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Around the USHL: Week 24

03/10/2016, 12:30pm CST
By Kevin Meyers, USHL

USHL alumni named to World Cup rosters, NHL and NCAA success, and news around the league.


USHL WORLD BOUND: 17 USHL alumni were named to the 2016 World Cup of Hockey rosters for teams Czech Republic, Europe, North America and USA. Notable alumni include Montreal Canadiens Max Pacioretty (Sioux City Musketeers), San Jose Sharks captain Joe Pavelski (Waterloo Black Hawks), Calgary Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau (Dubuque Fighting Saints) and Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson (TeamUSA).


USHL IN THE NHL: Despite only having one point in his last five games, Johnny Gaudreau (Dubuque Fighting Saints) is tied with Joe Thornton for seventh in the NHL with 63 points. The former Boston College Eagle has 24 goals and 39 assists on the season. Pavelski is one behind Gaudreau with 62 points, thanks in part to six points in his last five games, including a pair of multiple-point games on back-to-back nights against the Vancouver Canucks and Montreal Canadiens on February 28 and 29. Pavelski has 30 goals and 32 assists so far this year. Blake Wheeler (Green Bay Gamblers) has an assist in three of his last five games, giving him 41 on the season and putting him 9th among all NHL players in assists. Jack Eichel (Team USA) is second in NHL rookie scoring, with former teammate Dylan Larkin (Team USA) in fourth. Eichel and Larkin are both second in team scoring for their respective clubs. Gaudreau leads Calgary in scoring, Kyle Okposo (Des Moines Buccaneers) is tied for the scoring lead with the Islanders, Pavelski leads San Jose and Wheeler is tops in Winnipeg. 17 NHL teams have a USHL alumni in their top-5 in scoring this season. Head coaches Jon Cooper (Green Bay Gamblers) and Jeff Blashill (Indiana Ice) currently have their teams in playoff spots, while Dave Hakstol (Sioux City Musketeers) is one game back.


USHL IN THE NCAA: Winnipeg Jets prospect Kyle Connor (Youngstown Phantoms) still leads all of college hockey with 57 points. His +34 rating is tied with fellow Michigan teammate JT Compher (Team USA) for the best mark in the nation, and Connor also is first with a points/game mark of 1.78. Compher’s 37 assists lead all players. Tyler Motte (Team USA), who is a teammate of both Connor and Compher for the Wolverines has 29 goals on the season and 0.91 goals/game, both of which are tops in the nation. Andrew Poturalski (Cedar Rapids RoughRiders) is five points behind Connor in second place and recently signed his ELC with the Carolina Hurricanes. The nation’s top three goaltenders are all USHL alumni: Alex Lyon (Omaha Lancers), Thatcher Demko (Team USA) and Cam Johnson (Waterloo Black Hawks) sit atop the NCAA in save percentage. Demko, a Vancouver Canucks prospect, was a former teammate of Lyon with the Omaha Lancers. Lyon and Johnson are expected to be highly sought after NHL free agents.


WEEKLY AWARDS: Nick Schilkey (Green Bay Gamblers) and Jake Hildebrand (Cedar Rapids RoughRiders) took home Big Ten weekly honors. It was the second straight week where Schilkey was named the Big Ten First Star of the Week. Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Anthony Angello (Omaha Lancers) was the lone USHL alumnus to earn an ECAC weekly award. Anaheim Ducks prospect Kevin Roy (Lincoln Stars), 2016 NHL Draft top prospect Charlie McAvoy (Team USA), and Danny Tirone (Cedar Rapids RoughRiders) swept the Hockey East weekly honors.


ROUGHRIDERS ROMPING: By all accounts, it was a perfect weekend for the league-leading Cedar Rapids RoughRiders. Mark Carlson’s club swept all three games they played last week as well as the CCM USHL Players of the Week honors. The week started off with a bang for Cedar Rapids, who took down the Muskegon Lumberjacks 8-0 on Wednesday night. Callahan Burke and Matt Filipe scored two goals each with Justin Cole, Hugh McGing, Sam Sternschein, and David Nemecek also tallying for Cedar Rapids. McGing and Ross Colton dished out three assists apiece, Taylor Brierely had two helpers, and Ben Blacker stopped all 23 shots he faced to pick up his fourth shutout of the season. The weekend saw a 4-2, 3-0 sweep by Cedar Rapids over Team USA in Plymouth. In Friday’s 4-2 victory, four different RoughRiders found the back of the net – Burke, Colton, Cole, and defenseman Jack Ahcan. Sternschein earned a pair of assists, and Blacker turned 21 of 23 shots aside for his second victory of the week. The sweep was completed with the shutout on Saturday, where Ahcan, Filipe, and Colton tallied Cedar Rapids’ three goals. Blacker stopped all 31 shots he faced for his third win and second shutout of the week. His 31-save performance also marked his fifth shutout and league-leading 29th win on the season. Colton was named Forward of the Week, Ahcan received Defenseman of the Week honors, and Blacker took home the Goaltender of the Week. Cedar Rapids has a firm grip on top of both the Eastern Conference and the race for the Anderson Cup. The RoughRiders currently sit with 71 points, five better than the Dubuque Fighting Saints, their closest competition in the Eastern Conference, and 10 points clear of the two teams tied atop the Western Conference – the Tri-City Storm and the Lincoln Stars. They have also won their last six games and are 8-2-0-0 in their last 10 outings.


