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Looking Back At The 2020 USPHL Chicago Showcase

By Jim Den Hollander, 12/21/20, 1:00PM EST

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The final day of the USPHL Chicago Showcase had the remaining teams all looking for momentum heading into the Christmas Break. Of the 25 participating teams, only two -- the Hudson Havoc and Steele County Blades, both from the Midwest-West Division -- finished with perfect 4-0 records on the weekend.

Just a point behind were the host Cougars from Chicago who dropped a 5-4 decision in overtime on Friday in their first game of the weekend before rallying with three straight wins, two of them on Sunday.

Below is a rundown of the most successful teams throughout the tournament. 

Hudson Havoc (4-0)

The Havoc scored all four goals of a 4-2 win over Fort Wayne in the first period, two each for Harvey Dove (02/Hudson, Wis.) and Ryan Hoover (‘00/Brookville, Ohio). The Spacemen scored twice in 16 seconds to throw at least a minor scare in the Great Lakes Division.

Detroit Fighting Irish goaltender Colin Guelcher ('02/Madison, Wis.) kicked out 47 shots and had his team within a shot of tying it until the Havoc struck for three of its four goals in the final seven minutes for a 4-0 shutout.

The defensive struggle that resulted in a 2-1 win over Toledo saw a single goal in each period, the final one from Michael Crosbie ('00/Coon Rapids, Minn.) in the second half of the third period. The Havoc moved to 3-0 on the weekend while the Cherokee fell to 1-2.

In Game 4, the Lake Erie Bighorns carried a 1-0 lead into the second half, but PJ Noonan ('02/Wheaton, Ill.) sank both the game winner and insurance marker for the Havoc who once again wrapped up an awesome Showcase showing with a 3-1 win.

The Havoc was 4-0 in Chicago and is still undefeated in regulation play through 19 regular season contests. The Bighorns wrapped up the weekend at 1-3.

 

Steele County Blades (4-0)

Playing with heavy hearts after Thursday night’s announcement of the passing of general manager Dan Vaszquez, the Fighting Irish nonetheless took the ice, but were defeated by a much-improved Steele County team. Michael Leighton (‘02/Ann Arbor, Mich.) turned aside 40 shots to nail down a shutout in goal for the Blades and Charlie Smith (‘02/Waterdown, Ont.) scored a pair in a lopsided offensive attack.

After a pair of extra-time nailbiters, the Decatur Blaze ran into a tough opponent in the Blades, who collected a lopsided win, led by a three-goal game for Dom Valento ('02/Owatonna, Minn.), including the game-winner. Casey Johnson ('03/Owatonna, Minn.) also fired a pair in the win.

The Blades moved to 3-0 on the weekend with a 6-4 win over Midwest, featuring a two-goal game for Zach Kubicek ('02/Owatonna). The win pushed the Blades' weekend record to 3-0. Josh Venable ('02/Elmhurst, Ill.) scored twice for the Blackbirds who finished play in Chicago at 1-3.

Unfortunately for Motor City and Steele County, the two teams were headed in opposite directions on the weekend. Elliott Wrigley ('03/Littleton, Colo) blocked everything to collect the shutout for the high-scoring Blades, who were paced offensively by Connor Lee ('01/Sydney, Australia) with a hat trick and two others for Joey Bunton ('02/Danville, Ill.).

 

Chicago Cougars (3-0-1)

The Cougars’ first thriller saw their team and the Columbus Mavericks battling back and forth, ultimately landing even at 4-4 after regulation. Columbus’ Marcus Cornett (‘01/St. Paris, Ohio) notched the game -winner in overtime, the fifth Mavs shooter to score in the contest.

A goal in the first and three more in the second had the Cougars up 4-0 before the start of the final period of a 7-1 win over MHC on Saturday. Matthew Kunach ('02/Morton Grove, Ill.) and Kevin Johnston ('01/Mahwah, N.J.) both scored twice for the Cats, Johnston scoring the game-winner.

In a 5-3 win over Rochester, Johnston scored a pair and Simon Motew ('03/Highland Park, Ill.) sank the game-winner in the final period before an empty netter in the final second finally settled this one. The Vipers wrapped up play in the Windy City with an impressive 2-1-1 mark. 

The final game of the weekend saw the host Cougars collect their third win (5-1 over Wooster) and seventh point of the weekend while the Oilers fell to 1-3 for the Showcase. Asher Motew ('00/Highland Park) turned in a 36-save game for the Cats while Billy Paschen ('00/Elmhurst, Ill.) fired a hat trick with the game's first three goals.

 

Northern Colorado Eagles (3-1)

One of two Mountain Division teams making the trip east, the Eagles fared very well in their USPHL Showcase Series debut. They started with a 3-2 win over the Pittsburgh Vengeance, with Bryan Lockner (‘00/Windsor, Colo.) scoring the game-winner with just over 5 minutes remaining. 

The Eagles pushed aside a second tough opponent, improving its record to 6-2 on its long Midwest swing with a 5-1 win over the Minnesota Moose. The Moose hit the board first, but it was all Eagles after that, the first two coming from Lockner (‘00/Windsor, Colo.).

