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Around the USHL: Week 23

03/01/2016, 11:00am CST
By Kevin Meyers, USHL

Trio of NHL debuts, Kyle Connor remains stop NCAA scoring list and playoff contenders emerge from pretenders.


USHL IN THE NHL – Johnny Gaudreau (Dubuque Fighting Saints) now has at least one point in his last five games, including a three-point game on February 27th against the Ottawa Senators. He is now sixth in NHL scoring with 62 points (24 G, 38 A). Joe Pavelski (Waterloo Black Hawks), thanks to a two-point night against the Vancouver Canucks on February 28th, now has four points in his last five contests, and is eighth in the NHL with 27 goals, and ninth in the league with a +21 rating. Blake Wheeler (Green Bay Gamblers) also has four points in five games, and is ninth in the league with 38 points. John Gibson (Team USA) is tied for second in the NHL with a 2.10 goals against average. He has allowed only two goals in each of his last three starts, and he is 3-0-0 in those contests. A pair of USHL alumni skating for the Florida Panthers made their NHL debuts: Kyle Rau (Sioux Falls Stampede) and Mike Matheson (Dubuque Fighting Saints). Matheson was a 2012 first round draft pick while Rau was a 2011 third round pick, both of the Florida Panthers. Teddy Purcell (Cedar Rapids RoughRiders) will join the two in Florida for the playoff run after being acquired yesterday during the NHL Trade Deadline. Phoenix Copley (Des Moines Buccaneers) made his NHL debut with the St. Louis Blues.


USHL IN THE NCAA – Kyle Connor (Youngstown Phantoms), the Michigan Wolverines standout, now has 54 points on the season, tops among all college hockey players. His Michigan teammate Tyler Motte (Team USA) leads the nation with 29 goals. Another Wolverine, JT Compher (Team USA), sits with 36 assists, tops in college hockey. Andrew Poturalski (Cedar Rapids RoughRiders) is second in college hockey with 50 points. Alex Lyon (Omaha Lancers) still leads all of college hockey with a 1.51 GAA and a .941 SV%.


WEEKLY AWARD WINNERS – Karson Kuhlman (Dubuque Fighting Saints), Taylor Richart (Fargo Force), Dylan Gambrell (Dubuque Fighting Saints) and Jay Williams (Sioux Falls Stampede) swept NCHC weekly awards. For Gambrell, a second year NHL Draft eligible forward, it was his third consecutive week winning Rookie of the Week and fifth this season. Nick Schilkey (Green Bay Gamblers) and Kyle Connor (Youngstown Phantoms) won Big Ten Hockey Players of the Week. Trevor Mingoia (Tri-City Storm) and Joe Masonius (Team USA) received weekly honors from Hockey East.


WHERE THERE’S LIGHTNING… – Coming into Week 23 the Tri-City Storm were behind the Lincoln Stars in the Western Conference. Now, the Storm hold a one-point lead over the Stars, thanks to taking five of a possible six points in their three games last week. Last Tuesday, the Storm took a 4-1 decision over the Sioux City Musketeers. Jake Wahlin scored twice, and Nico Sturm added a goal of his own along with Wade Allison. Edmonton Oilers prospect John Marino and Mattias Goransson had two assists each, and Dayton Rasmussen won his third start between the pipes as a member of the Storm, turning 31 of 32 Musketeer shots away. Friday night, Tri-City knocked off Madison 3-0 at Viaero Event Center.  Carson Meyer, Dan Labosky, and Alex Limoges all found the back of the net in the win. Marino and Allison tallied a pair of helpers apiece, and Jake Kielly stopped all 30 shots he faced. The Storm picked up their final point of the weekend in a 3-2 shootout loss to Madison on Saturday. Despite being down 2-0 late in the game, Limoges and Max Humitz scored in the final 2:15 to send the game into a shootout. Despite falling to the Capitols, the one point was enough to vault Tri-City ahead of Lincoln, thanks to the recent surge by the Fargo Force who defeated Lincoln twice.

