Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Indy's title teams: The 2009 Ice

With the Indiana Ice in the 2014 Clark Cup Final, it's a good time to look back at the eight championship teams that have brought titles home to the Circle City. The first came in 1942, the most recent in 2009. We will look at each championship team over the next few days, starting with the most recent -- the 2009 Indiana Ice.

The Ice established themselves as one of the USHL's elite in 2007, when the team won six straight playoff games to earn a spot in the league's final four in an experimental, college-style format. The Ice had a spot in the championship game all but nailed down, but a late goal led to an OT loss to eventual champion Sioux Falls in the semis. The next year, a team led by future NHL regulars John Carlson and Paul Carey won the Eastern Division title, but was upset by the Chicago Steel in the opening round.

The 2009 Ice with the Clark Cup (photo credit: USHL)
But all signs pointed to a strong 2008-09. Veteran goaltender Brett Bennett -- who had played two years for Team USA and two years at Boston College -- joined the team. Future NHL defenseman Torey Krug was made the captain and was a two-way dynamo from the blueline, where he and Anthony Bitetto -- himself likely to be in the NHL in short order -- formed a strong 1-2 punch in the back. A capable forward crew that included Brent Gwidt, Max Cook, Shane Berschbach, Sebastien Geoffrion and top prospect Stanislav Galiev looked to be difficult to stop. Jeff Blashill was named the team's coach and the stage was set for a strong season. A midseason trade brought high-scoring forward Mike Cichy to the team, and he turned out to be one of the final pieces in a championship puzzle. Cichy scored 24 goals in just 30 games with the Ice during the regular season, and had a similar impact in the playoffs. He led the USHL in goals and tied for second in points behind future NHL performer Drew Miller.

Galiev had 64 points and 29 goals to lead the team in the regular season. Brandon Richardson was a rugged two-way player who piled up 21 goals, 42 assists and 145 PIMs. Berschbach tallied 20. Krug had 37 assists.

The team went 39-19-2, but that was good enough for third in the USHL's Eastern Conference -- albeit just two points out of first -- setting up a first-round series with Cedar Rapids. It would be the Ice's toughest -- the series went five games. The Ice would win Games 1 and 4 handily -- 7-2 and 5-1 -- but drop the other two games in OT. Late in Game 5, with the game and the series tied -- Torey Krug scored the go-ahead goal in a wild 7-6 Ice victory that sent them on to the next round. There, they knocked off Green Bay in four games, clinching a berth in the Clark Cup Final against the Fargo Force. Goaltender Mike Lee had been tough to beat, and was so in Game 1, as the Force stole one at the Coliseum by scoring with 18 seconds left.

In Game 2, Lee was up to more of the same, but John Parker opened the floodgates by scoring the go-ahead goal late in the second period. The dam opened wide -- Grant Blakey, Sebastien Geoffrion and Brandon Richardson scored third-period goals, giving the Ice an emphatic 5-2 victory at the Coliseum. The series turned in the Ice's favor in Game 3, as Shane Berschbach, Ben Albertson and Max Cook scored three goals 44 seconds apart in the first period, chasing Lee. Cichy would add two goals and Bennett the shutout in a 6-0 thrashing.

Two nights later, Game 4 seemed a formality, and the Ice rallied again. Trailing 1-0, the Ice tied the game and took the lead for good when Brandon Richardson scored with 5:52 left in the second period. It would be the Cup-winning goal. Richardson scored an insurance goal 2:21 into the third. Grant Blakey and Zach Golombiewski also tallied goals in a 5-1 victory, with Bennett stopping 36 shots and Cichy assisting on three goals. The celebration was on in Indy, despite the team being several hundred miles away in Fargo.

Cichy had an unbelievable playoff, with six goals and 19 assists for 25 points in 13 games. The USHL did not name a playoff MVP, but he would've been it. Richardson had eight playoff goals and 16 points. Golombiewski had a 7-7-14 line in the postseason. Brent Gwidt, Stanislav Galiev and Ben Albertson all scored five postseason goals. The captain, Torey Krug, had just one goal in the playoffs, but was a +11 on the back end. Bennett's GAA was 2.36 in the postseason, but he allowed just five goals in four games in the Clark Cup Final.

Much of the roster would go on to college or major junior hockey the following year. Galiev ended up putting together an interesting feat -- winning Canada's Memorial Cup in 2010, making him a national junior hockey champion in both Canada and the United States in back-to-back years.

Ice 2009 playoff results
USHL East semifinal: (3) Indiana Ice vs. (2) Cedar Rapids Roughriders
April 10: Ice 7, *Cedar Rapids 2
April 11: *Cedar Rapids 3, Ice 2 (OT)
April 15: Cedar Rapids 4, *Ice 3 (OT)
April 17: *Ice 5, Cedar Rapids 1
April 18: Ice 7, *Cedar Rapids 6
USHL East final: (3) Indiana Ice vs. (1) Green Bay Gamblers
April 23: Ice 5, *Green Bay 1
April 25: *Green Bay 4, Ice 3
April 27: *Ice 4, Green Bay 2
April 28: *Ice 5, Green Bay 3
USHL Clark Cup Final: (3E) Indiana Ice vs. (3W) Fargo Force
May 1: Fargo 2, *Ice 1
May 2: *Ice 5, Fargo 2
May 6: Ice 6, *Fargo 0
May 8: Ice 5, *Fargo 1

Season stats (

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