The Eagles came from behind to capture a 4-3 win over the Blue Ox. Case Kantgias ('00/Bloomfield, Mich.)  fired his second goal of the game with five minutes gone in the third to pull the Eagles even at 3-3 and Nicolas Samson snapped the game-winner home with 84 seconds to play.

The Metro Jets evened their weekend record at 2-2 and denied the Eagles a perfect weekend, scoring the first four goals and never looking back. Cristian Adragna ('01/Rochester, Mich.) fired a pair, including the game-winner early in the final period.

 

Minnesota Moose (3-1)

After their opening loss to the Northern Colorado Eagles, the Moose won the rest of their games in Chicago. Following the Fighting Irish’s best game of the weekend earlier in the day against the Havoc, the Irish wrapped up a tough weekend with an 8-1 loss against the Moose, playing just their second game.

Logan Wright ('02/Hibbing, Minn.) turned aside 33 of 34 shots he faced in goal for the Moose and Tristan Avoletta ('01/Wasilla, Alaska ) scored three, with Cody Carlson ('00/Buffalo, Minn.) adding two.

The Moose’s Tyler Braccini ('01/Hanover, Minn.) broke a 1-1 deadlock with 3:55 to go for a 2-1 win over the Metro Jets in a battle between two Midwest powerhouses. The Jets’ Conner Graham ('00/Lake Orion, Mich) scored to pull the Jets even just prior to Braccini’s heroics. 

The Moose got another pair from Braccini on Sunday, tying the game in the middle period and putting his squad in front to stay near the halfway mark of the third period for a 4-1 win over MJDP, who fell to 2-2 on the weekend. 

 

Pittsburgh Vengeance (3-1)

The Vengeance, like the Moose, suffered their first loss at the hands of the Northern Colorado Eagles but were perfect after that. 

In a 4-3 win over the Minnesota Mullets in Game 2, Nicolas Coppola (‘01/Glendale, Ariz.) thought he added an insurance goal with less than two minutes to play, his second of the game putting his team up 4-2, but the Mullets (2-2 on the weekend) struck back for one more in the dying seconds to make that one stand up as the game-winner.

In a Saturday 4-3 win over the Dells Ducks, the Vengeance got the overtime game-winner from Nick Tessier ('02/Beaver Falls, Penn.), after Evan West ('03/Pittsboro, Ind.) scored twice in regulation.

The Vengeance’s Lucas Kirk ('00/Pittsburgh, Penn.) and Evan Victor ('02/Pittsburgh, Penn.) scored two each and Josh Ferry ('02/Finlay, Penn.) picked up the 5-0 shutout in goal in the 2020-closing win over Motor City. 

 

Pueblo Bulls (3-1) 

Joining their Mountain Division mates the Eagles, the Pueblo Bulls made the trip north and east and came out very well, their four-day weekend opening with a 5-4 loss to the Minnesota Blue Ox (2-2 on the weekend). The Blue Ox’s Jake McAlpine (‘02/Shoreview, Minn.) registered the third period game-winner, his second of the game. 

The Bulls never looked back. In Game 2, Wyatt Andres (‘00/Brainerd, Minn.) score two en route to a 4-1 win over Toledo.  

The Bulls sent the Jets to their first regulation defeat in 22 reguiar season contests with all three goals scored in the second period. Benjamin St-Onge ('00/Quebec City, Que.) scored the first two, including the game-winner and Blake Sprow ('01/Burbank, Calif.) picked up the 29-save shutout win in goal.

The Bulls got an overtime game-winner from Michael Power ('00/London, England) to clinch a win in its final game at the Chicago event. MJDP, who tied the game at 1-1, were en route to an eventual 2-1-1 record for the weekend. 

 

Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings (3-1)

The highlight game of the second day of the USPHL Chicago Showcase saw two division leaders meeting and bringing long winning streaks into the contest.

The Metro Jets, leaders of the Great Lakes Division, had yet to be defeated in regulation time this season and kept that streak alive with a 5-3 win against the Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings.

The teams traded leads, with the Jets up 2-0 before the Riverkings jumped in front 3-2. The Jets had the final three, including the game-winner just past the five-minute mark of the third, scoring by Ryan Messing (‘01/Buffalo, N.Y.). 

Right back to business Saturday, the Riverkings beat Lake Erie 3-2. After a scoreless opening period, the Riverkings opened a 2-1 second period lead and got the eventual game winner from Nathan Bottles ('00/Williamston, Mich.) with a shorthanded penalty shot goal that put his team up 3-1 in the third period. A last-minute goal for the Bighorns added to the excitement in the final seconds.

In the nightcap, Bottles fired three goals including the game-winner late in the second period as the Riverkings held off a late Oilers' charge to secure its second win of the day at the Showcase, 4-3.  

Cole Creger ('00/Lafayette, Colo.) scored twice to pace the attack and Reece McDonald ('01/Sioux City, Iowa) fired the game-winner for the Riverkings in a 6-4 win over Toledo, while Drew Welsch ('00/Trenton, Mich.) and Greg Obrycki ('01/Brownstown, Mich.) both notched a pair for the Cherokee.

