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USHL Weekend Preview: Feb. 9-11, 2018

02/09/2018, 10:30am CST
By USHL

GET READY FOR THIS WEEKEND'S ACTION 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, Feb. 9 and Saturday, Feb. 10 , 7:35 PM CT - Fargo Force at Tri-City Storm (Saturday - HockeyTV Free Game of the Week)

These two teams have been at the top of the Western Conference standings for most of the season, but have slipped recently. Tri-City is now fourth in the Western Conference and Fargo fifth, sitting two and four points, respectively, behind the conference-leading Waterloo Black Hawks. The Storm remain the top defensive team in the USHL, having allowed just under two goals/game, a total of 71 goals through 36 games. Fargo has scored the third-most goals in the USHL this season, finding the back of the net 125 teams in 39 games, so it will be a strength vs. strength matchup this weekend. Storm goaltender Filip Larsson is getting back in the full swing of USHL action, so it will be a tough test for the Force offense, especially as Jacob Schmidt-Svejstrup continues to be out of the lineup with an injury. Fargo will have to bring offensive firepower this weekend, led by leading scorer Grant Hebert (11G, 22A), if they want to move back up toward the top of the Western Conference standings. Saturday's game will be free for fans to watch at USHL.HockeyTV.com

 

2. Friday, Feb. 9 , 7:05 PM CT - Dubuque Fighting Saints at Omaha Lancers

The only time these two teams met earlier this season was all the way back on Nov. 3, when the Fighting Saints knocked off the Lancers 5-3 in Dubuque. However, Omaha is a completely different team than they were more than three months ago, as they have moved into a tie for second place in the Western Conference and sit just one point out of the top spot in the USHL standings. Defense and goaltending remain the big reasons for the Lancers' success, as they allow just over two goals/game (81 goals in 36 games). The goaltending duo of Zach Driscoll and Vinnie Purpura has been spectacular at times, as each goaltender sits in the top-five among all USHL netminders in both GAA and SV%. Although with scorers such as Filip Suchy (39 PTS) and Christian O'Neill (33 PTS), it's a tremendous winning combination. For Dubuque, veterans Quinn Preston and Alexander Steeves (32 PTS each) will lead a team that is currently tied for second place in the Eastern Conference. Along with those steady older players leading the way offensively, the Fighting Saints are hoping that the new goaltending duo of Cole Weaver and James Durham can help light the match for another deep Fighting Saints run.

 

3. Friday Feb. 9 , 7:05 PM CT - Waterloo Black Hawks at Green Bay Gamblers

This matchup features a pair of teams that are currently heading in opposite directions. Waterloo has become the top team in the USHL standings, having won four of their last five games and seven of their last 10 contests. Green Bay, after being near the top of the Eastern Conference for most of the season, has fallen all the way to sixth place in the East thanks to just three wins in their last 10 games. Jack Drury's remarkable point streak can reach another height in this game, as the Harvard commit has now earned one point in 20 straight games, just one shy of tying the USHL Tier 1 record (2002-present). He, along with fellow Waterloo forward Jackson Cates, will led the way for an offense that has been buzzing as of late. Team defense is also a strength for Waterloo, as they have allowed the third-fewest goals in the league, with 94 goals against in 38 games. That is also helped by the goaltending of both Minnesota commit Jared Moe and Philadelphia Flyers prospect Matej Tomek. Despite their recent struggles, Green Bay has plenty of veteran talent that is capable of turning things around and putting the Gamblers back on track. With players like Trenton Bliss (34 PTS), Nolan Moyle (27 PTS), Josh Dunne (25 PTS) and Brock Caufield (19 PTS), Green Bay knows that the team is capable of putting together a strong stretch of hockey. If the Gamblers do want to climb back up in the Eastern Conference, they will also have to rely on strong play from Vegas Golden Knights prospect Maksim Zhukov, who has shown in his year-plus in the USHL that he is capable of putting on a show and stealing games.

 

4. Friday, Feb. 9 and Saturday, Feb. 10, 7:05 PM CT - Youngstown Phantoms at Sioux City Musketeers

The Musketeers have won their last two games to now sit comfortably in the sixth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, while the Phantoms have strung four straight victories together to move into a tie for second place in the Eastern Conference standings. 2018 NHL Draft prospect Sampo Ranta (22 PTS) continues to pace the Musketeers in scoring, but rookie forward Martin Pospisil (21 PTS) is not far behind, looking to follow in his brother Kristian's footsteps last year, as he helped Sioux City all the way to Game 5 of the Clark Cup Final. In addition to the offensive firepower for the Musketeers, they can also rely on the stellar goaltending of Matt Jurusik. The Chicago native continues to play well between the pipes, having won seven of his last nine appearances dating back to Jan. 12. Youngstown might feature some of the most overlooked offensive players in the USHL. Everyone knows about Max Ellis and Curtis Hall, top prospects for the 2018 NHL Draft, but it's a trio other players leading the way offensive for Youngstown right now. Holy Cross commit Matthew Barry leads the team with 42 points, veteran Chase Gresock sits second in team scoring with 32 points and Mike Regush is just one point behind him, having amassed 31 points through 37 games. Along with the goaltending of Ivan Prosvetov and Chicago Blackhawks prospect Wouter Peeters, Phantoms fans should feel pretty good about their team at the moment. 

 

5. Friday, Feb. 9, 7:05 PM CT - Cedar Rapids RoughRiders at Des Moines Buccaneers

This could be a milestone night for Cedar Rapids head coach Mark Carlson, the only coach in RoughRiders history since they started playing in Cedar Rapids. The second-winningest coach in USHL history has a chance to win his 600th career USHL game beginning on Friday in Des Moines. It would be an historic, impressive accomplishment for a coach that has been behind the bench for the RoughRiders since the 1999-00 season. His team has won their last two games and sits just a single point outside the playoff window in the Eastern Conference, so Cedar Rapids will have a lot to play for on Friday night. It won't be an easy task, however, as the Buccaneers are always a tough test at home. If they get another strong game from veteran forwards Nicolas Werbik (26 PTS) and Julian Napravnik (25 PTS), then Carlson will have to wait at least one more night to try to earn career win #600.

 

Below is the full list of this weekend's USHL games:

 

Friday, Feb. 9

7:15 PM ET - Madison Capitols at Muskegon Lumberjacks

7:05 PM CT - Central Illinois Flying Aces at Chicago Steel

7:05 PM CT - Cedar Rapids RoughRiders at Des Moines Buccaneers

7:05 PM CT - Waterloo Black Hawks at Green Bay Gamblers

7:05 PM CT - Dubuque Fighting Saints at Omaha Lancers

7:05 PM CT - Youngstown Phantoms at Sioux City Musketeers

7:05 PM CT - Lincoln Stars at Sioux Falls Stampede

7:35 PM CT - Fargo Force at Tri-City Storm

 

Saturday, Feb. 10

7:15 PM ET - Madison Capitols at Muskegon Lumberjacks

7:05 PM CT - Lincoln Stars at Des Moines Buccaneers

7:05 PM CT - Central Illinois Flying Aces at Dubuque Fighting Saints

7:05 PM CT - Chicago Steel at Green Bay Gamblers

7:05 PM CT - Youngstown Phantoms at Sioux City Musketeers

7:05 PM CT - Omaha Lancers at Sioux Falls Stampede

7:05 PM CT - Cedar Rapids RoughRiders at Waterloo Black Hawks

7:35 PM CT - Fargo Force at Tri-City Storm (HockeyTV Free Game of the Week)

 

Sunday, Feb. 11

5:05 PM CT - Des Moines Buccaneers at Omaha Lancers

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