In what may have been the Ice's last game ever, Indiana won its second title by beating the Waterloo Black Hawks in five games. So why is the best team in the United States League going away?
If you've gotta go, might as well go out on top. The United States League's Indiana Ice won the Clark Cup on Tuesday night, then went dormant. The 3-2 win over Waterloo was the team's last game in the foreseeable future, as a lack of a proper arena essentially left the Ice homeless.
The incredible part of this story is that Indiana was one of the crown jewels of the USHL. Alumni include NHLers John Carlson and Torey Krug, plus a host of prospects still coming up the ranks such as Jon Gillies, Adam Erne and Brian Ferlin. This year, the team has defensemen Josh Jacobs and Ryan Mantha up for the NHL draft, while Brian Pinho, Sam Kurker and Aidan Muir were all selected in the previous two seasons.
Far from shambles, the Ice had a committed owner in Paul Skjodt: The Toronto-born businessman and former minor leaguer even had the whole team over to his house this season to watch Canada take on the U.S. at the Olympics. But the Ice will be dispersed now due to a lack of a suitable venue.
Part of the problem was that Indianapolis got an ECHL team. The Fuel will begin play next season at the renovated Pepsi Fairgrounds Coliseum, where the Ice played until work began after the 2011-12 campaign. Since then, the USHL team split time between the Bankers Life Fieldhouse and Pan Am Plaza. Bankers Life is the home of the NBA's Pacers and could not guarantee a full slate of dates for the Ice. Pan Am is an older facility that was not up to USHL standards for full-time residency and is going under redevelopment anyway.
So the Ice are gone for now, though the team still gets a seat on the league's Board of Directors and there is certainly interest in a return. It's a bizarre situation for a league on the rise, but the USHL will add new franchises in the Madison Capitols and Bloomington Thunder next year to soften the blow.
In the end, Indiana won two titles in a decade and went out on top. You always want to win that last game, right?
Story has been updated to correct an error: Zach Sanford played for Waterloo this season.