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Around the USHL: Week 26

03/22/2016, 4:00pm CDT

End of season NCAA awards, NHL alumni update and Clark Cup Playoffs news around the league.


USHL Alumni in NHL – Joe Pavelski (Waterloo Black Hawks) has three points in his last three games, including a two-point night on March 19 against the New York Rangers. He also had a goal on March 20 in a game against the Arizona Coyotes. He is ninth in the NHL with 69 points, fourth in goals with 34, and tied for fifth with a +28 rating along with San Jose teammate Joe Thornton. Johnny Gaudreau (Dubuque Fighting Saints) continues to thrive in his second season in the league. The Calgary forward has five points in his last five games, and is seventh in the league in scoring with 71 points. Blake Wheeler (Green Bay Gamblers) now has one assist in four of his last five games and is tied for seventh among all players with 44 helpers on the season.


USHL Alumni in NCAA – Kyle Connor (Youngstown Phamtoms) was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Big Ten Hockey Tournament. He was also named to the Big Ten All-Tournament Team along with Steve Racine (Chicago Steel), Zach Werenski (Team USA), J.T. Compher (Team USA), and Tyler Sheehy (Youngstown Phantoms). USHL alumni swept the Hockey East All-Rookie Team, as Casey Fitzgerald (Team USA), Charlie McAvoy (Team USA), Bobby Nardella (Tri-City Storm), Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson (Omaha Lancers), Maxim Letunov (Youngstown Phantoms), and Colin White (Team USA) were all named to the squad. Steve Santini (Team USA) won Best Defensive Defenseman in Hockey East, Sam Herr (Green Bay Gamblers) took home Best Defensive Forward, Joe Gambardella (Des Moines Buccaneers) was honored with the Hockey East Sportmanship Award., and  Andrew Poturalski (Cedar Rapids RoughRiders) took home the Hockey East scoring championship.  Nolan Stevens (Team USA) and Adam Gaudette (Cedar Rapids RoughRiders) took home Hockey East weekly awards. Mikey Eyssimont (Sioux Falls Stampede), Dominic Toninato (Fargo Force), Nick Schmaltz (Green Bay Gamblers), Ethan Prow (Des Moines Buccaneers), and Charlie Lindgren (Sioux Falls Stampede) were named to the NCHC Frozen Faceoff All-Tournament Team. Darren Smith (Madison Capitols) was named WCHA Final Five Tournament MVP as well as WCHA Defensive Player of the Week. Landon Smith (Chicago Steel), Gavin Bayreuther (Fargo Force), and Connor Clifton (Team USA) were all named to the ECAC All-Tournament Team.  Alexander Kuqali (Sioux City Musketeers) and Mike Rotolo (Cedar Rapids RoughRiders) were named to the Atlantic Hockey All-Tournament Team.


Eastern Playoff Picture Taking Shape – The top three teams in the Eastern Conference– the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, Dubuque Fighting Saints, and Green Bay Gamblers - have officially clinched spots in the 2016 Clark Cup Playoffs. Cedar Rapids picked up at least a point in all three games they played over the past week, including a win over the Saints on Friday, while Dubuque won their other two matchups.  Friday night’s contest between the two teams was hard fought and evenly matched, but Callahan Burke scored 8:17 into the third period to give Cedar Rapids a 2-1 victory and made them the first team to clinch a playoff spot. Hugh McGing scored the other goal for the RoughRiders, and Ben Blacker turned 23 of 24 Dubuque shots aside to pick up the victory. In addition to that victory, the RoughRiders took three of a possible four points from the Green Bay Gamblers on Saturday and Sunday. One of the points was earned via a 3-2 overtime loss on Saturday, a game in which John Snodgrass and Hugh McGing lit the lamp for Cedar Rapids. Ryan Blankemeier picked up the game-winning goal for the Gamblers. On Sunday, Mark Carlson’s club responded with their second 2-1 victory of the week. Matt Filipe scored his 19th goal of the season, Zac Robbins picked up his sixth tally, and Blacker turned 34 of 35 shots away for his 31st victory of the season. As for the Fighting Saints, they earned a pair of 5-2 victories over the Bloomington Thunder and Waterloo Black Hawks. Five different players scored in the win over Bloomington – Casey Johnson, Nathan Sucese, Evan Smith, William Knierim, and Zach Solow. Mitchell Smith tallied three assists, and Jaxon Castor earned the win between the pipes, his seventh of the year, by stopping 19 of 21 shots. Smith and Sucese scored in the Saturday win over Waterloo along with Gordon Green, Spenser Young, and Petter Makitalo. Green also had two assists in the game, and this time it was Hunter Miska getting the win between the pipes. Miska stopped 21 of 23 shots to pick up his 28th victory of the season and clinch a playoff spot for his team. As for the Gamblers, they picked up points in two of three games over the weekend, including the shootout win over Cedar Rapids on Saturday. Green Bay picked up its first point of the weekend in a 4-3 shootout loss at Madison on Friday. Jack Poehling, Marc Michaelis, and Josh Dunne all scored in the game, while Kevin Reich stopped 21 of 24 shots through 67 minutes to pick up a point. In the Saturday win over the league leaders, Nick Poehling, Sam Saliba scored in regulation, while Blankemeier picked up the aforementioned game-winner. Andrew Peeke had two assists, and Adam Huska stopped 25 shots on 27 attempts for his 22nd win of the season. Huska continues to lead the league with a 1.80 GAA and a .933 SV%.  With the three points, Green Bay just sits one back of Dubuque for second place in the Eastern Conference.


