Photo by Hickling Images
Below are five takeaways from Saturday's USHL games:
1. Saints Soaring
It appears the Dubuque Fighting Saints are getting back on track following a two-game sweep of the Central Illinois Flying Aces. After scoring five goals in their win on Friday night, Dubuque followed that performance up with a four-goal opening period en route to a 6-3 victory over the Flying Aces. The story of the game was Notre Dame commit Alex Steeves, who tallied a hat trick in the victory. He extended his point streak to four straight games, with seven points (3G, 4A) in that span and has scored in five of the seven games he's played this season. He also added an assist and now leads the team and is tied for ninth in the USHL in scoring with eight points (4G, 4A) on the year. Santeri Virtanen (1G, 2A) and Logan Pietila (0G, 2A) also added multiple points and Cole Weaver earned the win between the pipes in his first USHL start with a 23-save performance.
2. No More Unbeatens
The last undefeated team in the USHL finally lost its first game of the season, as the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders overcame deficits of 2-0 and 3-1 to knock off Team USA 4-3 and hand them their first loss of the season. After falling down 2-0 through 20 minutes of play, Brian Chambers converted a breakaway to cut the deficit to 2-1. Five minutes later, Team USA made it a 3-1 game, but Tyler Jubenvill scored 56 seconds later to trim the lead to 3-2. Less than three minutes later, Nathan Smith tied the game and Kevin Lombardi scored the eventual game-winner just 27 seconds later. Marek Valach and Liam Walsh added a pair of assists and Blake Pietila stopped 31 shots to pick up the win. Cedar Rapids has picked up wins over then-undefeated Lincoln and Central Illinois last weekend and also knocked off the last unbeaten team in the USHL. If the RoughRiders keep this level of play up, they could be a force to be reckoned with.
3. Comeback Kids
The Chicago Steel have now won five straight games, now the longest current winning streak in the USHL, and are now alone atop the Eastern Conference standing following a 5-3 comeback victory over the Lincoln Stars. The Stars led 2-0 midway through the second period and 3-1 early in the final frame, but the Steel exploded for four third period goals to complete the comeback and sweep their two-game Western Conference weekend road trip. Aaro Vidgren made it a 3-2 game, Blake McLaughlin tied the game 56 seconds later and Jack Dugan scored the final two goals of the game to complete the scoring. Dugan (8G, 2A) and McLaughlin (3G, 7A) now have 10 points each and became two of the five USHL players on Saturday to reach double digit points on the season, tied for the most in the league. Oskar Autio stopped 28 of the 31 shots he faced for his sixth win of the season, the most among all USHL goaltenders. It's still early in the season, but the Steel look a lot like they did at this point last year, and that season ended in a championship.
4. Force on Fire
The Fargo Force have won four straight games thanks to their 6-5 victory over the Des Moines Buccaneers and sit tied atop the Western Conference. The big story of the night was Griffin Loughran, who tallied six points (3G, 3A) in the victory. The Northern Michigan commit is now tied for the USHL scoring lead with 10 points (4G, 6A) and has scored in five of his last seven games. Also tied for the league lead in points is fellow forward Jacob Schmidt-Svejstrup. The Denmark native found the back of the night twice in the win, making him one of five players on the night to move to double digits in points (8G 2A). He is now in the midst of a six-game point streak, with eight points (7G, 1A) in that span. Grant Hebert (1G, 2A) and Carter Randklev (0G, 3A) picked up multiple points as well in the victory. Fargo is becoming a force to be reckoned with in the Western Conference.
5. Storm's Start
The Tri-City Storm are off to the best start in the history of the organization after a 3-2 shootout win in Sioux City over the Musketeers. Coming into Saturday's game, Tri-City was tied with the 2003-04 Storm for the best start in team history with five wins in the first six games of the season. Thanks to goals from Brian Hawkinson, his second in as many nights, Filip Forsmark and a shootout goal from Denver commit Adam Goodsir, the 2017-18 Storm are now off to the best start in team history. Jake Barczewski was in between the pipes for the first time in his USHL career and was impressive, stopping 36 of the 38 shots he faced for a victory in his USHL debut. The 2003-04 Storm advanced to the Clark Cup Final, and the 2017-18 Storm are hoping the start they're off to will lead to similar results at the end of the season.
Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the USHL celebrates its 16th season as the nation's only Tier I junior hockey league in 2017-18. 30 or more players from the USHL have been selected in five 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.