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USHL Weekend Preview: Dec. 7-10, 2017

12/08/2017, 9:30am 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, Dec. 8, 7:35 PM CT - Omaha Lancers at Tri-City Storm (HockeyTV Free Game of the Week)

The next chapter of this in-state rivalry is set for Friday and features two of the hottest teams in the league. Tri-City has won their last three games, a sweep of the Madison Capitols last weekend and a 1-0 shutout win over the Lincoln Stars on Thursday, en route to being atop the USHL standings, while Omaha has won their last four games and seven of their last 10 contests to move into fifth place in the competitive Western Conference. The Storm, as has been the refrain all season long, have been led by their strong defense and spectacular goaltending. They have allowed only 30 goals through 19 games, by far the best mark in the USHL, and Detroit Red Wings prospect Filip Larsson has stopped nearly everything that has come his way, as he leads all goaltenders in nearly every category (1.50 GAA, .942 SV%, 14 wins, 5 shutouts). He also has shutouts in two straight starts, including the win over Lincoln on Thursday. The Lancers will be without reigning USHL Defenseman of the Week Nick Perbix, so Omaha will have try to keep their winning streak alive on the road against an in-state rival. The Lancers will look to forwards Christian O'Neill (16 PTS), Brendan Furry (14 PTS) and Cole Gallant (14 PTS) to pick up the slack and provide a bit more offense than usual with one of the team's top defenseman out of the lineup. Goaltender Zach Driscoll (2.10 GAA, .916 SV%) will also look to continue his strong play between the pipes. This game will be free for all fans to watch at USHL.HockeyTV.com.

 

2. Friday, Dec. 7 and Saturday, Dec. 8, 7:05 PM CT - Youngstown Phantoms at Sioux Falls Stampede

Youngstown is currently the hottest team in the USHL, having won each of their last five games to move into a tie atop the Eastern Conference, and they head into Sioux Falls for a weekend set with the Stampede, who currently sit third in the Western Conference and just three points out of the top spot in the USHL standings. As of late, the Phantoms have been buoyed by the strong offensive play of Curtis Hall and Max Ellis. Hall is tied for the team lead with 17 points (10G, 7A) and has done most of his damage over the last eight games, with 13 points (8G, 5A) in that stretch. As of Ellis, he currently sports an eight-game point streak, with 11 points (5G, 6A) in those contests. The Notre Dame commit is currently third on the team in scoring with 15 points (6G, 9A) and will look to keep his streak alive this weekend in the absence of Hall, who will be with Team USA at the World Junior A Challenge. Youngstown has also seen strong goaltending out of Wouter Peeters. The Chicago Blackhawks prospect has won each of his last four starts, posting a 1.75 GAA and .940 SV% along with one shutout in those contests. Sioux Falls has earned at least one point in nine of their last 10 games and is looking to continue to improve their position in the standings. Nolan Walker has been leading the way lately, as the St. Cloud State commit is sporting an eight-game point streak of his own, with 11 points in that span (7G, 4A). He has also scored a goal in seven of those eight contests, but he will also be with Team USA at the World Junior A Challenge along with Hall as well as teammate Jack St. Ivany. However, with Mikhail Berdin between the pipes, the Stampede always have a strong chance of winning. It will be interesting to watch how both teams fare without some of their top talent. 

 

3. Friday, Dec. 7 and Saturday, Dec. 8, 7:05 PM CT - Fargo Force at Waterloo Black Hawks

This series features the number one and four teams in the USHL who come into the weekend missing talent on the ice and otherwise. Fargo goaltender Ryan Bischel, Waterloo forward Jack Drury and Black Hawks head coach P.K. O'Handley will all be representing Team USA at the World Junior A Challenge. However, both of these teams have plenty of talent to fall back on for this series. Fargo, of course, is led by the top line in the USHL - Grant Hebert, Griffin Loughran and Jacob Schmidt-Svejstrup. All three players remain among the top-five in USHL scoring, with Loughran sitting fifth (20 PTS), Hebert in a tie for second (24 PTS) and Schmidt-Svejstrup atop the USHL scoring race with 27 points. The Force also have another reliable goaltender in recent Michigan commit Strauss Mann, who has been one of the top netminders in the league. He comes into the weekend with a 2.03 GAA (3rd in USHL) and .928 SV% (4th in USHL). Waterloo will lean on goaltender Jared Moe in the absence of their head coach and top scorer in O'Handley and Drury. The Minnesota commit has been outstanding between the pipes all year, sporting a 1.71 GAA and .935 SV%, both second among all USHL goaltenders behind only Filip Larsson. 

