USHL Power Rankings presented by USA Hockey Magazine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The race for playoff positioning is heating up in the USHL as the calendar turns to February. The Western Conference standings are especially tight, as first through fifth place are separated by seven points. Unbeaten streaks are also a trend heading into February, as six teams have streaks of at least three games where they have not lost in regulation.

The Chicago Steel remain atop USHL power rankings following a month in which they finished with a pair of wins and a 5-3-0-0 record. Chicago also remains atop the both the Eastern Conference and USHL standings by three points.

RANK

TEAM

COMMENT

1.

Chicago Steel (18)

2016-17: 25-8-1-3

Last poll: 1

The Steel finished January with a 5-3-0-0 record and remain atop the USHL standings. Reggie Lutz sits in the top 10 in USHL scoring and has been a well-rounded offensive threat this season, as he leads the team with 32 points (16 goals, 16 assists) in 37 games. He, along with Walker Duehr and Jake Jaremko, make up the “The Mankato Line,” the forward group that has been the catalyst for the Steel all season. Jaremko is among the top 20 in league scoring with 30 points (9G, 21A), while Duehr, who played in his hometown of Sioux Falls, S.D., at the USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, has 27 points (12G, 15A) in 34 games this season. Ales Stezka is exactly the veteran presence in net that Chicago had hoped he would be. He is tied for eighth in the USHL in goals against average (2.31) and has won five of his last eight starts. The Steel will play five of their nine February games on the road as they look to increase their lead atop the Eastern Conference and USHL.

2.

 

Sioux City Musketeers (1)

2016-17: 22-8-5-2

Last poll: 2

The Musketeers were road warriors in January, playing all but their last two games away from Tyson Events Center, finishing with points in four of those seven contests. They have earned a point in each of their last four games and remain atop the Western Conference standings by two points over the Waterloo Black Hawks. Eeli Tolvanen remains the team leader in scoring with 31 points (17G, 14A) in 30 games. Matiss Kivlenieks has been outstanding between the pipes all season and continued his impressive play in January. The Minnesota State University, Mankato commit leads all USHL goaltenders in GAA (1.80), save percentage (.936), saves (832), and minutes (1901). His 20 wins rank him second among all netminders. Sioux City will play six of their nine games in February against Western Conference opponents as they try to increase their lead atop the West.

 

3.

Youngstown Phantoms

2016-17: 21-13-4-1

Last poll: 3

Youngstown currently sits in the fourth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and will look to solidify their position in the final two months of the regular season. Ivan Kulbakov continues to thrive between the pipes for the Phantoms. He is second in the USHL with a 1.96 GAA, fifth in wins (17) and second in minutes (1895). He currently sports a 17-8-4-1 record and is 3-1 in shootouts this season. Getting out to an early lead has been extremely important for Youngstown, as they are one of three teams who hold a perfect 11-0-0-0 record when leading after one period. Youngstown is also a perfect 14-0-0-0 when leading after two periods. The Phantoms will start February on a five-game road trip before finishing the month with three straight home contests.

4.

Dubuque Fighting Saints (2)

2016-17:
25-10-1-2

Last poll: 4

The Fighting Saints moved up two spots in this month’s rankings, and it was well earned. Dubuque earned at least one point in eight of their nine games in January and are 8-1-0-1 in their last 10 games. Zach Solow stretched his point streak to 20 games in the first month of 2017, just one game shy of the USHL Tier 1 record. In the month of January alone, the Northeastern commit tallied 10 points (1G, 9A) and is now tied for the USHL scoring lead with 40 points (10G, 30A) in 33 games. His 30 assists also leads all USHL players. Colin Theisen now finds himself in the top 10 in USHL scoring following a month in which he put up eight points (7G, 1A) in nine games. Jaxon Castor has been a rock between the pipes for Dubuque, as he sports a 2.06 GAA and .914 SV%. He finished January with six victories in eight appearances and leads the USHL with 21 wins on the season.

5.

Waterloo Black Hawks

2016-17: 23-12-1-2

Last poll: 5

The Black Hawks have been one of the hottest teams in the USHL as of late, going 7-1-1-1 in their last 10 games to move into sole possession of second place in the Western Conference standings. Nick Swaney started the month at the USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game and finished January on a tear. The University of Minnesota Duluth commit is currently sporting a six-game point streak dating back to Jan. 15. In those six contests, he has eight points (2G, 6A) and leads the team with 35 points (15G, 20A) in 33 games. Shane Bowers also sits in the top 15 in USHL scoring with 30 points (14G, 16A). He ended January with points in his last three games and five of his last six, finishing with seven points (4G, 3A) in those six contests. Robbie Beydoun’s stellar play in net continued into January, as he is tied for first in the league in shutouts (4), tied for third with 18 wins, second with 786 saves and tied for eighth in in GAA (2.31). The Black Hawks are 12-3-1-1 at home so far this season and will have a great chance to keep that hot streak going in February, as all but two of their nine games will be played at Young Arena.

