If the season were to end today, we would have a Clark Cup final with the Saints taking on the Black Hawks. There is still a long way to go this season, but these two teams have been head and shoulders above the rest. Both teams have the fewest penalty minutes and the fewest goals allowed; it’s pretty difficult to beat a team that doesn’t beat themselves.
The current bottom feeders of the league are the Capitols and last year’s Clark Cup Champions, the Stampede, who have been struggling from the first time they stepped onto the ice this year.
With 18 games this past week, let’s jump right into things:
After starting the season 4 and 0, the Steel ran into some tough competition this past week. In their first game, they took on the Phantoms and this looked more like shooting practice instead of an actual game. Nine different players found the back of the net as they were extremely efficient on their 26 shots. John Spetz, Sam Colangelo, Gunnarwolfe Fontaine, Liam Devlin, Brendan Brisson, Dawson Pasternak, and Owen Power had one. Their second-leading goal scorer, Matty De St. Phalle, had two goals, and Matt Coronato scored his first career USHL goal. Ian Shane would have liked to have had a better night between the pipes going 11 for 14 on save opportunities, but he’ll brush that off to take the win. The final score in this one was 10-3.
In their second game of the week, the Steel dropped their first home game of the year to the Lumberjacks, 5-3. The Lumberjacks were the ones who eliminated the Steel in the Clark Cup playoffs just a season ago. Uula Ruikka, Gunnarwolfe Fontaine, and Tyler Carpenter were the goal scorers in this one. The Steel would’ve liked to be more efficient on their powerplays as they only went one for five. Matty De St. Phalle extended his point streak to 6 games, 5 goals, 5 assists.
Their final game of the week was against team USA’s U-17 team where they fell in overtime at home, 5-4. Sean Farrell, Jack Babbage, Matt Coronato, and again, Matty De St. Phalle all had a goal. The Steel were two for nine on power plays and still ended up with at least one point for their efforts. Head Coach, Greg Moore was asked about his team’s first tough stretch of the season, “I think it’s important that they speak up, they hear each other talk, guide a conversation, they learn from these kind of games. I think they know that the effort wasn’t good enough tonight. The details weren’t good enough.”
Lincoln found themselves in some tight games, unfortunately they were only able to come out with one victory. In their first game, they traveled to Des Moines to take on the Buccaneers where they fell 4-2. Mikhail Gonchar, Zach Urdahl were the lone scorers on the team’s 30 shots. The Stars’ four-game win streak was snapped as they crumbled in the third period giving up three goals.
The Stars returned home where they had better luck against the Phantoms winning 5-3. Matt Barbolini led the way with two goals while Josh Lopina, Brock Bremer, and Josh Groll all had one.
Their final game of the week was again at home but this time it was the Phantoms who were victorious. This was close throughout and the Stars’ Josh Groll got a boarding major in the third period and fought Phantoms defenseman, Aiden Gallacher, to give his team some momentum. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough as they fell 4-3 in a shootout. Christian Sarlo had two goals while Travis Treloar had the other.
With only one game last week, the Force hosted the Stampede who are doing everything they can to get a win. Lynden Breen and Nick Strom had a goal in the first period when the Force put up an astounding 23 shots. Aaron Grounds added one goal later on and Strom scored the game winner in OT. Head Coach Pierre-Paul Lamourex had this to say about his team, “what I liked was our composure on the bench. They started chipping away at our lead, but we stuck together, and we played a real solid team game to finish it with the overtime winner.”
Youngstown had a tough start to the week, but ended on a high-note. Falling in their first game to the Steel, 10-3, there was at least a silver lining when Garrett Dahm and Antyom Borshoyv scored their first career USHL goals. Arseni Smekhnov was the final scorer for the Phantoms. “I actually thought we were better to start the game than we were last night,” said Phantoms Head Coach Brad Patterson. “It’s a struggle, that’s for sure. We need to be better in a lot of areas.”
In game two, the Phantoms headed to Lincoln, Nebraska to take on the Stars. There wasn’t much to report on this one besides Trevor Kuntar recording a hat-trick in the 5-3 loss. Staying in the same arena, they again played the Stars but found a different result this time around. Trevor Kuntar scored one while Matthew Cassidy had two, but the most important of the night was Arseni Smeknnov’s shootout winner for a 4-3 victory.
