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USHL Weekend Preview: Dec. 15-17, 2017

12/15/2017, 10:00am CST
By USHL

Preview of last weekend of USHL games before the holiday break.

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. 15 and Saturday, Dec. 16, 7:05 PM CT - Waterloo Black Hawks at Fargo Force (Friday - HockeyTV Free Game of the Week)

This weekend will mark the second straight two-game series between these Western Conference opponents as they continue to battle for position in the standings. Fargo won both contests last weekend, ending up with a 5-3 victory on Friday and a 4-2 triumph on Saturday to remain atop the USHL standings with 32 points (15-6-1-1), so Waterloo is looking for revenge on the road this weekend. Jacob Schmidt-Svejstrup (30 PTS), Grant Hebert (25 PTS) and Griffin Loughran (21 PTS) continue to be the dominant storyline with Fargo, but the Force's top line hasn't been the only reason for their success. Goaltender Strauss Mann was outstanding last weekend in place of Ryan Bischel, who is with Team USA at the World Junior A Challenge. In the two victories last weekend, the Michigan commit stopped 67 shots, moving him to 8-1-0-1 on the season. He now sports a 2.13 GAA (4th in USHL) and .928 SV% (3rd in USHL), and has won each of his last three starts. Waterloo will look to goaltender Jared Moe to stem the onslaught of the Force's offense and lean on Jackson Cates (15 PTS), Garrett Wait (15 PTS) and Ben Copeland (12 PTS) to pick up the offensive slack in the absence of Jack Drury, who is at the World Junior A Challenge along with Black Hawks head coach P.K. O'Handley 

 

2. Friday, Dec. 15 and Saturday, Dec. 16, 7:35 PM CT - Dubuque Fighting Saints at Tri-City Storm

Both Tri-City and Dubuque are coming off a loss in their last game and are looking to get back in the win column this weekend. The Storm's strong defensive play continues to be their hallmark this season, as they currently sit second in the USHL standings despite having scored the fourth-fewest goals in the league. Star goaltender Filip Larsson recently committed to the University of Denver and will be aiming to carrying that positive mojo into the weekend, although he has needed to lean on anything other than his play so far this year. The Swedish netminder continues to lead all USHL goaltenders in every category, including wins (14), GAA (1.45), SV% (.946) and shutouts (5). He was also recently named to Team Sweden for the 2018 World Junior Championship, a well-deserved honor for Larsson. Dubuque remains in fourth place in the Eastern Conference heading into the weekend, having earned at least one point in seven of their last 10 games. The Fighting Saints will remain without leading scorer Alex Steeves (17 PTS) in the lineup along with captain Cole Guttman due to the World Junior A Challenge, but recent Nebraska Omaha commit Chayse Primeau (13 PTS) along with fellow veterans and scorers Quinn Preston (12 PTS)  should be able to help carry the Fighting Saints' offense this weekend. 

 

3. Friday, Dec. 15 and Saturday, Dec. 16, 7:15 PM ET - Chicago Steel at Muskegon Lumberjacks

The Steel have stagnated a bit since their hot start to the season, going .500 in their last 10 games but still sitting one point behind Eastern Conference-leading Youngstown. Muskegon picked up a win in their last game and despite sitting in eighth place in the East, the Lumberjacks sit just six points out of third place. Chicago will be without arguably the team's three best players in Jack Dugan, Blake McLaughlin and Graham Lillibridge, who will be looking to lead Team USA to a gold medal at the World Junior A Challenge on Saturday. Without the Steel's top-three scorers in the lineup, other players will be expected to step up and produce, including Samuel Bucek and Baker Shore. Bucek has tallied four points (1G, 3A) in his last three games, including a three-point performance last Saturday. Shore had two points last Saturday, and the Steel it will be the start of an offensive breakout for the Harvard commit. Muskegon remains without top defenseman Clayton Phillips and goaltender Adam Brizgala, but unlike Chicago, Muskegon's top three scorers will be in the lineup, as Matej Pekar (18 PTS), Anthony Del Gaizo (15 PTS) and Wyatt Bongiovanni (14 PTS) will try to move the Lumberjacks up the Eastern Conference standings. 

