Casey Mittelstadt (C)

Green Bay Gamblers

21 GP: 11 goals, 17 assists

8. Des Moines Buccaneers

32-20-1-3, Last Poll: 5

 

The Buccaneers are three points clear of the Lincoln Stars for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference heading into the final two weeks of the regular season. A pair of rookies led Des Moines in scoring through the final three weeks of March. Mario Ferraro topped the team during that stretch with six points (1G, 5A) in nine games, and Isaac Johnson was right behind with five points (4G, 1A) in eight games. David Keefer, Julian Napravnik and Christopher Berger will also look to help provide a final push down the stretch to help their team advance to the Clark Cup Playoffs. Goaltending has also been a big key to the Buccaneers success all year, and Jan Ruzicka and Nick MacNab will look to continue that trend and help their team make their first playoff appearance since the 2006-07 season. The two goaltenders have nearly identical stats, as they are tied for 10th in GAA (2.44) and nearly tied in SV%, with Ruzicka 10th in the league at .914 and MacNab right behind at .913. Des Moines will finish the season with four games against Western Conference opponents, including an April 4 matchup against the Lincoln Stars that could go a long way in determining playoff positioning.

 

7. Green Bay Gamblers

32-21-2-2, Last Poll: 9

 

Green Bay is arguably the hottest team in the USHL and they are peaking at the right time. The Gamblers have won each of their last six games and are currently tied for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Casey Mittelstadt recently returned to the lineup after finishing his season with Eden Prairie (USHS), and the Minnesota commit has not missed a beat. Mittelstadt has earned at least one point in four of the five games he’s played since being back with the Gamblers and he has totaled seven points (3G, 4A) in those games, including two goals and an assist in his first game back, a 4-1 home victory over Cedar Rapids on March 17. Connor Mackey continues to produce from the back end, as he leads the team in scoring with 47 points (6G, 41A) including eight points (1G, 7A) in 10 games so far in March. John Leonard (6G, 4A), Dante Palecco (4G, 5A) and Josh Kosack (3G, 5A) have also helped lead the way for Green Bay during this torrid stretch. But it’s not just the offense that is producing for Green Bay. Both Maksim Zhukov and David Hrenak both sit in the top-10 in the USHL in GAA and in the top-15 in SV%. The Gamblers have a game against Bloomington and two against Madison remaining on the schedule as they will look to make one final push for the Clark Cup Playoffs. It should be noted that the Gamblers have an advantage over the Phantoms with 30 regulation and overtime wins, which could determine a tie-breaking scenario.