USHL Alumni in NHL – Joe Pavelski (Waterloo Black Hawks), Johnny Gaudreau (Dubuque Fighting Saints), and Blake Wheeler (Green Bay Gamblers) all finished the season with 78 points each, tied for fifth in the NHL. Pavelski ended the season with 38 goals, also good for fifth in the NHL. He had two goals in his final two regular season games, and the former Waterloo Black Hawk forward looks to lead his Sharks team deep into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Gaudreau had five points in his last five games, including two points in back-to-back games against the Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings. He finished the season with 30 goals and 48 assists. As for Wheeler, he finished the season on a strong note. He had at least one point in each of his last five games, including three multiple-point efforts in that span. He ended the season with 26 goals and 52 assists. Those 52 assists were good for fifth in the league.
USHL Alumni in Stanley Cup Playoffs – Three former USHL coaches took their teams to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Jon Cooper (Green Bay Gamblers) returns with the Tampa Bay Lightning one year after taking his team to the Stanley Cup Final. Both Jeff Blashill (Indiana Ice) and Dave Hakstol (Sioux City Musketeers) made playoffs in their rookie season as bench bosses. Blashill and Cooper have met before in Clark Cup Playoffs, as Blashill won the Clark Cup after defeating the Gamblers in 2009, while Cooper won it the following year in 2010. For a full list of USHL players in the Stanley Cup Playoffs click HERE.
RoughRiders Lock Up Anderson Cup – The Cedar Rapids RoughRiders won their final two games of the season and go into the Clark Cup Playoffs as the Anderson Cup Champions and top seed in the Eastern Conference. Cedar Rapids clinched the Anderson Cup on Friday night with a 3-2 win at Waterloo, and a Green Bay loss. Mitch Reinke, Pavel Tkachkov and Ross Colton were the goal scorers for the RoughRiders, and Zack LaRocque stopped 30 of 32 shots for his third win of the season. The weekend sweep was complete with a 5-0 shutout of the Sioux City Musketeers at Tyson Events Center on Saturday. Colton, Jack Ahcan and Will Garin lit the lamp for Mark Carlson’s club. Jacob Hayhurst added a pair of helpers, and LaRocque turned all 30 shots he faced away for his second straight win and second shutout of the season. The RoughRiders finished the season with 85 points, four more than second place Green Bay and 12 points clear of Tri-City, the top team in the Western Conference. Cedar Rapids will begin its quest for the Clark Cup in a first round matchup with the Bloomington Thunder.
Stampede Seize Opportunity to Defend Title – It was a fight to the finish between the defending Clark Cup Champion Sioux Falls Stampede and the Fargo Force for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. After the Stampede knocked off Des Moines in overtime on Tuesday night, thanks to goals from Alex Stevens, Parker Tuomie, Jack Suter and the overtime-winner from Joe Rutkowski, they needed a win in regulation over Fargo to secure the fourth seed in the Western Conference. Stevens scored the game-winning goal with just six and a half minutes to play in regulation to give Sioux Falls a 2-1 win and the opportunity to defend their Clark Cup title. Tuomie scored his 30th goal of the season in the game, and Stefanos Lekkas stopped 39 of 40 shots to earn his 25th win of the year. Despite a 6-1 Fargo victory on Saturday, as well as the two teams having the same number of points, Sioux Falls clinched the playoff spot on Friday due to clinching the regulation/overtime win tiebreaker over the Force. The Stampede will start their title defense in a Western Conference Semifinals series against the Tri-City Storm.
Eastern Conference Playoff Seeding Set – Coming into the weekend, the Green Bay Gamblers, Dubuque Fighting Saints and Bloomington Thunder could have all moved anywhere between second and fourth place in the standings. However, after the weekend, all three of those clubs stayed in the same spot they were coming into the action on Friday night. Green Bay split their weekend set with Lincoln, Dubuque won a game each over Sioux City and Waterloo, and Bloomington fell in a pair of overtime losses to Madison and Chicago. Green Bay finished the season with 81 points, one clear of Dubuque, who ended up with 80 points, and Bloomington closed the regular season out with 78 points, good for fourth place and their first playoff appearance in team history. The Thunder will head to Cedar Rapids to begin their Eastern Conference Semifinals series against the Anderson Cup Champions, while the Gamblers will start their quest for the Clark Cup by hosting the Fighting Saints in a series that features four of the last six Clark Cup Champions.
Steel Sweep Weekend, End Season on Winning Streak – Despite finishing sixth in the Eastern Conference, the Chicago Steel had themselves quite the weekend, as they won all three games they played to finish the season on a five-game winning streak. Samuel Bucek scored twice in Chicago’s 5-1 home victory over the Muskegon Lumberjacks on Friday night. Billy Sweezey, Marc Johnstone and Max Zimmer also lit the lamp for the Steel. Matt Kierstad, Haralds Egle and Jake Jaremko all tallied multiple assists, and Boston Bruins prospect Daniel Vladar stopped 24 of 25 Muskegon shots in the victory. Zimmer had two goals, including the game-winner, as well as a pair of helpers, in a 5-4 overtime win at Bloomington on Saturday. Egle, Johnstone, and Christiano Versich also found the back of the net in the game. Jaremko had two more assists, and Michigan State commit John Lethemon made 25 saves to earn his 15th victory of the season. Chicago completed the trifecta by knocking off Madison 4-2 in the final game of the regular season. Zimmer had a goal and an assist, Egle added a goal and two helpers, Jaremko tallied two assists of his own, and Croix Evingson scored a goal in his first USHL game. Vladar turned 23 of 25 shots aside to finish his season with 12 wins.