 

4. Saturday, Dec. 16, 7:05 PM CT - Des Moines Buccaneers at Lincoln Stars

The Buccaneers and Stars are currently battling for the sixth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, and while it's only December, these two head-to-head matchups could go a long way toward the end of the season. Des Moines currently sits in seventh place in the West, just three points ahead of the Stars. Both teams are coming off a loss in their last game and will look to turn things around this upcoming weekend. Julian Napravnik (17 PTS) and Nicolas Werbik (15 PTS) will look to carry Des Moines this weekend in the absence of goaltender Jake Kucharski, who will be trying to win a gold medal with Team USA at the World Junior A Challenge. Lincoln will be missing Paul Cotter and Christian Krygier, but Casey Dornbach (20 PTS) has shown he is more than capable of leading Lincoln's offense. Going back to the beginning of November, the Harvard commit has put up 17 points in his last 11 games (7G, 10A) and currently leads the team in scoring. He will be supported by Ashton Calder (14 PTS), Devlin McCabe (13 PTS) and Dominick Mersch (12 PTS).

 

5. Saturday, Dec. 16, 7:05 PM CT - Omaha Lancers at Sioux Falls Stampede

This matchup features two of the hottest teams in the USHL. The Lancers have won their last six contests and now sit just one point out of the top-four in the Western Conference, while the Stampede have won seven of their last 10 games. Omaha has seen extremely strong goaltending from all three of its netminders during the winning streak, as Vinnie Purpura, Christian Sbaraglia and Zach Driscoll have all helped their team pick up victories over the course of the last six games. Omaha has scored over four goals/game during their winning streak, and with the combination of strong offense and goaltending, the Lancers look to be one of the most dangerous teams in the USHL right now. Christian O'Neill (17 PTS), Cole Gallant (17 PTS) and Brendan Furry (15 PTS) will look to lead the way against a Sioux Falls defense that gives up a lot of scoring opportunities. That hasn't seemed to faze the Stampede, who sport the second highest-scoring team in the USHL, as they averaged over 3.5 goals/game. It will be a tough test for Sioux Falls this weekend, as they will be without goaltender Mikhail Berdin, defenseman Jack St. Ivany and leading scorer Nolan Walker. However, they have plenty of offensive firepower to offset those absences, including Khristian Acosta (19 PTS), Adam Dawe (16 PTS), Artem Ivanyuzhenkov (15 PTS) and Kevin Conley (15 PTS). It should be a high-flying, entertaining matchup between these two teams on Saturday.

 

Below is a list of USHL games this weekend:

 

Thursday, Dec. 14

YOUNGSTOWN PHANTOMS [2], CEDAR RAPIDS ROUGHRIDERS [1] (SO)

 

Friday, Dec. 15

CEDAR RAPIDS ROUGHRIDERS at YOUNGSTOWN PHANTOMS - 7:05 PM ET

CHICAGO STEEL at MUSKEGON LUMBERJACKS - 7:15 PM ET

WATERLOO BLACK HAWKS at FARGO FORCE (Hockey TV Free Game of the Week) - 7:05 PM CT

MADISON CAPITOLS at GREEN BAY GAMBLERS - 7:05 PM CT

DES MOINES BUCCANEERS at OMAHA LANCERS - 7:05 PM CT

CENTRAL ILLINOIS FLYING ACES at SIOUX CITY MUSKETEERS - 7:05 PM CT

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

DUBUQUE FIGHTING SAINTS at TRI-CITY STORM - 7:35 PM CT

 

Saturday, Dec. 16

GREEN BAY GAMBLERS at MADISON CAPITOLS - 6:05 PM CT

CHICAGO STEEL at MUSKEGON LUMBERJACKS - 7:15 PM ET

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

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

CENTRAL ILLINOIS FLYING ACES at SIOUX CITY MUSKETEERS - 7:05 PM CT

OMAHA LANCERS at SIOUX FALLS STAMPEDE - 7:05 PM CT

DUBUQUE FIGHTING SAINTS at TRI-CITY STORM - 7:35 PM CT

 

Sunday, Dec. 17

CENTRAL ILLINOIS FLYING ACES at SIOUX FALLS STAMPEDE - 6:05 PM CT

 

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