New Jersey Devils Jim Hunt (Jersey Hitmen) interview
After a season to prepare, the Lake Erie Bighorns will add a little more depth to the USPHL’s Great Lakes Conference this season.
The Pennsylvania-based squad is one of a handful of new clubs that will give the league a solid and consistent footprint from the Atlantic Ocean all the way west to Minnesota.
Shortly after the Great Lakes Division moved en masse from a different junior league into the USPHL last season, Owner/GM Brian Ramm took over the Southern Tier Express, moving the club out of Jamestown, N.Y.
“Last year, at the Southern Tier Express, the owners up there decided not to bring their team into the USPHL,” said Ramm in a telephone interview. “They were looking for someone to operate it. We took it over about two months before the season. We tried to make it go and it just wasn’t possible to find the players we needed.”
Ramm said his group took a one-season sabbatical and the move paid off as the team is more prepared and hit the halfway mark of the off-season with a good core group of signed players.
“We’re still looking to sign our goalies, but we pick them last. A lot of them are still trying out for different teams and we want to be fair to all of them. We gave them a good chance to compete for that spot on the team.”
The move to Erie brings the Bighorns to a vibrant hockey community that includes the Erie Otters, a major junior hockey team, as well as Mercyhurst University, home of the NCAA Division 1 Lakers and a pair of ACHA (Division 1 and Division 2) teams as well.
“You know, it’s a great hockey town,” said Ramm. “They have a great history here, supporting hockey. All the way back to the East Coast League with the Blades. The Otters came in and they’ve supported them year in and year out. They have a great youth hockey organization that has supported hockey with players like Mike Rupp and Rick Chartraw (who have played in the NHL). It’s a great location to get this thing going in.”
Part of the Great Lakes Division identity is community-based teams that are heavy on local talent. While it can take time to build a local presence, the Erie squad has a solid core of players from the area as well.
“We will have between nine and 11 local players on the team,” said Ramm, explaining the local area includes players who call home towns within 30 minutes of the rink.
But like all teams, the Bighorns are turning over rocks all over the world to find talented players and like most USPHL teams, they will have a European influence, with a pair of players from Finland already signed to the squad as well.
The population of the entire area is only about 100,000 compared to some of the other teams in the division out of the Detroit or Pittsburgh area.
“We’ll reach a little bit into the Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Buffalo areas, or over toward the Detroit area,” Ramm said.
He added that the local youth hockey organization has some great young talent and the future looks good for the team in terms of hometown players who will not only want to play at the varsity level but look to play junior and ultimately make the move to NCAA or ACHA levels.
One of the interesting draws for the Bighorns is the fact they will play home games at Mercyhurst University.
“I am kind of excited about that, as I am a Mercyhurst alum myself. I played there when they were Division 2, so to go back there with the hockey team is kind of full circle for myself,” said Ramm.
“We’re really excited to be doing that and providing that opportunity for our players. Our athletic trainer is actually the men’s and women’s Division 1 trainer at Mercyhurst, Tyler Travis,” Ramm added. “He’s worked with the national women’s team and pro basketball teams, I could go on for an hour, he’s phenomenal, so that’s just another thing for our players.”
The team’s camp will take place at the Erie Park Sports Arena and they will practice there as well, but home games will be played at Mercyhurst.
The Bighorns have a website www.lakeeriebighorns.comwhich is currently under construction and there is also information on the team’s Facebook page.
Checkwww.usphl.comas well for more on the Bighorns and all of the USPHL teams as they prepare to begin the 2019-20 season in September.
Burmatov, a late 2002 birth year from Ivanteevka, Russia (he only turned 16 on Nov. 28), went 1-2-0 last season with a 3.91 GAA and a .883 save percentage in third-string duties for the Blaze. He was also credited with scoring a goal against the Tri-City Icehawks in October.
“Daniil is a great kid who hasn’t played hockey very long, so to see the strides he has made in the past few years and another great summer of training, I wouldn’t be surprised that he will continue to take drastic steps in his hockey career,” said Blaze coach-GM Zac Pearson.
Burmatov said that when looking at his options for the 2019-20 season, returning to Decatur was the only one that made sense.
“I resigned with the team because I like the team and the city, the coaching staff, and Zac Pearson and (assistant coach) Jim Meyer personally,” Burmatov said. “I like this league; this level of game is very high. Coaches carefully prepare for each game. My level of play on this team has grown and I don’t intend to sit on our laurels. I want to grow even higher. Next season, I hope to see the same high level of game as last year.”
Stay tuned to DecaturBlaze.com and the team’s Facebook and Twitter pages for more offseason news!
The USPHL and NCDC are giving back to the players and parents who give so much to the game.
With the conclusion of the inaugural NCDC Combine in Michigan - held June 7-9 - the United States Premier Hockey League is pleased to announce the addition of a second USPHL-NCDC Combine, to take place in Chicago, Ill., July 26-28.
Coaches from NCDC and other USPHL teams set to play in the 2019-20 season will be on hand at the event in Chicago, which will take place at Fifth Third Arena, practice facility of the Chicago Blackhawks, located at 1801 W. Jackson Boulevard in downtown Chicago.
Registration is FREE, but limited to the first 150 to sign up. Registration link will be available on June 21. This event is open to players born between the years 1999 and 2004.
NOTE: Players born in 2004 will be working towards opportunities in 2020-21 and beyond in the USPHL Junior Divisions, though many USPHL teams also field full-and split-season Midget teams for which the 2004 players will be eligible in 2019-20. Spots for 2004-born players are limited.
“This is a unique opportunity to be coached and evaluated by USPHL and NCDC coaches,” said USPHL Deputy Commissioner Dave Peters. “Seminars with question and answer sessions will provide information about the USPHL and the Junior Hockey Experience.”
USPHL coaches will be behind the benches for select games to evaluate players as they continue to build their teams for the 2019-20 season and beyond. Each player will leave the combine with a full evaluation and be able to talk to all USPHL teams that attend.
Invitations to final, invite-only NCDC and other USPHL team training camps for the 2019-20 season will be offered to select players from the USPHL Combine.
The USPHL produced 281 NCAA commitments by 2018-19 players across all of its divisions through early June. The League is America’s Largest Amateur Hockey Organization, and players and their parents will learn about league opportunities throughout the Midwest and along the Eastern Seaboard from New England to Florida.
Chicago is a major air travel hub serviced by two international airports for players traveling from afar or overseas.
Fifth Third Arena was built in 2017 and is a fully-equipped, state-of-the-art ice facility. The League will offer players the chance to tour the locker room and facilities used by the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks. The Blackhawks have allowed the league to do off-ice testing in their training facility in the Fifth Third Arena.
There will be three games per player and a Friday night practice session. There will also be a USPHL informational symposium/Q&A session with NCDC and USPHL coaches. A full daily schedule for the Combine will be published at a later date.
Hospitality at the rink will be available to visiting College and USPHL scouts, as well as Social Hours for networking.
The USPHL and its tuition-free division, the NCDC, is providing an unparalleled, comprehensive on-and off-ice recruiting opportunity for players in Chicagoland and from throughout the Midwest.
Sign up for your chance to benefit from the Best Coaching, Best Competition, and Best League.
This is for team use only. Not for individual player use. Players interested in the Summer Showcase need to contact individual teams to inquire about open spots.