The Buccaneers’ Alex Laferriere continued his great start scoring again at home against the Stars in a 4-2 victory. Mason Nevers, Matt Choupani, and Ryan Robinson also had one on the teams’ 31 shots. See the game highlights here.
The rest of the week was did not go as intended for the Buccaneers as they dropped their next two games. They fell at home to the Saints in a 5-4 shootout where they had opportunities on the power play, one for six, but just couldn’t capitalize on them. Matt Choupani, Owen Fowler, Blaine Warnert, and Michael Mancinelli were the goal scorers for the Bucs.
Their final game came against the scorching hot Black Hawks when they fell 9-1. Thankfully for the Bucs, Alex Laferriere scored the lone goal to avoid a 9-0 shutout.
Part of the makeup of a good team is their ability to be resilient. That’s exactly what the Gamblers were against Team USA’s U-17 team when they won 6-5. Jesse Tucker, Tyler Paquette, Luke Mylymok, Noah Ganske, McKade Webster, and Jake Schmaltz all had a goal, and it was the team’s third period effort that propelled them to victory as they scored three goals to record the win.
The team did however fall in their next game against the Lumberjacks as they fell 3-2. The team went zero for four on powerplay opportunities and couldn’t score more than two goals on 31 shots. Chad Hillebrand and Mason Lohrei were the lone goal scorers.
In the first game of the week for the Stampede, they fell in Fargo, 4-3 in overtime. The Stampede went zero for three on their power play opportunities only mustered up 25 shots. Tommy Lyons, Ryan Sullivan, and Nick Anderson were the lone scorers.
The Stampede’s next game was against the Storm where they won 2-1, and goalie, Grant Adams, recorded his first USHL victory going 23 for 24 on save opportunities. “I was happy with the effort, how hard we competed, how hard we battled and down the stretch,” said Head Coach Scott Owens. “Adams was really good again, really solid from start to end.” Jakub Lewandowski and Tommy Lyons were the scorers for the Stampede.
Three games in a week is tough for any team, especially when it’s the RoughRiders who are in need of some victories. Their first game of the week was at home where they hosted the Lancers and sent them packing, 2-1. Nate Hanley scored with assist from Will Francis and Jackson Jutting scored the decisive game-winner.
The RoughRiders then hit the road to Omaha to play the Lancers. The Lancers got revenge from their earlier loss last week, 6-5. Darian Gotz scored on his birthday, Ben Meehan had a hat-trick, and Donte Lawson scored the remaining goal to push the total to five.
Their final game came against the Storm where they fell 4-2. An early goal from Darian Gotz was quickly erased, but minutes later Mack Byers scored on an assist from Robby Newton to put the RoughRiders back on top. Unfortunately, the team’s remaining 18 shots couldn’t find the back of the net and it didn’t help that they couldn’t capitalize on their three powerplay opportunities.
The U-17 team faced the Gamblers at home but fell 6-5. Dylan Duke, Red Savage, Tyler Boucher, and Chaz Lucius had a goal along with Justin Janicke’s 8th goal of the season. The team will need to be much better in order to win as they went zero for seven on power plays and and blew a 5-3 lead heading into the third period.
Finally recording their first win of the season, the U-17 team traveled to Chicago where they defeated the Steel 5-4 in overtime. Dylan Duke had two goals while Jack Hughes and Ty Gallagher, had one, but the most important came from Luke Hughes, who scored the game winner with a wrap around in overtime.
The U-18 team hosted the Capitols, and so far this season it’s almost a guaranteed victory. Luke Tuch, Thomas Bordeleau, Brett Berard, Ty Smilanic, Tanner Latsch, and Zakary Karpa all found the net in the 6-1 victory.
Taking on the Capitols again, they won 3-1 with Thomas Bordeleau scoring the first and last goal of the contest, and Ty Smilanic scoring the other.
The Lancers split their two games with the RoughRiders last week, 2-1 and 6-5. In the first, the Lancers’ Alexander Campbell scored the lone goal on the team’s 27 shots but they unfortunately blew the early lead. In game two, Daniel Hilsendager, Cameron Berg, and Michael Cameron had one while Brian Silver was the star with a hat-trick for a 6-5 victory.
