This year, the USHL pegged the Sioux City Musketeers to represent the league at the JCWC in Ufa, Russia, following in the footsteps of the Waterloo Blackhawks in 2012 and the Dubuque Fighting Saints in 2013. Waterloo brought home a silver medal after losing to the CHL's Sudbury Wolves, and Dubuque captured the bronze medal with a win over Dinamo-Shinnik in their final game. Clearly, Sioux City is being counted on to continue the medal haul for the USHL.
This year sees the ten participating teams organized as follows:
- Tolpar Ufa of Ufa, Russia
- Chomutov Pirates of Chomutov, Czech Republic
- Dinamo-Shinnik of Bobruisk, Belarus
- Espoo Blues of Espoo, Finland
- Cape Breton Screaming Eagles of Sydney, Nova Scotia in the QMJHL
- Spartak Moscow of Moscow, Russia
- Red Bull Salzburg of Salzburg, Austria
- HC Riga of Riga, Latvia
- Sioux City Musketeers of Sioux City, Iowa in the USHL
- Malmo Red Hawks of Malmo, Sweden
Secondly, the Musketeers are documenting a pile of stuff through pictures and video. In the following videos, you can see that the team's practice uniforms have been branded in Russian as well! The team arrived on Saturday and began documenting their progress. The first video features Max Zimmer and the second features Jerad Rosburg!
Not to be a downer for the people of Ufa, but I am really hoping for an all-North American final as we saw in 2012 when the Sudbury Wolves and Waterloo Blackhawks met. Of all the teams at the tournament, Malmo and Espoo should be considered tough draws, and the Chomutov Pirates have a couple of solid players if they are on the roster for the tournament. Being that this tournament is in Russia, one should never count out the Russian squads either.
However, in saying that, I expect the North American squads to capture two of the three medals. Unless one of the European teams has a massive tournament, it should be largely North American on the medal podium. Cape Breton was a middle-of-the-pack team last season at 37-27-1-3, finishing ninth, but has already beaten the Halifax Mooseheads in an early exhibition matchup to prepare for this tournament. The Sioux City Musketeers went 38-19-3 to finish third in the USHL's Western Conference last season, so they have a good chance at doing well in Ufa too.
Of course, they play the games on ice and not on paper, so we'll see who comes out and wins this whole thing on August 30. Sioux City plays Red Bull Salzberg on the 22nd, HC Riga on the 24th, the Malmo Red Hawks on the 25th, and Spartak Moscow on the 27th. The Screaming Eagles, if you're interested, play the Chomutov Pirates on the 23rd, Dinamo-Shinnik on the 24th, the Espoo Blues on the 26th, and Toplar Ufa on the 27th. We'll see where all the teams stand when the dust settles!
Unfortunately, I know of no video feeds for these games, so you'll have to scour the interwebs for highlights and/or recaps. Both teams look solid as they prepare for their games, though, so here's hoping that the North American teams can bring home some medals!
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!