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USHL Weekend Preview: Nov. 9-12, 2017

11/10/2017, 9:15am CST
By USHL

Get ready for this weekend's games with previews of 5 USHL games.

Each week, USHL.com will preview five games from around the league and take a look at the matchup and storylines surrounding each contest.

 

1. Friday, Nov. 9 and Saturday, Nov. 10, 7:35 PM CT - Waterloo Black Hawks at Tri-City Storm (Friday - HockeyTV Free Game of the Week)

Tri-City has won each of their last six games and welcomes into a Waterloo squad that is coming off a split of their two games last weekend. The Black Hawks have also lost four of their last five games and are looking to right the ship, but it won't be easy. The Storm has allowed only 15 goals against all season long, including just eight goals over the course of their six-game winning streak. Filip Larsson leads the way between the pipes, and the Detroit Red WIngs prospect currently sports a 1.64 GAA (2nd in USHL) and a .941 SV% (3rd in USHL). He is also tied for the league lead with seven wins. Waterloo has averaged less than two goals/game in their last five contests and will look to veterans Garrett Wait, Jackson Cates, Ethan Johnson and Ben Copeland to change that pace. Friday's game will be free for fans to watch at USHL.HockeyTV.com.

 

2. Friday, Nov. 10, 7:05 PM CT - Chicago Steel at Dubuque Fighting Saints

This Eastern Conference matchup features two of the better teams in the league through five weeks of the regular season. The Fighting Saints come into the game having won their last three contests, and despite having lost each of their last two games, the Steel remain the top team in the Eastern Conference. The big story for the Steel has been the play of both Jack Dugan and Blake McLaughlin. Both players are tied for the USHL scoring lead and have been a dynamic duo while playing on the same line throughout much of the year. Dubuque has been bolstered in their last three games by a strong offense, scoring 16 goals in those three contests after scoring no more than two goals in each of their first five games. Veterans Alex Steeves, Quinn Preston and Santeri Virtanen, along with "Captain Cali" Cole Guttman will try to maintain the high-octane offense the Fighting Saints have displayed as of late and outscore the highest-scoring team in the USHL. It will be an interesting goaltending matchup as well, with Oskar Autio and Jaxon Castor likely to start for their respective teams. Autio is tied atop the USHL with seven wins in his first eight starts, while Castor has allowed only seven goals combined in his last three appearances, winning two of those contests.

 

3. Friday, Nov. 10, 7:05 PM CT - Des Moines Buccaneers at Fargo Force

Fargo is one of the two hottest teams in the USHL right now, despite having their winning streak snapped at six games after falling to Des Moines 4-2 on Thursday. The Buccaneers sit at .500 heading into the weekend thanks to that impressive road victory on Thursday night. Since their 6-5 loss to Fargo two weeks ago, the Buccaneers have picked up five of a possible six points in those three games. Leading scorer Nicolas Werbik was back at it again last week, tallying three points (1G, 2A) in two games as Des Moines was victorious against Madison on Friday before falling in a shootout to Central Illinois on Saturday. He has scored in all but two of 10 games so far this year, and the Buccaneers will need the Czech forward to continue his offensive ways if they are going to sweep the two-game series. Prior to Thursday's loss, the Force were coming off wins over Cedar Rapids and Waterloo last weekend and look to remain atop the Western Conference.  Fargo looks as balanced as any team in the USHL between offense and goaltending. In addition to scoring 11 combined goals in the two games Ryan Bischel was outstanding, stopping 48 of the 51 shots he faced, including a 23-save shutout on Friday, en route to winning USHL Goaltender of the Week before dropping Thursday's decision. 

