CHICAGO — Two Chicago Steel players have been honored with year-end awards, the USHL announced Thursday. Geneva, Ill., native Graham Lillibridge was named USHL Co-Scholar Athlete of the Year and was selected for the USHL All-Academic Team, while Tyler Gratton was chosen for the USHL All-Rookie Second Team.
Lillibridge, an 18-year-old defenseman, has been accepted to Yale University (ECAC) thanks in part to his 4.29 GPA (4.0 Scale) at Geneva Community High School, including earning High Honor Roll and Illinois State Scholar awards. In additional to his academics, Graham participates with the Steel reading program at Geneva and St. Charles public libraries. Lillibridge is also a skilled golfer who volunteers as an instructor in the summer, and was named to the All-State Team with Mona Shores High School in Michigan last season. Now playing for the Steel in his hometown, Lillibridge was originally tendered by the Muskegon Lumberjacks, with whom he played his rookie season. The blueliner has participated in Salvation Army Holiday Season Bell Ringing, Chicago Catholic Charities Birthday Cakes for the Homeless program and more. The six-time Illinois State Champion (five with Chicago Mission; one with Team Illinois) has helped lead the Steel to their first postseason appearance in nine years.
“We are thrilled for Graham to be recognized for the hard work that he puts into the classroom in addition to his contributions on the ice,” said Steel Head Coach Dan Muse. “Graham getting this award is great representation to our organization and a solid example of someone who works hard in everything they do.”
Lillibridge shares the USHL Scholar Athlete award with Youngstown defenseman Michael Karow, and USHL All-Academic Team honors with Karow, Tri-City forward Adam Goodsir, Muskegon defenseman Travis Mitchell, and Team USA goaltender Dylan St. Cyr.
Gratton, 17, finished the 2016-2017 regular season with 22 points (10+12), the most among Steel rookies, and tied for 11th-most among all USHL rookies. The Pottstown, Pa., native is committed to Penn State University (Big Ten). Gratton, a left wing, recorded a goal in each of Chicago’s games this past weekend, and twice this season tallied three-point efforts (Dec. 28 at Dubuque, Feb. 25 at Green Bay). Gratton made his USHL debut in the 2015-2016 season, skating in one game for Chicago (Dec. 31, 2015 at Muskegon) sandwiched between five games for USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program (“Team USA”). He helped the North Jersey Avalanche win a T1EHL and Atlantic District U16 Championship in 2015-2016. Gratton was selected by the Steel in the 3rd round (39th overall) of the 2015 USHL Phase I Draft.
“Tyler has worked extremely hard throughout this season, has made great strides and contributed in many ways to our team’s success,” said Muse. “We are very excited that his efforts have been rewarded with being named to the All-Rookie Second Team.”
Gratton is joined on the USHL All-Rookie Second Team by Karow, Goodsir, Youngstown forward Curtis Hall, Muskegon defenseman Marc Del Gaizo, and Green Bay goaltender Maksim Zhukov.
The Steel begin their first appearance in the Clark Cup Playoffs since the 2007-2008 season with an Eastern Conference Semifinals best-of-five series against the Youngstown Phantoms. Chicago, the top seed in the Eastern Conference, will host Game 1 on Friday, April 14, followed by Game 2 on Saturday, April 15. Both games are scheduled for 7:05 p.m. CDT, and the first 500 fans in attendance at each game will receive a Steel Team Photo.
Following this weekend’s games, the series shifts to Youngstown, Ohio, for Game 3, and if necessary, Game 4, on April 21-22. If the series needs a Game 5, the series will move back to Fox Valley Ice Arena on Tuesday, April 25. For Steel tickets or more information, call 855-51-STEEL, stop by the Box Office at Fox Valley Ice Arena or visit ChicagoSteelHockeyTeam.com.