The Riverkings finished strong with three straight wins and a 3-1 weekend while the Cherokee wrapped up a 1-3 showing in Chicago.

 

Columbus Mavericks (2-1-1) 

After the big OT win against Chicago - see above - the Mavericks fell in Game 2 in overtime, 3-2, to the Mullets in their second voyage beyond regulation. Ryan Wolf (‘00/Muskeon, Mich) ended that one for the Mullets 55 seconds into overtime.

Later in the day, the Mavericks scored five in the second period, pulling away for a 7-1 win vs. Decatur. Sam Adler ('00/Milton, Ga.) scored twice for the Mavs and George Zimmerer ('01/Medina, Ohio) sank the game winner in the first period.

In the final game, a loss for Columbus, the Blue Ox’s Hayden Masloski ('02/Andover, Minn.) scored three times including the game-winner as Minnesota won 5-2 and finished off a 2-2 weekend at the Showcase. 

 

Metro Jets Development Program (2-1-1) 

Joey Mocnik (‘02/Allen Park, Mich.) opened his Chicago Showcase with a hat trick to help the MJDP to a huge 8-2 win over the Minnesota Blue Ox

In Game 2, J.P. Krone ('01/Wilmette, Ill.) tied the game up with less than a second to spare for the Vipers, sending it to overtime, but Patrick Hays (‘01/Centerville, Ohio) sank the game winner for MJDP 55 seconds into the extra period. Vipers goaltender Patrick Kristo ('01/Centerville, Ohio) kept his team in it with a 45-save game.

Sunday for the MJDP opened with the aforementioned 2-1 overtime loss to the Pueblo Bulls, and ended with a 4-1 loss to the Minnesota Moose. 

 

Rochester Vipers (2-1-1)

Todd McIlrath’s team had a strong showing in Chicago, beginning on Thursday with a decisive victory over the Midwest Blackbirds. Zach Hoffman (‘02/Papillion, Neb.) posted a 1-3-4 line and Bryce Iott (‘01/Ida, Mich.) had two goals and two assists. 

The Vipers snatched a 6-5 OT win Friday from the Wooster Oilers after chasing them the entire game. Hoffman fired his second of the game with just over six seconds to play, pulling the Vipers even at 5-5 and Jaiz Barner gave the Rochester crew its first and only lead of the contest, finishing off a hat trick with the overtime game winner. Sebastian Smith (‘02/Pinckney, Mich.) and Will Holden (‘02/Lakewood, Ohio) both scored twice for the Oilers, who went 1-2-1 on the weekend.

Saturday saw the aforementioned 2-1 overtime loss to the MJDP, and the Cougars closed out Rochester’s 2-1-1 weekend with a 5-1 defeat of the Vipers. 

 

Dells Ducks (2-1-1)

Six different goal-scorers posted tallies for the Ducks in their Thursday opener, a 6-2 win over Detroit. Alexander Smedley (‘02/Woodbury, N.J.), who joined the team early last week, stopped 43 of 45 saves for the yeoman’s work in the victory to kick off the Ducks’ best weekend so far this season and also broke a tough 26-game losing streak that went back to 2019-20.

The Ducks found themselves on a winning streak after a 5-1 victory over Motor City. Smedley shared the win in this one with Sean Piotrowicz (‘02/Beverly Hills, Mich.), while Jayden Tkaczuk (‘02/Channahon, Ill.) buried a pair to pace the Ducks’ offense.

Going to OT against the Pittsburgh Vengeance gave them a point and a huge dose of confidence to play right in lockstep with some of the league leaders. 

Joseph Sherman ('03/Northville, Mich.) fired two goals for the eventually 2-2 Metro Hockey Club, and Brandon Plummer ('00/White Lake, Mich.) fired MHC’s game-winner in a 4-1 loss for the Ducks. 

 

Rum River Mallards (2-1-0-1)

After nearly a month between games, the Mallards had to get their game legs under them, giving the Decatur Blaze (1-2-1) their only victory of the showcase, a 1-0 shootout defeat of the Mallards. Carter Elmore (‘01/Maryville, Ill.) posted 28 saves for the shutout, plus three more stops in the shootout. Stepan Skvirskii (‘01/Russia) scored the only goal of any type in that game for the Blaze’s shootout win.

The Lake Erie Bighorns scored the first three in a 4-2 win - their only W of a 3-1 showcase - but the Mallards made things interesting with a pair in the third to get within a shot. Josh Tomasi (‘02/Cleveland, Ohio) scored the game-winner for the Bighorns.

On Saturday, the Mallards snapped a losing skid dating back to its second game of the season in a huge win over Motor City. Drew Mosely ('02/St. Louis, Mo.) collected a 23-save shutout and Tyler Landers ('01/Wichita, Kan.) paced the offense with a three-goal game.

The Mallards closed the showcase and the 2020 portion of their schedule with back-to-back wins in their best week of the season so far. Austin Bartel ('01/New Berlin, Wis.) turned in a 40-save shutout for the Mallards and seven different shooters hit the mesh, including Easton Parnell ('03/Cambridge, Minn.)