Below are five takeaways from Saturday's USHL games:
5. Black Hawks Bust Out
After a tough, 3-2 overtime loss in Omaha on Friday, the Waterloo Black Hawks responded in a big way on Saturday, defeating the Central Illinois Flying Aces 7-2 at Young Arena. Seven different players found the back of the net for Waterloo in the victory. Sam Huff and Jackson Cates scored in the opening frame, Garrett Wait and Hank Sorensen found the back of the net in the second period and Bobby Trivigno, Joey Cassetti and Matej Blumel, a new addition to the 2018 USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, all lit the lamp in the final 20 minutes. Jack Drury added an assist on Wait's goal to extend his point streak to 10 games dating back to Nov. 22, Ben Copeland and Solag Bakich dished out two assists each and Jared Moe picked up the win in his final start before heading to the 2018 USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, turning 28 of the 30 shots he faced aside for his ninth victory of the season.
4. Flurry of Firsts in Fargo
There is a bevy of veteran, offensive talent on both the Fargo Force and the Chicago Steel, who faced off in the second game of a weekend set at Scheels Arena. But those players didn't make the difference on Saturday, as the three players who found the back of the net in the Force's 2-1 win all scored their first USHL goals. Halfway through the first period, Northeastern commit Ross Mitton opened the scoring to give Fargo a 1-0 lead. It remained a 1-0 game until early in the second frame, when another Northeastern commit, Chicago's Jeremie Bucheler, batted in his own rebound out of mid-air to tie the game at one. Nine minutes later, Fargo took the lead for good, and on the day that the North Dakota State Bison football team captured the FCS National Championship, Bartek Bison scored the game-winning goal for the Force, moving them four points ahead of the Tri-City Storm atop the USHL standings. Ryan Bischel earned the victory between the pipes for Fargo by stopping 30 of the 31 Chicago shots he faced.
3. Saints Snap Lumberjacks Streak
The Muskegon Lumberjacks headed into the second game of their weekend series against the Dubuque Fighting Saints having won each of their last seven games, a team record. But Dubuque was able to snap the visitors' seven-game winning streak, taking down Muskegon 4-3 at the Mystique Ice Center. Two goals from Alexander Steeves and a tally from Quinn Preston had the Fighting Saints up 3-0 just 13 minutes into the game. Muskegon picked up a late goal from Anthony Del Gaizo, making it a 3-1 game heading into the second period. After a scoreless middle frame, Mikael Hakkarainen cut the lead to 3-2 just under three minutes into the third. It remained a one-goal game until late in the frame, where Hakkarainen scored his second goal of the contest to tie the game with just two minutes to play. The game looked destined for overtime, but Dalton Hunter found the back of the net with just 19 seconds remaining to give the Fighting Saints a 4-3 victory. In addition to his goal, Preston dished out two assists and Cole Weaver stopped 22 of the 25 shots he faced to move to 6-3-0-0 on the season.
2. Caps Creeping Up
The Madison Capitols have now won four of the their last five games, thanks to a 6-4 victory over the Sioux Falls Stampede at the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center, and now are tied for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference standings. Four Capitols recorded multi-point efforts in the victory - Coiin Felix (1G, 2A), Anthony Callin (0G, 2A), Mick Messner (2G, 1A) and Kamil Sadlocha (2G, 1A). It was a back and forth game, as the Capitols took a 2-1 lead early in the second period and also held leads of 3-2, 4-3 and 5-4 before Sadlocha's empty-net goal sealed the victory for the visitors. Dryden McKay was solid between the pipes for Madison in the victory, turning 35 of the 39 Stampede shots he faced aside for his fourth win in his last five starts.
1. Gresock Gets Goals
The Youngstown Phantoms remain in a tie for second place in the Eastern Conference, thanks to a Chase Gresock hat trick that led them to a 4-2 road victory over the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders. The Merrimack commit scored the first two goals of the game seven minutes apart to give the visitors a 2-0 lead heading into the middle frame. The RoughRiders made a comeback, however, as Graham Slaggert scored the lone goal in the second period to make it a 2-1 game, and Nicholas Cardelli tied the game at two eight minutes into the third period. Gresock responded just two minutes later with his 10th goal of the season to pick up the hat trick and give his team a 3-2 lead, and Max Ellis added an empty-net goal to seal the victory for Youngstown. Mike Regush and Michael Joyaux dished out two assists each and Ivan Prosvetov made 29 saves for his seventh victory of the year, his final start before he will appear at the 2018 USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game.
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.