Photo by Rena Laverty
It was a wild night of USHL action on Saturday night. The lone unbeaten team in the league stayed perfect after a win, an NHL Draft prospect scored the first two goals of his USHL career 14 seconds apart and several players already selected by NHL teams had big nights. Below are five takeaways from Saturday's USHL action.
1. Team USA Stays Perfect
Coming into Saturday night's game, Team USA was the lone unbeaten team in the USHL, following losses by Central Illinois and Lincoln on Friday night. Unlike those two clubs, Team USA remains undefeated and moved to 3-0-0-0 on the year thanks to a 4-1 home victory over the Green Bay Gamblers. The U17s were led by first period tallies from Jack Hughes and Ryder Rolston as well as two third period goals from Cole Caufield. Boston College commit Spencer Knight moved to 2-0-0-0 on the season by stopping 38 of the 39 shots he faced and sports an impressive 2.00 GAA and .943 SV% in his appearances. The U17s will take on Green Bay once again on Sunday afternoon as they look to remain unblemished.
2. Steel Storylines
The Chicago Steel defeated the Madison Capitols 7-2 at Fox Valley Ice Arena, and the game was filled with interesting moments. Jack Dugan found the back of the net again, giving the Vegas Golden Knights prospect six tallies on the year. He has scored in every game he has played this year and is tied for the USHL led with six goals and eight points (6G, 2A). Blake McLaughlin also had himself quite a night, scoring his first two USHL goals just 14 seconds apart late in the third period. However, the thing that will be remembered about this game is the bizarre goal the Steel scored in the third period. The Steel committed a penalty, sending Madison goaltender Dryden McKay off for an extra attacker on the delayed call. The Capitols controlled the puck in the offensive zone and fired a slap shot from the point that was blocked by the Steel's Robert Mastrosimone and rolled all the way down the ice and into the empty Madison net. Tyler Gratton was given credit for the goal, the first goal he scored since scoring the series-clinching overtime winner in Game 5 of the 2017 Clark Cup Final. The fans who watched the game at Fox Valley Ice Arena on Saturday were treated to quite a contest.
3. RoughRiders Run Weekend
If you looked at the schedule before Friday night, it looked like a tough weekend for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, who were set to host a pair of unbeatens in the Lincoln Stars on Friday night and the Central Illinois Flying Aces on Saturday night. Mark Carlson's team didn't seem to mind, however, as they knocked off Central Illinois 5-3 on Saturday , a night after defeating the Stars. Tyler Jubenvill and Neil Shea scored the first goals of their USHL careers, while Roman Ahcan, Dalton Messina and Graham Slaggert also found the back of the net. Blake Pietila picked up his first career USHL win between the pipes by stopping 31 of the 34 shots he faced, despite the RoughRiders being down 3-0 at one point in the contest. Cedar Rapids has three wins on the year, a season after it took the RoughRiders until Dec. 3 to pick up their third victory of the season. Early in the season, there's plenty of reason for RoughRiders fans to be excited about this team's potential.
4. Larsson Leads Storm
The Tri-City Storm swept their two games on the weekend, knocking off the Lincoln Stars at home 3-0 to move to 4-1-0-0 and vault to the top of the Western Conference standings. Filip Forsmark scored a pair of power play goals, the first two goals of his USHL career, and Joey Cipollone added his second tally of the season. But the story of the game was Detroit Red Wings prospect Filip Larsson, who stopped all 25 shots he faced for the first shutout of his USHL career and giving him 50 saves on 51 shots for the weekend. Larsson has started each of the five Storm contests this year and sports a 4-1-0-0 record, a 1.62 GAA and .936 SV%. If Larsson can keep this solid play up over the course of the season, it could spell big things in Kearney.
5. Bucs Back to .500
Despite coming into the weekend at 1-3-0-0, the talk around the Des Moines Buccaneers was that their record through four games was not an indication of the talent on the team or how capable they are of being a successful team in 2017-18. Des Moines proved that right over the weekend with two victories, including a 3-1 triumph in Sioux City on Saturday, to move them to 3-3-0-0 and back to .500 on the season. Julian Napravnik opened the scoring halfway through the first period, while Chase Ellingson added his first two goals of the year by scoring once in both the second and third periods. The lone goal scorer for the Musketeers was Lucas Bahn, who tallied the first goal of his USHL career. That was the only puck that found its way past Bucs netminder Ryan Snowden, who stopped 31 of the 32 shots he faced for his first USHL victory.
Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the USHL celebrates its 16th season as the nation's only Tier I junior hockey league in 2017-18. 30 or more players from the USHL have been selected in five 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.