by John Peterson
The Indiana Ice of the United States Hockey League (USHL) completed a storybook season with a Clark Cup Championship Tuesday, thanks in large part to the play of former Austin Bruins goaltender Jason Pawloski (Omaha, NE).
Pawloski, a Minnesota State-Mankato commit, was named the MVP of the USHL playoffs minutes after the Ice captured the Clark Cup with a 3-2 win in decisive Game 5 of the championship series against the Waterloo Blackhawks. En route to Indiana’s second title in organization history, Pawloski won eight playoff games, including a 33 save performance in the Clark Cup clincher. He posted a goals-against average (GAA) of 1.80 in the postseason, with a save percentage of 92.8%.
In his first season in the USHL, the future MSU Maverick went 27-8-6 with four shutouts. In January, Pawloski was listed as the 34th-ranked North American goalie in the NHL’s Central Scouting mid-term rankings.
In 2012-13, Pawloski appeared in 24 games for the Bruins, posting a record of 17-3-2 with three shutouts. That season, he and University of Minnesota commit Nick Lehr (Roseville, MN) created one of the North American Hockey League’s (NAHL) most lethal goaltending tandems, leading Austin to a Central Division regular season title.
This season, four former Bruins players saw significant ice time in the USHL. Pawloski was obviously the most decorated between the pipes for Indiana. University of North Dakota commit and Austin’s second leading goal-scorer in franchise history, John Simonson (Grand Forks, ND), scored 28 goals and added 31 assists in 58 games with the Lincoln Stars. C.J. Smith (Richfield, MN) started the season with the Muskegon Lumberjacks, before finding a home with the Chicago Steel. In 46 games with the Steel, Smith racked up 40 points and found the net 23 times.
The fourth player to end up in the USHL this year was Brennan Sanford (Holt, MI). Sanford started the season in Austin, where he tallied 18 points in 29 games before he was given an opportunity with the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders in late December. With Cedar Rapids, Sanford appeared in 33 regular season and four playoff games, where he logged eight points.
Indiana was granted dormancy for the 2014-15 season, so that the Ice organization can focus on the development of a new facility to better ensure long-term success in Indianapolis. What that means for Pawloski is that he’ll have to find a new home next season. With junior hockey eligibility remaining, whether that’s with another USHL team or at Minnesota State, it’s a good bet that he’ll have success.