 

4. Saturday, Dec. 9, 7:05 PM ET - Central Illinois Flying Aces at Team USA (U18)

It's never too early to start looking at playoff positioning. The Flying Aces currently sit in the sixth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference but are just three points out of third place, while Team USA sits just one point and spot in the standings ahead of Central Illinois, so both teams are looking to make a significant leap in the Eastern Conference this weekend. The Flying Aces will be without rookie forward Tyler Madden, who will be representing Team USA at the World Junior A Challenge. Jakub Lacka, tied with Madden for the team scoring lead with 14 points (9G, 5A), Max Andreev and Calen Kiefiuk (11 PTS each) will look to pick up the slack in Madden's absence. The U18s have been stellar in USHL competition this season, with NHL Central Scouting A-rated prospects Joel Farabee, Oliver Wahlstrom, Bode Wilde and Mattias Samuelsson leading the way. K'Andre Miller has done well in USHL games as well, with seven points (2G, 5A) through six games. This matchup will be a good test for both teams as they look to rise in the Eastern Conference standings.

 

5.  Saturday, Dec. 8, 7:05 PM CT - Lincoln Stars at Des Moines Buccaneers

This Western Conference battle features two teams that sit right by each other in the standings, with Lincoln sitting sixth, having won two of their last three games, and Des Moines seventh, three points behind the Stars. Lincoln with be without Christian Krygier and Paul Cotter, two players who were named to the USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game and will also be representing Team USA at the World Junior A Challenge. Des Moines will be missing goaltender Jake Kucharski and forward Sam Hentges for the same reason. The Stars are coming off a hard-fought 1-0 loss to the Tri-City Storm on Thursday and will be looking to get back on the winning track. Casey Dornbach has picked up right where he left off in November, as the Harvard commit has five points (2G, 3A) in three December games after registering 11 points (5G, 6A) in six games during the month of November. Julian Napravnik has been the go-to guy offensively for Des Moines, with points in five of his last six games. In those six contests, the Minnesota State commit has tallied six points (3G, 3A), including a three-point performance (2G, 1A) last Friday in a win over the Chicago Steel.

 

Below is the schedule of this weekend's USHL games:

 

Thursday, Dec. 7

TRI-CITY STORM [1], LINCOLN STARS [0]

 

Friday, Dec. 8

7:35 PM CT - OMAHA LANCERS at TRI-CITY STORM (HockeyTV Free Game of the Week)

7:05 PM CT - CHICAGO STEEL at CEDAR RAPIDS ROUGHRIDERS

7:05 PM CT - SIOUX CITY MUSKETEERS at DES MOINES BUCCANEERS

7:05 PM CT - MADISON CAPITOLS at DUBUQUE FIGHTING SAINTS

7:05 PM CT - MUSKEGON LUMBERJACKS at GREEN BAY GAMBLERS

7:05 PM CT - YOUNGSTOWN PHANTOMS at SIOUX FALLS STAMPEDE

7:05 PM CT - FARGO FORCE at WATERLOO BLACK HAWKS

 

Saturday, Dec. 9

7:05 PM ET - CENTRAL ILLINOIS FLYING ACES at TEAM USA (U18)

7:05 PM CT - DUBUQUE FIGHTING SAINTS at CEDAR RAPIDS ROUGHRIDERS

7:05 PM CT - MADISON CAPITOLS at CHICAGO STEEL

7:05 PM CT - LINCOLN STARS at DES MOINES BUCCANEERS

7:05 PM CT - MUSKEGON LUMBERJACKS at GREEN BAY GAMBLERS

7:05 PM CT - OMAHA LANCERS at SIOUX CITY MUSKETEERS

7:05 PM CT - YOUNGSTOWN PHANTOMS at SIOUX FALLS STAMPEDE

7:05 PM CT - FARGO FORCE at WATERLOO BLACK HAWKS

 

Sunday, Dec. 10

4:05 PM CT - LINCOLN STARS at MADISON CAPITOLS

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