Photos by Hickling Images
Bloomington Thunder at Chicago Steel
Saturday: 7:05 EST (HD)
This rivalry, now referred to as the "I-55 Rivalry", is quickly becoming one of the best rivalries in the USHL. This will be the sixth matchup between the two teams this season. Chicago took the first three meetings, but Bloomington has rebounded with wins in the last two games between the in-state rivals. The Steel are looking to extend their lead atop the USHL standings, while the Thunder are aiming to inch closer to playoff position in the ultra-competitive Eastern Conference.
Chicago is led up front by the "Mankato Line" of Reggie Lutz, Jake Jaremko and Walker Duehr. Lutz paces the team in scoring with 31 points (15G, 16A) and is eighth in the USHL in scoring, Jaremko is second on the team in scoring with 29 points (8G, 21A), and Duehr is fourth with 25 points (11G, 14A). Johnny Walker has been stellar in his first full USHL season and is third on the team with 27 points (15G, 12A). Harvard commit Jack Badini has been an offensive spark for the team and leads Chicago with 16 goals on the year. For Bloomington, veteran forward Vladislav Dzhioshvili is leading by example. The University of Vermont commit leads the Thunder with 25 points (11G, 14A). Calgary Flames prospect Mitchell Mattson has been red-hot as of late. In his last five games, he has tallied six points (3G, 3A).
Wyatt Kalynuk is the catalyst from the back end for Bloomington. The University of Wisconsin commit is third among all USHL defensemen in scoring with 21 points (4G, 17A) in 34 games. In his last nine games, he has tallied nine points (2G, 7A). Chicago is led defensively by a mix of young players and veterans. Graham Lillibridge and Wyatt Aamodt lead all Chicago blueliners with 18 and 15 points, respectively. Veterans Matt Kiersted (14 PTS) and Derek Daschke (12 PTS), who was recently acquired from the Muskegon Lumberjacks have been strong, leading players on defense for the Steel.
This matchup will also feature two of the top goaltenders in the USHL. Ales Stezka has been solid in net for the Steel all season long. The Minnesota Wild prospect sits with a 13-6-0-2 record, a 2.37 GAA and a .913 SV% this season. Gabriel Mollot-Hill has been a revelation for Bloomington between the pipes recently, as he has won three of his last four starts. He currently holds a 2.17 GAA and a .923 SV%.
For more information about USHL Free on HockeyTV click HERE.
Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the USHL celebrates its 15th season as the nation's only Tier I junior hockey league in 2016-17. 30 or more players from the USHL have been selected in four consecutive NHL Drafts, and more than 400 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.