AROUND THE LEAGUE
Playoffs?…The playoff picture in the Western Conference has become clear as the Waterloo Black Hawks, Sioux City Musketeers, and Sioux Falls Stampede all secured berths during the week, joining the previously-qualified Omaha Lancers as the four teams that will compete in the postseason from the West. The Indiana Ice became the first team in the Eastern Conference to clinch a spot while six other teams are still alive in the race for the other three playoff positions.
Three-For-Three…The Waterloo Black Hawks put an end to their roughest stretch of the season by winning three games in three nights in three different cities. They had posted a 2-4-3 record over their previous nine contests, but now hold the best record in the USHL (37-9-4) after their three-win week and have clinched a playoff berth. Cam Johnson was in net for their first two wins, stopping a combined 66 shots between Thursday’s 5-2 home win against the Indiana Ice and Friday’s 3-2 road victory at Sioux City. The goaltender has posted a 6-1-1 record with a 1.58 GAA and .949 SV% since being acquired by the Black Hawks. Defenseman Derek Pratt netted his first USHL goal in Thursday’s win while Patrick Russell tallied two goals in Friday’s victory, his fourth multi-goal effort of the season. Peter Krieger netted his 20th goal of the season with just 57 seconds remaining in regulation to give Waterloo a 3-2 win on Saturday against the Des Moines Buccaneers. Cal Petersen made 27 saves that night to post his 25th win of the season. It is the most wins by a Waterloo goaltender since Matt DiGirolamo earned 25 victories during the 2007-08 season.
Four Score…It was a big night for Jared Thomas on Thursday as he scored all four goals for the Sioux City Musketeers in their 4-1 win over the Des Moines Buccaneers. After the Bucs scored the first goal of the game, Thomas tied it in the second, and then scored three goals in the third period. His last two goals were empty netters scored just one minute apart in the closing moments. It was the fifth four-goal game of the season in the League, the most ever in the USHL Tier 1 era (2002-present). Thomas is the first Musketeers player in the Tier 1 era to record a four-goal game. He now has 35 goals over his USHL career.
Muskie Victories…When Thomas scored his four goals on Thursday, it led the Sioux City Musketeers to their 32nd win of the season and 19th home victory of the year. It is the most wins and home wins for the team since the 2007-08 season when they also won 32 games, 19 of which on home ice. Their 19 wins at home this season are tied for the second most in the League. Goaltender Kyle Hayton made 30 saves on Thursday to earn his 21st win of the season.
Red, White, and Blue Points…Team USA’s Under-18 squad earned a weekend sweep over the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, giving them five wins over their last six USHL contests. Sonny Milano scored twice, including the winner in overtime of Friday’s 5-4 victory. It was his 12th multi-point effort in 20 USHL games this season. Auston Matthews scored a goal in both victories for Team USA, including the game-winner in Saturday’s 3-2 victory. He has netted four goals over his last five USHL games. Jack Eichel tallied a goal in both games and now has 19 goals over 18 USHL games. He is averaging better than a point per game in USHL action which has included 13 multi-point efforts. Alex Tuch recorded four points (1g, 3a) over the two games and has now totaled eight points (4g, 4a) during his current five-game point streak in the USHL, including multi-point efforts in each of his last three games. Defenseman Brandon Fortunato scored his first USHL goal in Saturday’s win.
No Shortage…The Green Bay Gamblers netted three shorthanded goals in Friday’s 4-1 win over the Fargo Force. It equaled a USHL regular season record that has been accomplished seven other times, three of which during the Tier 1 era (2002-present). The last time it occurred in the regular season was by the Lincoln Stars on October 5th, 2012. Gamblers forward Ryan Lough netted one of the shorthanded goals on Friday. Each of his last three goals has been scored shorthanded and he leads the USHL with five total shorties this season. It is the most in one season by a Gamblers player since C.J. Lee netted five during the 2008-09 season. During Friday’s record-tying performance by Green Bay, Evan Tironese and Matt Weis also scored shorthanded goals.
Home Highs…The Omaha Lancers earned a 5-2 victory against the Youngstown Phantoms on Friday to earn their 35th win of the season. It was also their USHL-leading 20th home win, the most victories on home ice for the Lancers since winning 20 during the 2010-11 season. Defenseman Steven Johnson scored two goals in a span of 2:49 during the first period, while Ryan Tait also netted a pair of goals in the contest. Hayden Hawkey made 21 saves for his 19th win of the season.
On the Road Again…When the Sioux Falls Stampede earned a 5-2 win at Des Moines on Friday, it was the 16th win on the road this season for the Stampede, tied for the second most road wins in the USHL this season. Sioux Falls is just one of two USHL teams (Chicago Steel) that has won more games on the road than at home this season. Zeb Knutson scored his 50th USHL career goal in the contest. This season, 14 of his 24 goals have been scored on the road. Christian Horn netted a goal for the fourth straight game, giving him 20 total goals for the season.
