Below are five takeaways from Saturday's USHL games:
5. Bucs Bounce Back
Following a loss at the hands of the Youngstown Phantoms on Friday, the Des Moines Buccaneers responded with an impressive 1-0 overtime victory at the Covelli Centre to earn a split in the two-game intra-conference series. The game was scoreless throughout the 60 minutes of regulation time, with Youngstown amassing 26 shots on goal and Des Moines putting up 23 shots of their own. Just 25 seconds into the extra frame, Nicolas Werbik, who led the Phantoms in scoring last season, came back to haunt his old team as he scored the game-winner to give Des Moines the win. It was the second goal of the weekend for the Czech forward and his sixth game-winning tally of the year. Slovakian netminder Roman Durny put together a stellar performance between the pipes, stopping all 26 shots he faced for his seventh victory and second shutout of the season.
4. RoughRiders Double Down
The other game of the night that required extra time featured the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders and the Green Bay Gamblers. Cedar Rapids, who won in a shootout against the Waterloo Black Hawks on Friday, picked up another non-regulation victory on Saturday, knocking off Green Bay 3-2 in overtime. After a scoreless opening period, the teams traded goals in the middle frame, with Matt Denman and Jackson Perbix scoring for their respective teams. Jackson's goal was the first of his USHL career and came on the same night his brother Nick scored for the Omaha Lancers in their game against the Lincoln Stars. The teams scored one goal each in the third period, courtesy of Cedar Rapids' Jason Polin and Green Bay's Lean Bergmann, to send the game to overtime. Just 11 seconds into the overtime period, Graham Slaggert's 13th goal of the season gave the RoughRiders their second straight victory and moved them just four points behind the Chicago Steel for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Blake Pietila picked up the win between the pipes, stopping 31 of the 33 shots he faced to move over the .500 mark on the season.
3. Black Hawks Silence Saints
The Waterloo Black Hawks dispatched off in-state rival Dubuque, knocking off the Fighting Saints 5-1 and moving just a single point behind the Omaha Lancers for the top spot in the USHL standings. After the teams traded goals in the opening period, with Joey Cassetti scoring for Waterloo and Matias Maccelli finding the back of the net for Dubuque, the Black Hawks broke the game open in the second period. Waterloo scored three times in the middle frame, courtesy of Solag Bakich, Garrett Wait and Jackson Cates, to take a 4-1 lead into the third. Cates' second goal of the game and team-leading 31st goal of the season eight minutes into the third period completed the scoring. With the two goals and an assist, Cates is now tied for second in USHL scoring with 56 points and sits alone in second with his 31 tallies. He is also only the second player to reach the 30-goal mark so far this year. Florida Panthers prospect Ben Finkelstein dished out three assists and Minnesota commit Jared Moe made 30 saves on 31 Dubuque attempts to move to 17-6-1-0 on the season.
2. Stars Stay Hot
The Lincoln Stars continued their winning ways on Saturday, knocking off their bitter rivals in the Omaha Lancers 4-2 to pick up their eighth victory in their last 10 games and move four points clear of the Sioux City Musketeers for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The teams headed to the third period tied at two goals apiece, but rookie sensation Paul Cotter scored his 14th goal of the season just short of midway through the frame to give Lincoln a 3-2 lead. The Western Michigan commit is now up to 29 points (14G, 15A) on the season, good for fourth place among all USHL rookies. Josiah Slavin added an empty-net tally late in the game to seal the victory. Wyatt Aamodt added two points of his own (1G, 1A), giving the Minnesota State commit points in nine of his last 10 contests. Derek Schaedig earned the victory between the pipes with a 17-save performance.
1. Team USA Takes Down Tri-City
Team USA's U18 team, along with their rookie call-up, was at it again on Friday, defeating the Tri-City Storm in Kearney by a 8-2 final. The U18s were spurred by a six-goal second period that saw three goals from Jack Hughes alone. The top 2019 NHL Draft prospect scored four goals in the game and finished with five points, moving him to a ridiculous two points/game pace. Hughes now has 42 points (14G, 28A) in just 21 USHL games and he is just two points behind Muskegon's Matej Pekar in rookie scoring despite having played in 26 fewer games. Jake Wise and Jonathan Gruden (1G, 1A each) also recorded multi-point performances and Drew DeRidder made 20 saves for his seventh consecutive victory. Team USA is 8-2-0-0 in their last 10 games and just two points behind the Omaha Lancers in the race for the Anderson Cup, with four games-in-hand.
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.