USHL Alumni in NHL – Joe Pavelski (Waterloo Black Hawks) has six points in his last five games, including a pair of two-point games on back-to-back nights against the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks. The Sharks captain is sixth in the league with 76 points. He also is tied for seventh with a +26. Johnny Gaudreau (Dubuque Fighting Saints) had a pair of goals on April 2nd against the Edmonton Oilers and now ranks one behind Pavelski with 75 points, tied with Washington’s Evgeny Kuznetsov. Blake Wheeler (Green Bay Gamblers) has at least one point in each of his last five games, including a three-point night (2 G, 1 A) on April 1st against the Chicago Blackhawks. His 50 assists are good for fifth in the entire NHL.
Anderson Cup Race Tightening Up – Coming into the weekend, it looked like the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders had the inside track to the Anderson Cup for the best regular season record in the USHL, as they had six-point lead on Green Bay with the Gamblers having a game in hand. However, the race has tightened up considerably between Cedar Rapids and the Green Bay Gamblers for the trophy, after Dubuque took a pair of games from Cedar Rapids and the Gamblers won all three of their games on the weekend. Green Bay started off their three-game set with a 7-2, 2-0 sweep of Team USA at the Resch Center. Jack Poehling netted a pair of goals in the Friday win, and Luke Bafia, Sam Saliba, Ryan Blankemeier, Jared Spooner, and Matt Cassidy all had one tally each. Both Jack and Nick Poehling had a pair of assists along with Blankemeier and Marc Michaelis, and Adam Huska stopped 16 of 18 shots to earn his 25th victory between the pipes. The recent UConn commit continues to lead the league with a 1.79 GAA and a .932 SV%. Jack Poehling and Saliba scored in the 2-0 shutout win on Saturday. Kevin Reich stopped all 27 shots he faced for his 11th win of the year. Green Bay has now won their last four games, and they’ve taken points in eight of their last 10 to move within two points of the RoughRiders for the top spot in the USHL. Cedar Rapids closes out the year with games at Waterloo and Sioux City, while the Gamblers finish the season with a weekend set at Lincoln.
Dubuque Dominates League-Leading RoughRiders – As mentioned before, Cedar Rapids needed three points to clinch the Anderson Cup, but thanks to two great efforts from the Dubuque Fighting Saints, who earned a 10-2, 5-2 home-and-home sweep of the RoughRiders, they were unable to secure the Championship. The Saints put on a show for their home crowd on Friday, as they scored six first period goals en route to the 10-2 victory. Nine Dubuque players had multiple points in the game – Keegan Ford (0 G, 2 A), Gordon Green (1 G, 3 A), Casey Johnson (0 G, 2 A), Nathan Sucese (2 G, 0 A), Michael O’Leary (1 G, 1 A), Dallas Gerads (0 G, 2 A), Petter Makitalo (1 G, 1 A), Willie Knierim (0 G, 3 A), and Zach Solow (1 G, 1 A). Hunter Miska stopped 18 of 20 shots to earn the victory in goal. Mitchell Smith scored twice in the 5-2 win on Saturday. Knierim, Gerads, and Shane Kavanagh also scored in the victory. Miska picked up win number 30 by stopping 21 of 23 shots in the game. Dubuque currently sits in third place in the east. They are tied with Bloomington (76 points each) but hold the ROW tiebreaker over the Thunder (37 to 36).
Storm Seal Top Spot in the West – After the Tri-City Storm clinched a playoff berth with a 6-2 win over Sioux City on Tuesday, all that was left to solidify was their playoff seeding. The Storm needed three points to clinch the #1 seed in the Western Conference, and they did so with a 4-1 home win over Fargo on Saturday night that followed a 4-3 overtime loss to the Force on Friday. Dan Labosky scored a pair of goals in the Saturday win, and Tri-City also saw tallies from Wade Allison and Jake Wahlin. Allison and Alex Limoges picked up a two assists each, and Jake Kielly turned aside all but one of the 25 shots he faced to move his record on the season to 21-6-5-3. With the three points on the weekend, Tri-City will cruise into the Clark Cup Playoffs as the top team in the Western Conference.
Other Western Playoff Battles – While Tri-City has secured its playoff berth and seeding, the rest of the teams in the hunt in the Western Conference are looking to accomplish the same. While they have not officially “clinched” playoff berths, Lincoln and Waterloo have been guaranteed a playoff spot due to Sioux Falls and Fargo playing one another twice in the final three games (the USHL will not announce a "clinch" until either the Stars or Black Hawks have mathematically secured their top-four position), which means the weekend series between the Stampede and the Force will go a long way in deciding the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Fargo head coach and general manager Cary Eades will be going head-to-head for the fourth and final playoff spot with his former team this weekend. And just to prove how tight the race is in the Western Conference, either team could finish as high as second or as low as fifth and out of the Clark Cup Playoffs. The battle for playoff berths and seeding out west is going to come right down to the wire.