 

4. Saturday, Nov. 10, 7:05 PM CT - Sioux Falls Stampede at Lincoln Stars

This Western Conference battle features a pair of teams that got off to hot starts early in the season, have slid back to the pack a bit as of late, but are looking to get things back on the right track. After a 3-0-0-0 start, Lincoln now sits at the .500 mark on the year, while Sioux Falls has dropped each of their last three contests. The big storyline in this contest is the NHL prospect in between the pipes for both teams. Mikhail Berdin (Winnipeg Jets) is the likely starter for the Stampede, while Tomas Vomacka (Nasvhille Predators) has been solid for the Stars. Berdin sits fourth in the league in GAA (1.97) and leads all USHL netminders with a .948 SV%. He has also faced 34 or more shots in seven of nine attempts, making what he's done so far this year that much more impressive. Vomacka has been nearly as busy, as the UConn commit has faced 30 or more attempts in four of his six appearances. He currently sports a 3.01 GAA and .903 SV%, but the numbers don't really tell the story of how good he's been or the talent level he possesses. 

 

5. Sunday, Nov. 12, 3:15 PM ET - Youngstown Phantoms at Muskegon Lumberjacks

The Phantoms are looking to fight through their early season struggles, while the Lumberjacks are looking to get back over .500 after winning their game on Wednesday against Central Illinois. Youngstown comes into the weekend having lost each of their last two games but is showing signs of turning things around. Matthew Barry, Eric Esposito, Chase Gresock, Curtis Hall and Max Ellis lead the way offensively for Youngstown, and while they haven't scored as much as they'd like through nine games, all of those players have shown a propensity to fill up the scoresheet in previous seasons. It could only be a matter of time before Youngstown displays an offensive explosion in the coming games. Including Wednesday's victory over the Flying Aces, there are also positive signs for Muskegon. The big story has been the acquisition and subsequent play of Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Clayton Phillips, who sits in a tie for fifth in scoring among defenseman with seven pints (3G, 4A) in eight games. The University of Minnesota commit has four points (2G, 2A) in five games with the Lumberjacks and has made an immediate offensive impact. Wyatt Bongiovanni also added a hat trick in the win on Wednesday and will look to continue that success. This is the third meeting between these two rivals this season, with the teams splitting their Oct. 27-28 series.

 

Below is a complete list of this week's USHL games:

 

Wednesday, Nov. 8

MUSKEGON LUMBERJACKS [3], CENTRAL ILLINOIS FLYING ACES [0]

 

Thursday, Nov. 9

DES MOINES BUCCANEERS [4], FARGO FORCE [2]

 

Friday, Nov. 10

CHICAGO STEEEL at DUBUQUE FIGHTING SAINTS - 7:05 PM CT

DES MOINES BUCCANEERS at FARGO FORCE - 7:05 PM CT

CEDAR RAPIDS ROUGHRIDERS at MADISON CAPITOLS - 7:05 PM CT

GREEN BAY GAMBLERS at OMAHA LANCERS - 7:05 PM CT

SIOUX CITY MUSKETEERS at SIOUX FALLS STAMPEDE - 7:05 PM CT

YOUNGSTOWN PHANTOMS at CENTRAL ILLINOIS FLYING ACES - 7:07 PM CT

WATERLOO BLACK HAWKS at TRI-CITY STORM - 7:35 PM CT

 

Saturday, Nov. 11

YOUNGSTOWN PHANTOMS at MUSKEGON LUMBERJACKS - 7:15 PM ET

MADISON CAPITOLS at CEDAR RAPIDS ROUGHRIDERS - 7:05 PM CT

SIOUX FALLS STAMPEDE at LINCOLN STARS - 7:05 PM CT

GREEN BAY GAMBLERS at OMAHA LANCERS - 7:05 PM CT

FARGO FORCE at SIOUX CITY MUSKETEERS - 7:05 PM CT

DUBUQUE FIGHTING SAINTS at CENTRAL ILLINOIS FLYING ACES - 7:05 PM CT

WATERLOO BLACK HAWKS at TRI-CITY STORM - 7:35 PM CT

 

Sunday, Nov. 12

YOUNGSTOWN PHANTOMS at MUSKEGON LUMBERJACKS - 3:15 PM ET

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.

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Tag(s): Recaps