After a 14-year absence the United States Hockey League returned to Green Bay. The expansion Gamblers under the guidance of head coach Don Granato won nine games in their inaugural season. The organization’s first win came on October 2, as the Gamblers defeated the Waterloo Black Hawks 7-4. The team finished second in the league in attendance, averaging over 3,000 per game.
The 1995-96 season saw the Gamblers capture the Triple Crown – Anderson Cup, Clark Cup and Junior “A” National Champions. The team finished the regular season with a mark of 32-11-3. Chad Stauffacher led the team in goals (34), points (61) and penalty minutes (213). Future NHL goaltender Ty Conklin was the catalyst in net appearing in 30 games. The team also featured Alex Brooks, who appeared in 19 NHL games for the New Jersey Devils.
The Gamblers dominance continued in 1996-97, as the team repeated as Anderson Cup and Junior “A” National Champions. The team finished with a regular season mark of 41-11-3. The team’s bid to repeat as Clark Cup champions fell short, losing the Lincoln Stars in the finals. Forward Kevin Granato led the team in goals (41), assists (41) and points (82). Stauffacher put forth another 30-goal campaign (35) and registered a team record 316 penalty minutes. Conklin appeared in 30 games in between the pipes, posting a record of 19-7-1.
After three seasons behind the Gamblers bench, Granato left Green Bay to become the head coach of the Columbus Chill in the professional East Coast Hockey League. Granato was replaced by fellow Badger alum Mark Osiecki. Osiecki was no stranger to winning capturing an NCAA National Championship as a player (Wisconsin 1990) and coach (North Dakota 1997). Despite turning over 17 players from the 1997 team, the Gamblers posted a record of 31-20-5, good enough for a spot in the playoffs. The playoff run was short lived, as they fell to the Des Moines Buccaneers in the opening round. Forwards Chris Lynch and Mike Perpich tied for the team lead in points. Future NHL defensemen Tom Preissing and Jeff Finger also saw action.
The 1998-99 season had the Gamblers return to the top of the standings, posting a 41-1-4 mark on their way to being crowned USHL Eastern Division champs. The 41 wins tied a franchise record. The Gamblers got out of the first round, only to fall in the conference finals of the Clark Cup Playoffs. For a second straight year, Perpich tied for the team lead in scoring (55). Preissing led all USHL defenseman in scoring with a 55-point campaign, good enough to garner USHL Defenseman of the Year and First team honors
The 1999-2000 season brought the return of the Clark Cup to Green Bay. The team set a franchise single-game attendance record when 4,671 fans watched Green Bay defeat Sioux Falls 6-5 on January 28th, 2000. For a second year in a row, a Gambler was named USHL Defenseman of the Year when Jeff Finger picked up the honor. Green Bay entered the USHL playoffs as the second seed and after losing their first game of the opening round to Waterloo, they took three straight from the Black Hawks to win the series 3-1. The clinching game of the first round was a three overtime thriller that fell 1:29 short of a new record for longest playoff game in USHL history. The Gamblers were taken the distance by the Des Moines Buccaneers, but prevailed 3-2. It took overtime in the fifth game of the Clark Cup Finals against the Twin Cities Vulcans, when Gamblers forward Aaron Smith scored at the 8:55 mark of overtime for the clinching goal. Smith was named Clark Cup Playoffs MVP as he scored 11 goals during the post season.
The 2001-02 campaign marked the last season that the Gamblers called the Brown County Arena home. Green Bay captured the USHL Eastern Division Championship, posting a record of 35-20-6. The Gamblers lost in the Clark Cup semi-finals to the eventual champion Sioux City Musketeers. The Gamblers roster included Stanley Cup champions Adam Burish (Chicago/2010) and Matt Greene (Los Angeles/2012) and future NHLer’s Nate Guenin (Colorado) Tim Stapleton (Toronto/Winnipeg) and Joey Crabb (Florida).
In the fall of 2002 the Gamblers moved into the state of the art Resch Center. The first year in the Resch was a bumpy one, as the team missed the playoffs for the first time since their inaugural season (1994), finishing with a record of 16-36-8. The roster included Ryan Carter, who would go on to win a Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks (2007), and NHL draft picks, Jake Taylor, Wes O’Neill, Kyle Klubertanz and Luke Beaverson.
In 2003-04 the Gamblers missed the Clark Cup playoffs for a second straight year, falling to the Waterloo Black Hawks on the last game of the season. The team finished the season with a mark of 27-28-5. Twenty-one players on the Gamblers roster would go onto play NCAA Division 1 college hockey. Klubertanz and Josh Engel, along with Osiecki won a NCAA Division 1 National Championship at Wisconsin (2006).
With Osiecki leaving Green Bay to take the assistant coaching postion at the University of Wisconsin, the Gamblers hired Green Bay native Mark Mazzoleni. Mazzoleni won back-to-back NCAA Division III National Championships at UW Stevens Point (1989 & 1990) and was most recently the head coach at Harvard University. Under the guidance of Mazzoleni, the Gamblers missed the playoffs for a third straight year finishing with a regular season mark of 21-37-2. The team featured future NHL players Blake Wheeler (Winnipeg), Justin Braun (San Jose) and Stu Bickel (New York Rangers).