BATTLE IN NEBRASKA: Last week, the Tri-City Storm held a slim one-point lead over the Lincoln Stars for the top spot in the Western Conference. Now, the two teams are tied with 61 points each, thanks to a four-point weekend from Lincoln and a three-point weekend for the Storm. Lincoln kicked off their weekend set by doubling up the Des Moines Buccaneers 6-3 at the Ice Box, despite a pair of goals from the Buccaneers’ Oliver Celec. Six different players found the back of the net for the Stars in the win: Ludvig Hoff, Collin Peters, Trevor Hamilton, Jack Badini, Grant Jozefek, and Ethen Frank. Ryan Jones and Biagio Lerario picked up a pair of assists each, Peters and Hoff added helpers of their own to give them multiple-point nights, and Patrik Virtanen stopped 27 of 30 Buccaneers shots for his 14th victory on the season. Chris Hartsburg’s club completed the weekend sweep thanks to a 5-1 home win over the Fargo Force on Saturday night. Hamilton, who had a goal and assist on the night and now has at least one point in 7 of the 10 games he’s played with Lincoln since coming over from Chicago, Hoff, Will D’Orsi, Mike Gillespie, and Ryan Poehling all found the back of the net in the win. Tanner Laczynski had two assists in the game, and he also has at least one point in 7 of the 10 games he’s played for the Stars since the trade with the Steel. Five of those seven games have seen multiple-point outings from the Ohio State commit. Peyton Jones turned 26 of 27 Force shots away for win #16 on the season. The Stars are now 7-3-0-0 in their last 10 games. As for Tri-City, they started their three-point weekend with a 4-0 shutout of the Omaha Lancers at Ralston Arena on Friday. Paul Washe, Wade Allison, Brandon Duhaime and Dan Labosky all scored one goal each in the win. Jake Kielly stopped all 26 shots he saw for his 18th win and fourth shutout of the season. On Saturday, despite two goals from Walker Duehr, the Storm fell 4-3 in a shootout to the Sioux City Musketeers at Tyson Events Center. Alex Steeves picked up the game-winning goal in the shootout for the Musketeers. Despite the shootout loss, the Storm were able to pick up three of four points on the weekend, good enough to keep them tied with Lincoln atop the West. The Storm have also picked up at least a point in each of their last nine games, going 6-0-1-2 in that stretch.


WILD, WILD WEST: The race for the final playoff position in the Western Conference is as close as ever. The Fargo Force and the Sioux Falls Stampede are currently tied for the fourth and final spot with 50 points each. The Omaha Lancers sit in sixth place with 49 points, just one point of out playoff position, and even seventh place Des Moines is still very much in the hunt, as the Buccaneers remain only four points out of playoff position. As for how each of those teams fared over the past week, Des Moines knocked off Sioux Falls 4-2 on Wednesday but dropped their last two games – 6-3 to Lincoln on Friday and 3-1 to Fargo on Sunday. Omaha dropped a 4-0 decision to Tri-City on Friday and fell 4-0 to Waterloo on Saturday. Fargo knocked off Sioux City on Friday and picked up the aforementioned 3-1 win over Des Moines on Sunday, and Sioux Falls picked up three points on the weekend thanks to a pair of games with the Dubuque Fighting Saints that ended with a shootout. Despite falling 3-2 on Friday, the Stampede responded with a 4-3 shootout victory on Saturday.


HOT CHEESE: The Green Bay Gamblers currently sit in third place in the Eastern Conference, thanks to a three-game winning streak, including two victories over the last week, and points in seven of their last 10 contests. Eleven different Gamblers found the scoresheet in Friday’s 4-1 win over the Muskegon Lumberjacks at Resch Center. Nick Poehling, Jared Spooner, Ryan Smith, and Ryan Blankemeier all scored a goal for Green Bay. Christopher Grando picked up a pair of assists, and Adam Huska continues to be an ace up the Gamblers’ sleeve in goal, as he stopped 21 of 22 shots to pick up the win. The New York Rangers prospect leads the league with a .933 SV% and a 1.82 GAA. The Gamblers, or Cheese as they renamed themselves on Saturday, completed the sweep with a hard-fought 4-3 (OT) victory. Despite outshooting Muskegon 46-22 through 60 minutes, it took an overtime goal from Jack Poehling with just 44 seconds remaining in the extra frame to give Green Bay the full four points on the weekend. Smith, Grant Frederic, and Joey Marooney scored the regulation goals for Green Bay. Kevin Reich stopped 21 of 24 shots to earn his ninth victory of the year. Green Bay currently sits in third place in the Eastern Conference with 64 points, two points behind second place Dubuque.


THUNDER STORMING: The Bloomington Thunder have also been dominant as of late. Dennis Williams’ squad has won their last five games, including a pair of victories over the weekend, and, just like Green Bay, is 7-1-1-1 in their last 10 outings. Logan Lambdin scored twice in Bloomington’s 5-1 victory over Team USA on Friday. Wyatt Kalynuk, Mitchell Chaffee, and Blake Gober also scored in the win. Tarek Baker had four assists, Jeremy Davies had two helpers, and Hayden Lavigne earned his 20st victory of the season with a 21 save performance. The Thunder completed the sweep on Saturday with a 2-1 win over Team USA, thanks to goals from Chaffee and Jake Durflinger. Lavigne stopped 20 of 21 shots to earn his second victory on the weekend. Bloomington still sits two points back of Green Bay with 62 points, but they have a firm grip on playoff position, as they are five points clear of fifth place Youngstown for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.


WATER WHO?: The Waterloo Black Hawks made arguably the biggest move of the USHL Trade Deadline acquiring two top-20 USHL scorers for a run at the Clark Cup Playoffs. New faces Sam McCormick and Ryan Lohin both picked up their first points as Black Hawks over the weekend, joining former Madison teammate and Anaheim Ducks prospect Garrett Metcalf who is 1-1-1-1 in his first four games with the Hawks. Metcalf has helped give Cale Morris some much needed rest, as the University of Notre Dame commit has now won his last three consecutive starts. Waterloo sits in third position with 51 points and a 23-19-2-3 record. 


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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