Pitlick the Point Producer – Once again, it was just another weekend for Muskegon’s Rem Pitlick. The league’s leading scorer had three goals and four assists over the last week, and his point total now sits at 88 (46 G, 42 A). Those 46 goals and 88 points continue to lead the league by a significant margin. He had a goal and two assists on Thursday at Team USA and on Friday at Madison, and then he added another tally in the second game against the Capitols on Saturday. He is currently on a five-game goal streak dating back to March 25th and an 11-game point streak dating back to March 5th. He has two more games (at Chicago, at Des Moines) over the weekend to try to reach the 50-goal plateau, which has only been accomplish once in Tier 1 history.
Black Hawks Bullying Way into Playoff Position – Speaking of Waterloo, they have been on fire as of late. They are 7-3 in their last 10 games and on a three-game winning streak, all of which came this past week. The offense was on a roll as well, as the Black Hawks scored 16 goals in those three games. Zach Yon scored twice in a 5-0 shutout of Des Moines on Tuesday. Nick Swaney, Ryan Lohin and Sam McCormick also found the back of the net in the win. Jake Ryczek earned a pair of assists, and Garrett Metcalf stopped all 33 shots that came his way to pick up his first shutout in a Waterloo uniform. McCormick found the back of the net twice in a 5-4 road win at Lincoln on Friday. Ryczek, Shane Bowers and Liam Pecararo were the other goals scorers for Waterloo. Lohin had two assists, and Metcalf made 20 saves for his second win in four days. The Black Hawks completed the trifecta on Saturday with a 6-4 home win over Sioux City. Yuri Terao was the star of the game, as the Tochigi, Japan native scored four goals, moving his total to 17 on the season. Swaney and Georgs Golovkovs added the other tallies, Bowers had four assists, and Michael Davies, Mikey Anderson and Ben Newhouse all had two helpers each. Cale Morris turned 26 of 30 shots aside to move his win total to 20. Waterloo is currently tied with Lincoln for second place in the Western Conference.
Thunder Keeps Rolling – The winning streak for the Bloomington Thunder is now at five games, and Dennis Williams’ club, just like last week, is 9-1-0-0 in their last 10 outings. The Thunder seem to be the hottest team in the USHL, and are clicking on all cylinders at exactly the right time. Ethan Somoza scored the only goal of the game in a 1-0 win at in-state rival Chicago on Friday in the Thunder’s only game of the weekend. Logan Halladay picked up the assist on Somoza’s goal, and stopped all 30 Steel shots he faced for his third shutout of the year. The Thunder currently sit in fourth place in the Eastern Conference behind Cedar Rapids and Green Bay, but can finish as high as second place. Bloomington closes out the year with two games this weekend – at Madison on Friday and home for the Chicago Steel on Saturday.
Eastern Conference Seeding Battle Heats Up – While all four Clark Cup Playoffs teams in the Eastern Conference have already been determined, the seedings for Cedar Rapids, Green Bay, Dubuque, and Bloomington are still up for grabs. The RoughRiders and Gamblers are the only two teams that are still in the hunt for the #1 seed in the east as well as the Anderson Cup, and Cedar Rapids can finish no lower than second place. However, the Gamblers, Fighting Saints, and Thunder can all move anywhere between second and fourth place in the standings, in addition to Green Bay still being in contention for the Anderson Cup and #1 seed. It’s sure to be an exciting final week of the regular season.
Clinching Scenarios – The following are playoff clinching scenarios for Lincoln and Waterloo as well as Anderson Cup clinching scenarios, as of Monday, April 4th.
Tuesday, April 5
While they have not yet officially “clinched” playoff berths (as of Monday, April 4th), Lincoln and Waterloo have been guaranteed a playoff spot due to Sioux Falls and Fargo playing one another twice in the final three games. The USHL will not announce a "clinch" until either the Stars or Black Hawks have mathematically clinched.
Waterloo & Sioux Falls can mathematically tie in regulation/overtime wins (1st tie-breaker), are tied in head-to-head records (2nd tie-breaker), total league wins (3rd tie breaker), and league losses (4th tie breaker) after a Sioux Falls overtime/shootout loss. Goal differential (5th tie breaker) cannot be determined until the end of season, thus Waterloo cannot clinch on Tuesday in the event of a Sioux Falls overtime/shootout loss.
Friday, April 8
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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