Wrapping up the regular season
AROUND THE LEAGUE
Four Score…Forwards Scott Conway of the Indiana Ice and Danny Elser of the Des Moines Buccaneers entered the history books with their four-goal games during the final week of the regular season. They became the 22nd and 23rd players in the USHL Tier 1 era (2002-present) to score four goals in a game. Conway was the first-ever Ice player to do such and Elser tied the Buccaneers record for goals in a game. There have been seven four-goal games in the USHL this season, the most-ever in one season for the League. Conway and Elser join other four-goal scores Jared Thomas, Joel L’Esperance, Griffen Molino, and Zeb Knutson who accomplished the feat twice.
Scoring Champ…Omaha Lancers forward Jake Randolph finished the regular season as the USHL scoring champion with 86 points (26g, 60a) while playing all 60 games. It nearly doubled his point total of 44 (13g, 31a) from last year. He recorded 12 more points than the next highest scorer this season. Randolph set a new USHL Tier 1 era record with 60 assists for the season, breaking the mark of 59 set by John Kemp of the Indiana Ice during the 2007-08 season. Randolph dished out two assists in the season finale, including the record-breaking assist with just 1:06 remaining in the 4-2 victory for the Lancers on Saturday vs. Sioux Falls. He is the first Lancers player to lead the USHL in scoring since Mike Howe did so in 2003-04 with 78 points (36g, 42a) and his teammate Paul Stastny finishing second with 77 points (30g, 47a).
Lamp Lighters…Muskegon Lumberjacks forward Matt Iacopelli finished the season with the most goals (41) in the USHL, the third highest goal total in the Tier 1 era. Tyler Vesel of the Omaha Lancers tied for second with 33 goals, the most by a Lancers player since the 2009-10 season (Matt White, 35). Scott Conway also netted 33 goals, becoming just the fifth player in Indiana Ice history to reach the 30-goal mark. Kyle Connor netted 31 goals for the Youngstown Phantoms, tying for the second most goals in a season for a Phantoms player.
Making a Point…Waterloo Black Hawks defenseman Brandon Montour had points in each of his last five games (2g, 7a), including four multi-point efforts, to finish ninth overall in USHL scoring with 62 points (14g, 48a) in 60 regular season games. It is the most points by defenseman in the USHL Tier 1 era, surpassing the mark of 60 points (13g, 47a) by Colby Cohen for the Lincoln Stars during the 2006-07 season. Montour was second in the USHL with 48 assists and finished just five points shy of the all-time USHL record for points by a defenseman – Mike Ross had 67 points for the Rochester Mustangs during the 1986-87 season.
On the Plus Side…Forwards Tyler Vesel of Omaha and Scott Conway of Indiana, along with defenseman Austin Kosack of the Indiana Ice finished tied for the USHL lead with a plus-40 rating. Only seven other players in the USHL Tier 1 era have finished a season with a plus-40 or better rating. The Ice had six of the top 10 players in the plus/minus category. In addition to Conway and Kosack, defenseman Josh Jacobs (+36) ranked fifth, forward Dwyer Tschantz (+31) ranked seventh, forward Aidan Muir (+30) ranked eighth, and forward Brian Pinho (+29) tied for ninth.
Action Jackson…Chicago Steel forward Robby Jackson scored a goal in the season finale for his team, a 5-2 loss to the Indiana Ice on Saturday. It was his 28th goal of the season, the most goals in the USHL Tier 1 era for a 16-year-old. He surpassed the mark of 27 goals scored by Taylor Cammarata when he was 16 years old during the 2011-12 season for the Waterloo Black Hawks. Jackson scored 13 of his goals over the final 15 games of the season. His six game-winners this year tied for second overall in the League. He appeared in all 60 games for the Steel after they selected him in the third round of Phase One of the 2013 USHL Draft.
Punching Their Ticket…It came down to the final night of the regular season, but the Green Bay Gamblers secured the fourth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They earned a 4-3 victory against the Muskegon Lumberjacks on Saturday to finish one point ahead of the Lumberjacks in the standings. Green Bay won five of their last six games to earn a playoff berth for the sixth consecutive season. Matt Weis scored three goals over the weekend, including the game-winner on Saturday. He totaled 11 points (4g, 7a) during a six-game point streak to end the regular season while teammate Nick Schmaltz also had points in each of the last six, accumulating 10 points (5g, 5a) over that span.
Turning 30…Despite missing the playoffs by just one point in the standings, Team USA equaled their best win total in USHL history by earning 30 victories, tying their mark from the 2010-11 season. Team USA’s Under-17 squad scored a combined 16 goals over two victories during the final weekend to reach the 30-win mark for the club. They equaled a season high in goals during Friday’s 9-6 victory over Sioux City, led by two goals from Luke Kirwan. The next evening, Christian Fischer recorded his first USHL career hat trick, giving him four goals for the weekend, in the 7-4 win over Dubuque. Team USA closed out USHL play winning each of their final eight home contests, tied for the second longest streak in the League this season. Their 21 overall home victories also tied for the second most in the USHL. Counting as one team in the standings, the Under-17 squad compiled an 11-20-3 record in USHL action while the Under-18 squad went 19-5-2.