Comeback Jacks…The Muskegon Lumberjacks twice overcame two-goal deficits on the way to earning a pair of wins against the Tri-City Storm and extend their win streak to four games. The Jacks scored three goals in the third period of Friday’s 4-3 victory, and then again scored three unanswered on Saturday to claim another 4-3 win. Matej Paulovic netted a goal in each contest, including the game-winner on Friday. Christopher Dodero recorded a USHL career high three points (1g, 2a) on Friday, all coming in the third period. Cooper Marody tallied the game-winner, his third goal of the four-game win streak and second game-winner. Eric Schierhorn was in net for both weekend contests, making a combined 52 saves to extend his win streak to four games and push his win total to 15 this season. Defenseman Adam Larkin has recorded four points (1g, 3a) and a plus-eight rating during the team’s four-game win streak.
Four Out of Five for Force…The Fargo Force picked up a 6-4 win against the Green Bay Gamblers on Saturday, their fourth victory over their last five games. Three of the victories during that stretch for the Force have been on the road. Mikey Eyssimont had a USHL career high four-point night (2g, 2a), defenseman Tanner Jago also scored a goal, his second over the last three games, and defenseman Hunter Warner recorded his first USHL goal when he buried an empty netter in the closing moments. C.J. Hayes tallied the game-winner and had a game high plus-four rating.
The Kid is Alright…Chicago Steel goaltender Cale Morris stopped all 33 shots he faced on Friday to post his third shutout of the season during the 4-0 win over the Dubuque Fighting Saints. He has compiled a 9-0-1 record over his last 11 appearances. His three shutouts are tied for the third most among USHL goaltenders and are the most shutouts by a 17-year-old since the 2010-11 season when four goaltenders under the age of 18 posted at least three shutouts, including four by Matt Morris (Dubuque Fighting Saints) and three each for Jon Gillies (Indiana Ice), Paul Berrafato (Muskegon Lumberjacks), and Collin Olson (Team USA).
Ice Out West…A two-game weekend sweep by the Indiana Ice over the Lincoln Stars helped them secure a playoff berth and improve to 12-4-0 against Western Conference opponents. It also gave the Ice five victories over their last six games, a span in which in they successfully killed off 21-of-23 opponent power plays. They were a perfect 11-of-11 on the penalty kill in the sweep of Lincoln. Brian Pinho recorded a point in each win for Indiana, giving him 40 points (20g, 20a) for the season and extending his point streak to six games (5g, 4a). Scott Conway recorded his first USHL career hat trick in Friday’s 6-1 win. Goaltender Hayden Stewart allowed just one goal over the two games, including making 26 saves in the 4-0 shutout on Saturday for his 20th USHL career victory.
Nifty Fifty…Youngstown Phantoms forward J.J. Piccinich scored two goals, including the game-winner, in Saturday’s 4-1 win against Omaha. It pushed his point total to 50 (27g, 23a), becoming just the sixth player in Phantoms history reach the 50-point plateau in a USHL season. His second goal on Saturday was also the 30th of his USHL career and 65th point in a Phantoms uniform.
Noteworthy…Chicago Steel forward C.J. Smith netted a pair of goals, including a shorthanded tally, in Friday’s 4-0 win against Dubuque. He has netted seven goals over his last eight games, three of which have been shorthanded…Andrew Poturalski scored two goals for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders in Friday’s 5-4 overtime loss to Team USA. The first goal was the 30th of his USHL career and the second was his fourth goal in a span of three games…Willem Nong-Lambert scored a goal for the Des Moines Buccaneers in Friday’s 5-2 loss to Sioux Falls, his fourth goal over his last six games and the 25th goal of his USHL career…Karson Kuhlman netted the game-winner for the Dubuque Fighting Saints in Saturday’s 6-1 victory over Sioux Falls. It was his third goal over the last four games and 20th tally of the season…Green Bay Gamblers forward Kevin Irwin scored the 60th of his USHL career in Saturday’s 6-4 loss to Fargo…Defenseman Dan Fritz scored his first USHL career goal for the Tri-City Storm in Friday’s 4-3 loss to Muskegon…Dan Labosky scored a goal in each weekend contest for Tri-City, extending his point streak to five games (3g, 4a)…Austin Poganski had points in both weekend games for the Tri-City Storm and has now produced 10 points (5g, 5a) over his last seven games.
Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the USHL celebrates its 12th season as the nation's only Tier I junior hockey league in 2013-14. A record 32 players were chosen in the 2013 NHL Draft and more than 300 players on team rosters last season have committed to NCAA Division I schools, further establishing the USHL as the world’s foremost producer of junior hockey talent. For more information, visit us on the web at www.USHL.com or visit the League’s social media platforms, including Facebook (www.facebook.com/ushlhockey), twitter (www.twitter.com/ushl), and YouTube (www.youtube.com/ushlinteractive). Fans can also watch USHL action all season long, live or on-demand via FASTHockey (ushl.fasthockey.com).
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