Sioux City welcomed the Storm with open arms and sent them packing without hesitation. The Musketeers took care of the Storm in an 8-2 victory with Sam Antenucci scoring two, Ethan Harrison, Ben Doran, Joel Maatta, Ben Doran, Jackson Nieuwendyk, and Ryan Taylor getting one apiece on 28 shots.
Unfortunately, they could’ve used one of the goals from their win over the Storm when they took on the Saints. The Musketeers fell 1-0 to the Saints as they had only one powerplay opportunity and took just 18 shots.
Taking on the Steel, Ryan Sorkin, Aj Hodges, Alex Gaffney, Tanner Edwards, and Oliver MacDonald led the way to a 5-3 victory. After dropping their first four games of the season, they’ve now won 3 straight. “The guys put their bodies on the line. We had 10 blocks in the last 10 minutes and it was fun to see them sacrificing to get the win. That’s three in a row, and the guys have a huge opportunity to get a weekend sweep (Saturday),” said Head coach Mike Hamilton.
At home against the Gamblers, the ‘Jacks won again, 3-2 with Aj Hodges, Alex Konovalov, scoring while Alex Gaffney scored the game winner with 58 seconds remaining. This was their fourth straight victory.
At this point, the Capitols seem to be the league punching bag. Suffering two more defeats last week at the hands of Team USA, it’s getting difficult to watch. In the first game, Ryan Kirwan scored with an assist from Carson Bantle and Branden Suter in the 6-1 defeat. Heading into the second period of this one, the Caps found themselves down 4-0.
In the second game, Kristof Papp scored the lone goal off of a Carson Bantle pass in a 3-1 defeat. Garrett Mackay made 33 of 35 save opportunities, but it’s not the Capitols defense that’s plaguing them, it’s their inability to put the puck in the net.
Prior to their game against the RoughRiders, the Storm had dropped four straight games. They fell 8-2 to the Musketeers with Kyle Aucoin and Colby Ambrosio scoring the only goals on 19 shots. The Storm fell again at home to the Stampede, 2-1, with Matthew Knies scoring the goal off of a Nick Portz pass. The assist is Portz’ first career USHL point.
The shining moment came in the 4-2 victory over the RoughRiders with Colby Ambrosio, Nick Portz, Felix Carenfelt, and Benji Eckerle finding the twine. Daniel Allin also recorded his first USHL victory in net.
Continuing their hot start, the Saints headed to Des Moines to take on the Buccaneers where they left victorious. The Saints won 5-4 in overtime thanks to Dylan Jackson with one goal and two assists, Stephen Halliday with one goal, Ty Jackson with one goal and two assists, Aidan Fulp with one goal, and Riese Gaber with the overtime winner.
After a tough home game against the Buccaneers, the Saints hit the road to take on the Musketeers. They waited until the third period to put a point on the board when Braden Doyle found the net. Aidan McCarthy was stellar in the net with an 18 save shutout, his first in the USHL. Compared to last year’s team, the Saints are off to a great start record-wise and to put things in perspective, they didn’t record their first shutout until March of last season. They are now six and zero to start the year and are four and zero in one goal games this year.
In another tough game for the Buccaneers, things can hopefully only get better from here. Hosting the Buccaneers, the Black Hawks trounced them 9-1 with Ryder Rolston recording a hat-trick in the first period. He also added one assist for a four point night. Dane Montgomery, Brehdan Engum, Griffin Ness, Wyatt Schingoethe, Ondrej Psenicka, and Ryan Drkulec rounded out the scoring. The Hawks scored five goals in under four minutes in the first period, yikes, and Logan Stein was great in the net ging 28 for 29 on save opportunities.
Some of the league’s current top scorers are:
Alex Laferriere of Buccaneers with 15 points, 7 goals, 8 assists
Trevor Kuntar of the Phantoms with 14 points, 8 goals, 6 assists
Carson Bantle of Capitols 12 points, 5 goals 7 assists
Gunnarwolfe Fontaine of Storm with 11 points, 7 goals 4 assists
Josh Groll Stars with 11 points, 7 goals 4 assists
Two of the league’s top goalies are:
Drew Commesso USA with .5 GAA, .979 sv%, 1 SO
Logan Stein of Black Hawks .72 GAA, .973 sv%, 1 SO
Come back next week to get more USHL news and be sure to follow me on Twitter @Nwinansw. I’ll see you next week.