Phantoms Powerful Offense – The Youngstown Phantoms put quite the bow on their 2015-16 season, as they scored 17 goals in a 12-0, 5-4 (OT) sweep of Team USA over the weekend. Yushiroh Hirano had his second four-goal game in as many weeks in the 12-0 win on Friday night. Matthew Alvaro scored twice, and Luke McInnis, Vas Kolias, Noah Lalonde, Kevin Conley, Cam Morrison and Connor Moore all scored one goal apiece in the win. Four players had multiple assists for the Phantoms – McInnis (2), Morrison (3), Alec Mahalak (3) and Chase Pearson (4). Bowling Green commit Ryan Bednard stopped all 38 shots he faced for his second shutout of the season. Morrison had a hat trick, including the game-winner with just one second remaining, in the 5-4 overtime win on Saturday. Conley and Tommy Apap added the other two goals for the Phantoms, and Pearson added two more helpers. Bednard stopped 21 shots in the win to finish his season with 22 wins, a 2.38 GAA, and a .918 SV%. Youngstown finished fifth in the Eastern Conference with 71 points.
Playoff Schedule – The United States Hockey League and its member clubs announced the seeding and playoff dates for the 2016 Clark Cup Conference Semifinals. The Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, Green Bay Gamblers, Dubuque Fighting Saints, Bloomington Thunder, Tri-City Storm, Lincoln Stars, Waterloo Black Hawks and Sioux Falls Stampede will be competing for the 2016 Clark Cup Championship.
Sioux Falls looks to become the first team to repeat as Clark Cup Champions in back-to-back years in USHL Tier 1 history (2002-present), and the first team to do so since the Omaha Lancers (1993 and 1994). Cedar Rapids looks to become the first team to win both the Anderson Cup and Clark Cup in the same season since the Dubuque Fighting Saints (2013). The Lincoln Stars look to become the first team to win the Clark Cup just one season after finishing in last place since the Indiana Ice (2014).
All games will be broadcasted on ushl.fasthockey.com (HD broadcasts listed). All times listed below are CST.
Eastern Conference Semifinals:
(1) Cedar Rapids RoughRiders vs. (4) Bloomington Thunder
Game 1: Friday, 4/15/16 at 7:05 pm at Cedar Rapids Ice Arena
Game 2: Saturday, 4/16/16 at 7:05 pm at Cedar Rapids Ice Arena
Game 3: Friday, 4/22/16 at 7:30 pm at U.S. Cellular Coliseum (HD)
Game 4 (if necessary): Sunday, 4/24/16 at 3:00 pm at U.S. Cellular Coliseum (HD)
Game 5 (if necessary): Tuesday, 4/26/16 at 7:05 pm at Cedar Rapids Ice Arena
(2) Green Bay Gamblers vs. (3) Dubuque Fighting Saints
Game 1: Sunday, 4/17/16 at 3:05 pm at Resch Center (HD)
Game 2: Monday, 4/18/16 at 7:05 pm at Resch Center (HD)
Game 3: Friday, 4/22/16 at 7:35 pm at Mystique Ice Center (HD)
Game 4 (if necessary): Saturday, 4/23/16 at 7:05 pm at Mystique Ice Center (HD)
Game 5 (if necessary): Tuesday, 4/26/16 at 7:05 pm at Resch Center (HD)
Western Conference Semifinals:
(1) Tri-City Storm vs. (4) Sioux Falls Stampede
Game 1: Thursday, 4/14/16 at 7:05 pm at Viaero Center (HD)
Game 2: Friday, 4/15/16 at 7:05 pm at Viaero Center (HD)
Game 3: Friday, 4/22/16 at 7:05 pm at Denny Sanford PREMIER Ice Center (HD)
Game 4 (if necessary): Sunday, 4/24/16 at 6:05 pm at Denny Sanford PREMIER Ice Center (HD)
Game 5 (if necessary): Tuesday, 4/26/16 at 7:05 pm at Viaero Center (HD)
(2) Lincoln Stars vs. (3) Waterloo Black Hawks
Game 1: Friday, 4/15/16 at 7:05 pm at Ice Box (HD)
Game 2: Saturday, 4/16/16 at 7:05 pm at Ice Box (HD)
Game 3: Saturday, 4/23/16 at 7:05 pm at Young Arena
Game 4 (if necessary): Sunday, 4/24/16 at 5:05 pm at Young Arena
Game 5 (if necessary): Tuesday, 4/26/16 at 7:05 pm at Ice Box (HD)
Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the USHL celebrates its 14th season as the nation's only Tier I junior hockey league in 2015-16. A record 37 players were chosen in the 2015 NHL Draft and more than 375 players on team rosters last season committed to NCAA Division I schools, further establishing the USHL as the world’s foremost producer of junior hockey talent.
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