goal, his explosive stride and ability to get to pucks were notable. He needs to be more consistent when it comes to using his physical tools to his advantage. The Yale commit has the size, strength and skating ability to play like a power forward and just dominate each shift. He sometimes tries to finesse his way through the middle of the ice. There’s a lot of upside and he just looks like a pro in the making.
Green Bay Gamblers left defenseman Michael Vukojevic was the best pro prospect on the ice Wednesday, but the ‘01 isn’t eligible until the 2019 NHL Draft. The Oakville, Ontario native was selected by Green Bay in the first round, eighth overall, of the 2017 USHL Phase I Draft.
A Michigan commit, Vukojevic has the size and skating ability to be an elite defenseman. He plays older, communicates well and makes plays in both ends. He’s still adjusting to junior hockey and rushed a couple of breakout passes, but he’s a big time prospect. Kitchener holds his OHL rights.
Former Delbarton (N.J.) star Jack Malone was impressive for Youngstown. The Cornell recruit plays a physical game on the right wing while skating well, being heavy on pucks and making plays. Malone, a late ‘00, was the second best 2019 NHL Draft prospect among the six teams.
Waterloo center Garrett Klee shined on Wednesday, even outside of his goal. He was around the puck a lot, seemed to have added a step and played with confidence. The ‘98 from Morrison, Colo. should be on a few teams’ radar as he enters his third season in the USHL.
Minnetonka, Minn. native John Schuldt was solid on the blue line for Fargo. He plays a mature game, plays with a mean streak, has length, and wasn’t afraid to jump into the rush. He scored a goal on a transition play where he trailed the play waiting for a pass from Robert Morris commit Grant Hebert. The ‘97, who is the younger brother of St. Cloud star defenseman and captain Jimmy Schuldt, previously played in the BCHL with the Langley Rivermen.
‘98 left wing Trenton Bliss and ‘97 defenseman Michael Bevilacqua both had good performances for Green Bay. Bliss, a former Wisconsin commit, crashed the net and was all over the ice. Bevilacqua is a puck-moving defenseman who made a lot of good breakout passes. He pushes the pace, can escape forecheckers and break the puck out with his feet.