The 2005-2006 saw the Gamblers return to the Clark Cup playoffs. The team finished the season in third place in the USHL Eastern Division with a record 30-26-4. The Gamblers were led by the forward line of Sean Backman, Brian Roloff and Kevin Deeth. The threesome combined for 77 goals and 80 assists. The run in the Clark Cup playoffs was short lived as they were swept by the eventual champion Des Moines Buccaneers 3-0. Of the 23 players on the roster, three would go onto play in the NHL (Eric Gryba, Braun and Bickel) and six saw time in the American Hockey League (Backman, Roloff, Jeremy Dehner, Matt Case, Mike Sislo and Sergio Somma).
In 2006-07 the Gamblers finished below the .500 mark for the fourth time in five seasons (24-30-6). The team was swept out of the first round of the Clark Cup playoffs by the Indiana Ice 4-0. The Gamblers were led by the forward line of Somma, Sislo and Steve Silva, as the threesome combined for 77 goals and 82 assists. Somma was tops on the team in goals with 32 and Silva led the team in assists (37) and points (59).
The 2007-08 season saw the Gamblers miss the playoffs, finishing with a record of 13-41-6. Mazzoleni was relieved off his coaching duties in February and assistant coach David Insalaco took over as interim head coach. For a second time in the team’s history the Gamblers hosted the annual USHL All Star Game.
In the summer of 2008 the Gamblers hired Jon Cooper. Cooper had a track record of success leading the St. Louis Bandits of the North American Hockey League to the 2008 Robertson Cup. The results were immediate as Cooper led the team to the largest single season turnaround in USHL history (26 win differential). With a win over Des Moines on the last game of the season, the Gamblers hoisted the Anderson Cup, posting a league best record of 39-17-4. After sweeping the Waterloo Black Hawks 3-0 the Gamblers fell in the Eastern Conference finals to the eventual Clark Cup champion Indiana Ice. Forward Mike Forney, a draft choice of the Atlanta Thrashers, led the team in goals (26), assists (34) and points 60. Cooper was named the USHL General Manager of the Year and defenseman David Makowsi was named to the USHL Second Team.
The 2009-2010 season was an historic one for the Gamblers. Posting a record of 45-10-5 the Gamblers retained the Anderson Cup. Their 45 wins were the third most in USHL history. The Gamblers again swept the Black Hawks in the opening round of the Clark Cup Playoffs 3-0. In the conference finals history the Gamblers defeated Indiana 3-1, thus earning a spot in the Clark Cup finals for the first time since 2000. In the finals the Gamblers dropped the first two games at home to the Fargo Force. Facing elimination and a sold out crowd in Fargo, the Gamblers trailed the Force 3-2 in the final minute. However, the celebration was put on hold when Anders Lee scored the equalizer at the 19:11 mark. The game went to three overtimes, when on the power play forward Ryan Furne found the back of the net to force a game 4. The Gamblers prevailed in game 4 5-3 and the series was headed back to the Resch Center. Forward Sean Little notched the eventual game winner at the 13:31 mark of the third period and the Gamblers were once again Clark Cup Champions. A USHL playoff record crowd of 8,487 was hand to see the Clark Cup return to Green Bay. Lee was named Clark Cup MVP posting 12 goals and 10 assists in the playoffs. Goaltender Steve Summerhays also made history setting a USHL record for consecutive wins (20) and longest streak without a regulation loss (25-0-2). Lee, Makowski and Summerhays all garnered USHL First team honors, Lee was also named to the All-Rookie Team and Cooper was named the USHL Coach and General Manager of the Year. With Cooper behind the bench the Gamblers were a combined 20-0-0 in the month of January.
The 2010-11 season welcomed a new era, as Cooper moved onto the American Hockey Leauge as head coach of the Norfolk Admirals (Tampa Bay Lighting affiliate). To replace Cooper the Gamblers hired St. Cloud State assistant coach Eric Rud. For a second consecutive season the Gamblers eclipsed the 40 win mark and for a third straight year earned a spot in the Clark Cup Finals. After posting a shutout in game 1 (3-0) the Gamblers dropped three straight to the Dubuque Fighting Saints Despite the loss in the finals the Gamblers set a USHL record for goals against, allowing a miniscule 2.18 goals per game. The team also finished a three-year run where they posted 125 regular season wins, the most of any USHL team in a three year span. Goaltender Ryan McKay garnered USHL Second team honors.
