Among the highlights in the USPHL Midwest Region this past weekend was a three-win weekend for the Decatur Blaze and two each for the Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings and Hudson Crusaders. We also take a look at what’s ahead for some of the region’s top teams.
Detroit Fighting Irish 1 @ Decatur Blaze 4
Detroit Fighting Irish 4 @ Decatur Blaze 8
Detroit Fighting Irish 2 @ Decatur Blaze 8
Down 1-0 after a period in Game 1, the Blaze struck back with a pair of unanswered goals in the second and third periods to nail down a win in the first game of a three-game weekend set.
Sam Aube (‘01/North Hatley, Que.) fired the game winner near the halfway mark of the second period.
The Blaze wrapped up the second of three home games against the Irish following up a scoreless first period, scoring five of seven second period markers and adding another three in the final frame.
Mario Lorusso (‘99/Bartlett, Ill.) scored four consecutive goals, including the game winner.
The Blaze wrapped up the six-point weekend on home ice with Lorusso firing three more goals and Walker Smith (‘02/Castle Rock, Colo) counting the game winner.
Ahead: The Blaze have a three-game weekend against the Fort Wayne Spacemen coming up. The Blaze are burning up, at 4-0-1 in their last five. They’re getting closer and closer to officially nailing down home ice in the playoffs.
Chicago Cougars 6 @ Dells Ducks 3
Chicago Cougars @ Midwest Blackbirds
The Ducks looked strong out of the gate in this one, carrying a 3-1 lead out of the opening period. But three unanswered middle period goals for the Cougars put them in charge to stay and two more down the stretch clinched it.
Alex Insulander (‘00/Strangnas, Sweden) scored twice for the Cougars and Bret Bauer (‘00/Bloomington, Ill.) contributed the game winner in the second period. Despite taking the loss, Jack Lundqvist (‘00/Stockholm, Sweden) turned in a 65-save effort in goal for the Ducks.
The Cougars wrapped up a road weekend with a lopsided win at the Midwest Training and Ice Center Sunday.
Breydon Hemminger (‘99/Geneva, Ill.) led the Cougars with a three goal game, Jasa Jenko (‘00/Kranj, Slovenia) and Alexander Arnold (‘00/Strangnas, Sweden) adding two each, the game winner off the stick of Arnold.
Ahead: The Cougars are not that far from officially tying up a Midwest East Division regular season banner. They have a single game on Friday against the Midwest Blackbirds.
Motor City Hockey Club 1 @ MJDP 5
Even at 1-1 after a period, it was all MJDP after that with four unanswered goals, three of them in the final 20 minutes.
Garret Benoit (‘0/Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich.) fired the lone second period goal which stood up as the game winner.
Ahead: The Metro Jets Development Program team are able to get a little more comfortable in playoff home ice territory, standing at third with 32 points, just six out of second and perhaps more importantly 10 points ahead of the Detroit Fighting Irish, who sit in fifth, the top road playoff position.
Minnesota Moose 1 @Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings 6
Minnesota Moose 2 @ Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings 3 (SO)
After notching the lone goal of the opening period, the Riverkings piled on another three in the second to grab control on its way to a comfortable win.
Colton Flammini (‘01/Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.) fired a pair, including the game winner 6:42 into the middle period for the Riverkings.
For Game 2, the teams traded goals in the first and second period but went scoreless through the third and overtime setting the stage for the shootout.
Flammini and Markus Cook (‘00/Bear, Del.) both scored in the shootout for the Riverkings to clinch the win while Giuliano Lattela (‘00/Mont Royal, Que.) kept his crease clean in goal for the Riverkings after the second period.
Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings 3 @ Dells Ducks 4
Jason Heard (‘01/Atlanta, Ga.) scored a pair for the Ducks and Chris Wracker (‘99/Columbia, S.C.) sank the game winner for the Ducks in the opening minute of the final period while Kodie Hagedorn (‘99/Sebastian, Fla.) stopped all but three of the 57 shots he faced in goal for the Ducks.
Steele County Blades @ Minnesota Blue Ox
The Blades scored first in this one, but the Blue Ox charged back with four in the opening period to grab control and never looked back on its way to a lopsided win.
Zach Earl (‘00/Paw Paw, Mich.) paced the Blue Ox attack with a pair of goals and Grant Smith (‘99/Olathe, Kan.) chipped in with the game-winner for the home side.
