Photos by Hickling Images
Bloomington Thunder vs. Green Bay Gamblers
Friday: 7:05 EST (HD)
This matchup features a pair of teams tied for fifth place in the Eastern Conference standings as they look to gain ground on the teams ahead of them and try to establish playoff positioning. The Thunder have been playing well as of late, going 6-3-1-0 in their last 10 games, while the Gamblers have salvaged at least one point in six of their last 10 contests.
Green Bay captain Jared Spooner will look to vault his team ahead in the standings in the final three months of the season. He currently leads the team with 27 points (11G, 16A) in 32 games this season. Green Bay owns the best power play percentage in the USHL this season (24.1%) and will look to use that weapon to their advantage down the stretch. The Thunder will look to veterans Vladislav Dzhioshvili (25 PTS), Ethan Somoza (22 PTS) and captain Tarek Baker (18 PTS) to lead them through this critical stretch of their season.
Both's teams blue lines feature some prominent names. Wyatt Kalynuk (4G, 17A) provides offensive spark for Bloomington, as he is third among all USHL defensemen in scoring, and Ben Mirageas (0G, 9A) recently represented the Thunder at the USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game. For Green Bay, Connor Mackey has been a star on the back end for the Gamblers. He is second on his team and among all USHL defensemen in scoring with 25 points (3G, 22A), and he will look to lead the way on defense for the Gamblers.
This matchup will feature two prominent goaltenders in the USHL. Bloomington's Gabriel Mollot-Hill has been quietly playing extremely well between the pipes for the Thunder. He holds an 8-5-1-1 record this season and in the top-10 among all USHL goaltenders in GAA (2.17) and SV% (.923). Maksim Zhukov looks to be the favorite to start in net for the Gamblers. The NHL Central Scouting ranked netminder leads all rookie goalies in GAA (2.50) and is second among rookies in SV% (.903). He also recently participated in the USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game.
Green Bay has won three of the first four matchups between the two teams, including both games at the Resch Center on Oct. 15 and Jan. 4. It will be an entertaining matchup as both of these teams look to move up the Eastern Conference standings and into the playoff picture.
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Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the USHL celebrates its 15th season as the nation's only Tier I junior hockey league in 2016-17. 30 or more players from the USHL have been selected in four consecutive NHL Drafts, and more than 400 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.