Thunder Rolling In – Speaking of Bloomington, they are very close to clinching a playoff spot of their own and locking in the four playoff teams in the Eastern Conference. The Thunder picked up a pair of wins over the Lincoln Stars after falling on Thursday to Dubuque. Logan Lambdin had two goals in a 6-2 home win on Friday. Wyatt Kalynuk, Vladislav Dzhioshvili, Jake Slaker, and Blake Gober also scored for Bloomington. Jeremy Davies and Steve Merl had two helpers a piece, and Logan Halladay stopped all but two of the 30 shots he saw to earn the win. Bloomington completed the sweep of the Stars with a 3-2 shootout win on Saturday. Sean Harrison and Patrick Curry scored the regulation goals for Dennis Williams’ squad, and both Slaker and Tarek Baker scored in the shootout to give the Thunder two points. With the two wins, Bloomington now sits just one point behind Green Bay for third place in the Eastern Conference, and the Thunder can clinch a playoff spot with a win on Friday over the Dubuque Fighting Saints, or a Youngstown regulation loss.


Storm Sitting Pretty – Because of the tight race for playoff position in the Western Conference, only the Tri-City Storm can clinch a playoff spot in their next game. The Storm got to this point by way of wins on the weekend over the aforementioned Buccaneers as well as the Sioux City Musketeers. Six different players lit the lamp in the 6-3 win over Des Moines on Friday – Reilly Walsh, Paul Washe, Jake Wahlin, Carson Meyer, Brandon Duhaime, and Ben Taylor, whose goal was the first of his USHL career. Three different players tallied two assists – Duhaime, Walker Duehr, and Nico Sturm, and Jake Kielly stopped 19 of 22 shots to pick up the victory.  Duehr and Wahlin scored along with Max Humitz and Joseph Cipolione in the 4-1 win over the Musketeers on Saturday. Dayton Rasmussen earned the win for Bill Muckalt’s club, as he stopped all but one of the 36 Sioux City shots he faced. Tri-City sits atop the Western Conference by three points, have earned at least one point in each of their last 12 games, and, if they defeat the Des Moines Buccaneers on Friday night, they will be the first team in the Western Conference to clinch a playoff spot.


Fargo Forcing Way Into Playoff Race – The Fargo Force have been on quite a roll lately. They are 8-2 in their last 10 games, including two wins in three games over the weekend. Niko Hildenbrand and William Graber scored on Friday, and Robbie Beydoun stopped all 25 shots he faced in a 2-0 shutout win at Sioux City. It was Beydoun’s seventh win and second shutout of the season. After falling 3-2 to Omaha on Saturday, the Force responded with a 3-2 win of their own over the Lancers at Ralston Arena. Jack Adams, Jere Astren, and Jake McLaughlin scored in the win, and Ryan Wischow picked up the victory between the pipes, as he stopped 27 of the 29 Omaha shots he faced for his 21st win of the season. Fargo now sits all alone in third place in the Western Conference, but just a single point ahead of fourth place Waterloo.


Paulovic Pads the Scoresheet – What a weekend it was for Matej Paulovic of the Muskegon Lumberjacks. In his team’s game on Thursday against the Waterloo Black Hawks, the Dallas Stars prospect had two goals and two assists. His first assist set the Lumberjacks career record with 67, joining fellow Lumberjack and league scoring leader Rem Pitlick, who had two goals and two assists of his own in the game. Pitlick’s first goal of the game made him the fourth player in USHL history to score 40 goals in a season. Paulovic had two points (1 G, 1 A) in Muskegon’s 3-2 win over Youngstown on Friday, and two goals in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Phantoms on Saturday. He now has 18 goals and 26 assists on the season.  


Tight In The West – While the playoff race in the Eastern Conference is fairly settled at this point, it is an entirely different story out west. Tri-City is in a comfortable position with 67 points, and the Lincoln Stars are only three points back with 64. But, that’s where the fun begins. As mentioned before, Fargo currently sits in third with 58 points, but Waterloo and Sioux Falls are nipping at the Force’s heels with 57 and 56 points, respectively. Despite being in 6th place, Omaha is only six points out of a playoff spot with 51 points, and the Des Moines Buccaneers are only nine points out of a playoff spot. With still three weeks remaining in the season, there is sure to be plenty of excitement as the playoff race continues to heat up.


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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