6.

Des Moines Buccaneers

2016-17: 21-12-1-3

Last poll: 6

Des Moines has earned at least one point in six of their last 10 games heading into February. Reed Lebster recently announced his commitment to Michigan State, where he will join current teammate and Buccaneers leading-scorer David Keefer, who leads the team in scoring with 29 PTS (15G, 14A) in 37 games. The Buccaneers’ goaltending has continued to excel, as both Nick MacNab and Jan Ruzicka sit in the top six among USHL goaltenders in GAA. MacNab is third (2.04), while Ruzicka is sixth (2.20). MacNab also sports the third highest SV% in the USHL (.923). Des Moines sits in a tie for third place in the Western Conference heading into the second month of 2017 and will look to solidify their position in the Western Conference.

7.

Fargo Force

2016-17: 22-14-2-0

Last poll: 7


Fargo remains tied for fourth place in the Western Conference standings after finishing January with splits in back-to-back series against the Lincoln Stars. The Force remain the only team in the USHL with three players among the top 10 in league scoring. Jack Adams leads all players with 40 points (23G, 17A), Blake Lizotte is fourth with 37 points (7G, 30A), and Hank Crone is tied for sixth with 35 points (15G, 20A). Matthew Murray continues to carry the bulk of the load in net. Along with being tied for the league lead in shutouts with four, Murray is third in both minutes (1869) and saves (781). Fargo will play six of their eight games in February at home, including a six-game stretch from Feb. 3 through Feb. 18, as they look to move into a comfortable top-four position in the Western Conference.

8.

Muskegon Lumberjacks

2016-17: 23-12-2-1

Last Poll: 8

Muskegon was one of the hottest teams in January, finishing the month with a 7-2-0-1 record and moving into sole possession of third place in the Eastern Conference. Collin Adams picked up his 100th career point at the end of the month and is now third in the USHL in scoring with 39 points (19G, 20A) in 35 games. Andrei Svechnikov also continues to impress, as he is first among rookies and fifth among all USHL players with 36 points (19G, 17A). He finished January with nine points (7G, 2A) in nine games. The Russian forward also leads the league in points-per-game (1.24). The Lumberjacks have also been solid on the man advantage, tied for fourth in the USHL while scoring at a 17.0 percent clip. Muskegon will look to solidify their position in the Eastern Conference standings in February, as they will play six of their nine games at home. 

9.

Green Bay Gamblers

2016-17:
19-15-2-2


Last poll
: 9

Green Bay finished January with back-to-back wins over Bloomington and Madison and sit just one spot out of playoff position in the Eastern Conference standings. In his last seven games, Gamblers captain Jared Spooner has led on the scoresheet with 11 points (4G, 7A) in that stretch. Connor Mackey continues to lead all USHL defenseman in scoring with 30 points (3G, 27A) in 38 games. He also has six assists in his last four games, including a four-helper performance on Jan. 27 against the Bloomington Thunder. The Gamblers will look to inch closer to playoff position in February, where they will play six of their nine contests at home and four contests against team ahead of them in the Eastern Conference.

10.

Lincoln Stars

2016-17:
20-13-3-1


Last poll:
10

The Stars are now 6-3-1-0 in their last 10 games and just two points out of the top-half of the ultra-competitive Western Conference. Josef Korenar remains one of the top goalies in the USHL, as he is second in the league in SV% (.933) and tied for fourth in GAA (2.06). Ethen Frank has also been on a two-month long tear. The Western Michigan commit finished January on a three-game point streak and has registered at least one point in all but one game dating back to Dec. 3. In that 12-game stretch, he has 15 points (9G, 6A). Sam Sternschein has also been red-hot in the last six weeks, tallying 14 points (11G, 3A) in 12 games dating back to Dec. 17. Lincoln will play seven of their 10 February games on the road, including a six-game road trip from Feb. 11 through Feb. 24 that could go a long way in deciding their playoff fate.

11.

Bloomington Thunder

2016-17: 17-16-3-1

Last poll: 11

The Thunder is led by a strong group of veteran players, and they will look to lead the team into playoff position in the final two months of the regular season. Calgary Flames prospect Mitchell Mattson finished with four points on the weekend, including a three-point (2G, 1A) performance on Sunday against Team USA. He now has tallied 10 points in his last 8 games. Vladislav Dzhioshvili also picked up a goal on Saturday. The Vermont commit now has 12 points (5G, 7A) in his last 13 games. Gabriel Mollot-Hill has continued to play well between the pipes, as he is sixth in the USHL in SV% (.921) and seventh in GAA (2.28). Bloomington will play six of their eight games on the road in February as they look to climb back into the Eastern Conference playoff conversation.

12.

Omaha Lancers

2016-17: 14-19-4-1

Last poll: 12