…THERE’S THUNDER – The Bloomington Thunder are causing a bit of separation between themselves and non-playoff teams in the Eastern Conference. The Thunder now sit five points ahead of the Youngstown Phantoms for the final playoff spot in the East, thanks in part to a three-win week. Jake Slaker scored the only goal of the game 3:57 into overtime in Bloomington’s 1-0 win at Team USA on Thursday. Wyatt Kalynuk and Brogan Rafferty added the assists on the overtime winner, and Hayden Lavigne stopped all 24 shots he saw for the shutout. On Friday night, the Thunder knocked off the aforementioned Phantoms 2-1 on Friday, thanks to goals from Slaker and Jake Durflinger. Once again, Lavigne stopped 24 shots in the win. Bloomington completed the trifecta on Saturday with a 10-1 offensive explosion. Slaker scored twice, Patrick Curry had two goals of his own, and Durflinger, Myles Cunningham, Alec Mehr, Tarek Baker, Logan Lambdin, and Blake Gober all added one goal each. Baker, Rafferty, Cunningham, Slaker, and Durflinger all had multiple assists, and Lavigne stopped 19 of 20 shots to earn his 20th win of the season.


THE FORCE IS STRONG – Fargo Force sit in sixth place, just three points back of a playoff spot thanks to back-to-back wins over then first place Lincoln Stars. Denis Smirnov grabbed USHL headlines scoring four goals in one game, and then added an assist. Riley Tufte scored in his first game back with the Force, while fellow rookie Blake Lizotte dished out four assists Friday. Austin Pooley scored twice in the 8-5 win. Goaltender Ryan Wischow stopped all 24 shots he faced Saturday for his 17th win of the year. Cole Gallant and Smirnov tallied the goals for Fargo. The Force are 6-4-0-0 in their last 10 games.


PITLICK NOT SLOWING DOWN – It seems that Rem Pitlick, the USHL’s scoring leader, is earning multi-point games every time he hits the ice in Muskegon. That’s exactly what happened last weekend. In a 3-2 overtime win over the Omaha Lancers on Friday, Pitlick scored the tying goal with 1:25 remaining in regulation, and then scored the game-winner with just 48 seconds remaining in overtime. Giovanni Carabelli added the other tally for Muskegon, and Joey Daccord stopped 37 of 39 shots in the victory. Pitlick scored his league-leading 33rd goal and added an assist to help the Lumberjacks to the weekend sweep and a 4-2 win over the Lancers on Saturday. Along with Pitlick, Grant Gabriele, Matej Paulovic, and Lucas Michaud added goals for the Lumberjacks. Gabriele also added a pair of assists, and Daccord stopped 46 of 48 shots to pick up his 17th victory of the season.  Pitlick now has a 19-game home point streak and a 13-game home goal-scoring streak.


HERE COME THE HAWKS – The Waterloo Black Hawks have now earned at least a point in each of their last six games, including taking five of a possible six over the weekend. In Friday’s 6-1 win over Sioux City, Jake Ryczek scored twice, and Michael Davies, Shane Bowers, Zach Yon and Marshall Moise all added one goal each. Cameron Orchard and Liam Pecararo added two assists apiece, and Cale Morris stopped 23 of 24 shots to pick up the win. Waterloo picked up a single point in a 3-2 overtime loss at Cedar Rapids on Saturday. Bowers and Nick Swaney scored the goals for Waterloo in the game. Davies and Ryczek each tallied a pair of helpers, and Garrett Metcalf turned 19 of 22 shots aside in the game. The Black Hawks rebounded with a 5-2 home win over the Des Moines Buccaneers on Sunday. Waterloo saw five different goal scorers in the win – Bowers, Yon, Georgs Golovkovs, Ronnie Hein, and Carolina Hurricanes prospect David Cotton. Yuri Terao added three assists, and Morris stopped 14 of 16 shots in the win. Waterloo is now 3-0-2-1 in their last six games, and sit with 49 points, tied for third place in the Western Conference with the Omaha Lancers.


SMOOTH RIDERS – The Cedar Rapids RoughRiders just keep on winning. On Friday night, Will Garin and Ross Colton scored the goals in a 2-0 road shutout of the Chicago Steel. Ben Blacker stopped all 31 Steel shots he faced in the victory. In the aforementioned 3-2 overtime win over Waterloo on Saturday, Garin, Colton, and Jack Ahcan scored for the Riders. Five different players added an assist, and Blacker stopped 23 of 25 shots to pick up win number 26 on the season. Cedar Rapids is still atop the USHL, two points clear of second place Dubuque in the Eastern Conference, and at least seven points clear of anyone in the Western Conference. The Roughriders have now won their last three games, and are 7-3-0-0 in their last 10 games.


Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the USHL celebrates its 14th season as the nation's only Tier I junior hockey league in 2015-16.  A record 37 players were chosen in the 2015 NHL Draft and more than 375 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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