After one season, Rud left Green Bay to become the assistant coach at his alma mater, Colorado College. The Gamblers again tapped the college ranks, hiring Denver assistant coach Derek Lalonde. With Lalonde behind the bench the Gamblers, who never lost back-to-back games at any point in the season, set a USHL record for wins (47), road wins (25) and points (98). For a third time in four years the Gamblers hoisted the Anderson Cup and entered the playoffs as the number one seed. The Gamblers earned their way to the Clark Cup finals with series wins over Youngstown and Indiana. In the finals, the Gamblers were pitted against the Waterloo Black Hawks. After falling in game 1 2-1 the Gamblers evened the series with a 2-0 shutout victory. The teams split games 3 and 4 in Waterloo and the series returned to the Resch Center for a decisive Game 5. In front of 7,000+ the Gamblers defeated the Black Hawks 5-2 to earn their second Clark Cup in three years. Forward Sam Herr garnered Clark Cup MVP honors, posting seven goals, nine assists and +13 plus/minus rating in the playoffs. Goaltender Mckay, who earned USHL Goaltender of the Year honors, set franchise records for career wins (66), save percentge (.921) and goals against average (2.11). Defenseman Andy Welinski garnered USHL Defenseman of the Year and Dave Tyler Junior Player of the Year honors. Jordan Schmaltz and Alex Broadhurst were named to the USHL First team, and McKay and Nolan LaPorte were named to the USHL Second team. Head coach Derek Lalonde was named the USHL Coach of the Year and the Gamblers garnered the USHL Organization of the Year honors. Other team highlights included a league high 250 goals scored, fewest goals against (138), league high power play percentage (23.8%) and a team plus/minus rating of +434. In June of 2012 at the annual NHL Entry Draft Schmaltz became the second Gambler (Blake Wheeler/Phoenix 2004) to be selected in the first round (St. Louis).
After a record setting season the Gamblers struggled out of the games, posting a 1-7-2 mark in their first 10 gameso of the 2012-13 campaign. The team rebounded, finishing second in the USHL Eastern Division with a mark of 37-23-4. For the first time since 2009 the Gamblers did not qualify for the Clark Cup finals as they fell to the Youngstown Phantoms in the opening round. Offensively the Gamblers were led by Kyle Novak, who led the team in assists (50), points (77) and plus/minus (+23). Novak etched his name in the Gambler record books as the team’s all time assist leader (84). Rookie Nick Schmaltz posted 52 points (18 goals and 34 assists). For his efforts, Schmaltz was named to the USHL All-Rookie team. On the alumni front, former coach Jon Cooper was named head coach of the Tampa Bay Lighting when Guy Boucher was relieved of his duties in late January.
The 2013-14 season marked the 20th year that the Gamblers have called Green Bay home. The team qualified for the Clark Cup playoffs for the a sixth straight year, finishing with a record of 30-24-6. The playoff run was short lived as they fell to the eventual Clark Cup champion Indiana Ice in the opening round of the playoffs (3-1). Forward Nick Schmaltz led the team in points (63) and assists (45). Matt Weis tallied a team-high 23 goals. The goaltending tandem of Jared Rutledge and Cam Hackett combined for a 2.93 goals against average and a .901 save percentage. Change came at the end of the season as head coach/general manager Derek Lalonde accepted the head coaching position with the Toledo Walleye of the East Coast Hockey League. In three seasons with the Gamblers, Lalonde posted a record of 114-56-14.The Gamblers continued their draft success as Schmaltz was taken in the first round by the Chicago Black Hawks (20th overall). Schmaltz joined his brother Jordan (St. Louis Blues/2012) and Blake Wheeler (Phoenix Coyotes/2004) as Gamblers to be selected in the first round of the NHL Draft. The team moved quickly to find Lalonde’s replacement, hiring Associate Head Coach Pat Mikesch. Mikesch came on board with the Gamblers prior to the 2011-12 campaign.
Under the direction of first year head coach Pat Mikesch the Gamblers failed to make the Clark Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2008. The team finished with a record of 18-34-8. Forward Sam Saliba, who was acquired in a trade mid-season from Sioux City, led the team in goals (16), assists (17) and points (33). Defenseman Vili Saarijarvi led all Gambler defenseman in scoring, registering 23 points. Saarijarvi’s efforts would not go unnoticed as he was selected in the 3rd round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft by the Detroit Red Wings. Defenseman Adam Parsells and goaltender Adam Huska both of whom saw limited action with the Gamblers, were selected in the 6th round by the San Jose Sharks and the 7th round by the New York Rangers respectively. Forward Marc Michaelis and goaltender Kevin Reich suited up for their native Germany at the 2015 World Junior Championships. The roster featured 18 players who had commitments to NCAA Division 1 institutions.
The Green Bay Gamblers season ended as they fell to the Dubuque Fighting Saints in the opening round of the Clark Cup playoffs. Although the team fell short of it’s goal, winning the organization’s fifth Clark Cup and third in the last seven years, it was still a great season. The 2015-16 squad finished with the second best regular season record (37-16-4) in the 17-team United States Hockey League. The Resch Center provided quite an advantage, as the Gamblers finished with a league best 23-5-2 record on their home ice. Individually, goaltender Adam Huska set a USHL record for goals against average (1.82). Huska was also tops among all USHL goaltenders in save percentage (.931). The roster featured 20 players who had commitments to NCAA Division 1 institutions.
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