Ahead: On Sunday and Monday afternoons, the Riverkings will pay a visit to the Coon Rapids Ice Center for two against the Minnesota Blue Ox.
The Riverkings are nine points out of first in the Midwest West, and the Blue Ox are four points out of a home ice playoff position, so there is a ton riding on this series for both teams.
The Dells Ducks, sitting in eighth in the Midwest West, are obviously pushing hard to remain in playoff position. Beating the Riverkings shows that anything could happen once they get there. They have the weekend off before getting back to action Jan. 25-26 against the Minnesota Mullets.
Rum River Mallards 2 @ Hudson Havoc 5
Hudson Havoc 4 @ Rum River Mallards 1
The Havoc scored three unanswered first period goals then matched the Mallards with one apiece in both of the next two periods.
Five different shooters stepped up for the Havoc including Drake Barnish (‘01/Reynoldsburg, Ohio) fired the game winner for the home side just past the halfway mark of the opening period.
The Havoc wrapped up the weekend home-and-home sweep with the Mallards building on a 2-1 first period cushion with singles in the second and third.
The game winner came from Connor McMahan (‘01/Huntington Beach, Calif.) and Hunter Koch (‘99/Boonton, N.J.) stopped 30 of 31 in goal for the Havoc.
Ahead: The Midwest West-leading Havoc earned some distance on the Riverkings, while the Mallards saw the Riverkings pull away from them for a tighter hold on the No. 2 position. The Havoc have one game this weekend against the Steele County Blades, while the Mallards play host for one game against the Minnesota Moose on home ice on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Rochester Vipers 1 @ Minnesota Mullets 6
The Mullets carried a 5-0 lead into the final period on home ice then traded goals in the final period.
Jake Lindblom (‘99/Pine City, Minn.) scored twice for the Mullets and Aaron Moots (‘99/Ham Lake, Minn.) potted the game winner for the Mullets who grabbed a win in its only game of the weekend.
Ahead: A huge win for the Mullets, this - combined with the Moose being able to earn only one point against the Riverkings - gave Chris Walby’s team a narrow three-point lead for fourth place, the last home ice playoff position in the division.
There’s a lot of hockey left for both the Mullets and Moose, so this battle will rage on into late February, but it all begins with the two teams’ Friday-Saturday set. The Mullets also have Steele County on Sunday.
Desperation time is now for the ninth-place Vipers, who face the Blue Ox Saturday on the road.
Pittsburgh Vengeance 7 @ Columbus Mavericks 1
Columbus Mavericks 1 @ Pittsburgh Vengeance 2 (OT)
The lone Great Lakes Division game of Friday night saw the Vengeance grabbing top spot in the division with a big win against the host Mavericks.
After a scoreless opening period, the Vengeance grabbed control with a 3-1 edge through the second. Arttu Kiviluoma (‘01/Finland) fired a pair for the visitors and the game winner came from Ian Edgar (‘00/Cranberry, Penn.).
The Vengeance completed the home-and-home sweep but needed an overtime goal from Joe Shanley (‘99/Buffalo, N.Y.) to clinch the win, despite a 56-save effort in goal for Tyler Dorion (‘00/Pickerington, Ohio) in goal for the Mavericks.
Lansing Wolves 2 @ Lake Erie Bighorns 4
Lansing Wolves 4 @ Lake Erie Bighorns 2
The first of two weekend matches between the Great Lakes Division rivals saw the Bighorns open a 4-0 lead before the Wolves struck back with two in the final period.
Four different marksmen hit the mesh for the Bighorns including Livari Pihlajaniemi (‘01/Pori, Finland) with the game winner near the halfway mark of the second period.
The Wolves clinched the weekend split with the Bighorns on the road, scoring single unanswered goals in both the first and second periods, and then matching its host with two down the stretch.
Kyler LaDuke (‘01/Jackson, Mich.) scored the game winning goal just past the halfway mark of the third period.
Ahead: There is a lot of distance in the middle of the pack for the Great Lakes Division, and the Bighorns helped to gain a bit of ground for a five-point lead for the last home playoff spot on the Wolves. Neither team is very close to the top three, and neither is in great danger of falling to sixth, so this could actually turn out to have been a playoff preview series.
The Bighorns visit the sixth-place Mavericks on Friday and return home to host the first place Vengeance on Sunday.
The Wolves have a single Friday night game against the Metro Jets, who are coming off a bye week.