Streak Riders…Cedar Rapids RoughRiders forward Andrew Poturalski finished out the regular season riding a nine-game point streak, which included goals in each of the final two games. He produced 16 points (10g, 6a) over that stretch. The 20-year-old netted 14 goals over his last 14 games and finished sixth overall in USHL scoring with 64 points (27g, 37a) in 60 games. His goal on Saturday was the 100th point of his career with the Riders (41g, 59a). Frederik Tiffels also closed out the regular season riding a lengthy point streak, scoring 15 points (6g, 9a) over a 10-game stretch. He produced 27 points (9g, 18a) in 31 games since being acquired midseason by Cedar Rapids. The native of Germany had scored 35 points (7g, 28a) in 75 previous games over two seasons with two other USHL clubs.
A First During the Last…Despite playing 147 regular season games over his USHL career, defenseman Neal Goff had a “first” on Saturday for the Fargo Force in his final game. He was called upon to take a shootout attempt, the first of his career. The 6-4, 210-pound captain of the Force made the most of his chance as he was the only player to convert in the shootout and lead his team to a 2-1 victory against Des Moines. Fargo finished the season earning points in their final three games (2-0-1).
Starring in Net…Lincoln Stars goaltender Michael Bitzer stopped 29 shots on Friday in the 6-4 win against the Sioux Falls Stampede. It was the 40th regular season win of his USHL career. The last goaltender to reach the 40-win mark for his career in a Stars uniform was Kevin Murdock who did so during the 2010-11 season. Bitzer followed up his milestone win by making a USHL career high 47 saves, and then stopped 2-of-3 in the shootout, in Saturday’s 3-2 shootout win over the Tri-City Storm. It was his League-leading sixth shootout win of the season. He also led all USHL goaltenders in minutes played (2,800) and saves (1,374).
Iron Men…Sioux Falls Stampede forward Tony Calderone netted his 24th goal of the season during Friday’s 6-4 loss to Lincoln and then appeared in his 60th game of the season on Saturday. He is just one of two Stampede players to appear in all 60 regular season games, joining defenseman Ed McGovern. It is the second consecutive season that both players have played every game for their club. For McGovern, he has missed just one game during his three-year USHL career, totaling 183 games in the lineup. He recorded 25 points (8g, 17a) this season, tied for 15th among all USHL defensemen, after he totaled 19 points (9g, 10a) in 123 previous games for the Stampede.
Making the List…When NHL Central Scouting released their final rankings of prospects for the 2014 NHL Draft, a total of 45 players that competed in the USHL this season appeared on the list. The top-rated USHL skater was Alex Tuch of Team USA (#12), joined by his teammates Sonny Milano (#16) and Dylan Larkin (#17) plus Nick Schmaltz (#19) of the Green Bay Gamblers as players in the top 20 among all North American prospects. Kevin Reich (#5) of the Dubuque Fighting Saints is the top-rated USHL goaltender. Thirteen of the 16 USHL Member Clubs that competed this season had at least one player in the final rankings. In addition, 19 alumni of the USHL were ranked, including top-rated goaltender Thatcher Demko (Team USA 2012-13, Omaha Lancers 2011-12).
Noteworthy…Muskegon Lumberjacks forward Jack Rowe scored a goal in both weekend contests, extending his goal streak to four games to close out the season. He netted seven goals over his last seven games for the Jacks…Seamus Malone ended the regular season riding a five-game point streak (4g, 2a) while teammate Karson Kuhlman had a six-game streak (3g, 3a). Kuhlman scored a goal in each of the last two games, giving him a team-leading 25 goals this season…Tyler Hynes scored a goal for the Fargo Force in Friday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Omaha Lancers, the first time he had played against his former team. Hynes netted 12 goals in 23 games since being acquired by Fargo after scoring 14 goals in 89 previous USHL games with Omaha…John Simonson scored the game-winning goal for the Lincoln Stars in Friday’s 6-4 victory against Sioux Falls. It was 28th goal of the season, tied for the sixth most in the USHL and tied for the second most by a Stars player over the past six seasons…Tucker Poolman scored for the Omaha Lancers in Friday’s 3-2 shootout win against Fargo. It was his 15th goal of the season, the most by a League defenseman. He also converted his shootout attempt in the victory…Bobo Carpenter scored a goal in both weekend games for the Sioux City Musketeers, giving the 17-year-old nine points (5g, 4a) over nine games with the team this season which included five goals over the last six games…After making a season high 41 saves for the Tri-City Storm in Friday’s loss to Des Moines, goaltender Hayden Lavigne did one better by making 42 saves in Saturday’s shootout loss to Lincoln.
Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the USHL celebrates its 12th season as the nation's only Tier I junior hockey league in 2013-14. A record 32 players were chosen in the 2013 NHL Draft and more than 300 players on team rosters last season have committed to NCAA Division I schools, further establishing the USHL as the world’s foremost producer of junior hockey talent. For more information, visit us on the web at www.USHL.com or visit the League’s social media platforms, including Facebook (www.facebook.com/ushlhockey), twitter (www.twitter.com/ushl), and YouTube (www.youtube.com/ushlinteractive). Fans can also watch USHL action all season long, live or on-demand via FASTHockey (ushl.fasthockey.com).
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