The USPHL Chicago Showcase wrapped up on Sunday, Dec. 19, at both the Fifth Third Arena in downtown Chicago and also at the Leafs Ice Centre in West Dundee, Ill. Below is a look at the teams that came out ahead of or at least even with where they were at the start (.500 or better records.)
Only two teams came out with completely clean 4-0 records - the Chicago Cougars and Minnesota Blue Ox - and seven additional teams walked away with three victories.
Chicago Cougars (4-0)
The Cougars came into the event down two points in the race for the Midwest East - and they emerged with a six-point lead at the holiday break, thanks to a 4-0 run (additionally, previous division leader MJDP struggled and was unable to earn a victory at the showcase).
Chicago started out with a 6-1 win over Lake Erie, a 2-1 victory against Columbus, a one-sided shutout victory against Wooster and finished with a close 3-2 battle against the Steele County Blades.
Minnesota Blue Ox (4-0)
It was a neck-and-neck race throughout the weekend between the prior Midwest West leaders the Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings and the Blue Ox. The ‘Kings were one point ahead going into the weekend, but a single loss to a strong Northern Colorado Eagles team (3-1) combined with a 4-0 run for the Blue Ox has the Coon Rapids, Minn., team leading by one going into the break.
The Blue Ox started with a 5-4 win over Fort Wayne in overtime, followed by a 4-2 defeat of the Cincinnati Jr. Cyclones, 5-2 against Northern Colorado and 5-1 against Lake Erie. And with this 4-0 run, the Blue Ox catapulted themselves from 12th to fourth in the league points race.
Detroit Fighting Irish (3-0-1-0)
The second best Midwest East team to emerge from the Chicago Showcase were the Fighting Irish, who gave up just a 5-4 overtime loss to Lake Erie in their quest for perfection. They cut their deficit between their fourth-place position and third by half - from eight points to four back of Fort Wayne.
They started with a 5-3 win over the Rum River Mallards, followed by a 6-5 victory over the Dells Ducks. After their third game, the loss to the Bighorns, they rebounded with a 3-2 shootout victory against the Minnesota Moose, a team that was eight points ahead of Detroit.
The Jets felt different pressure - they were sitting in first place league-wide on the morning of Day 1, just two points ahead of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights. They go into the break, however, up by five with 53 points.
The team started by shutting out Hudson, 3-0, before they took their only loss in overtime to the Minnesota Moose. Back at it, they shut out Fort Wayne, 6-0, and handily defeated Steele County to be able to go into the break remaining kings of a 64-team hill.
Minnesota Mullets (3-1)
The Mullets did everything they could to push up in the Midwest West, but even with a six-point weekend in Chicago, they remain in sixth place. They did, however, cut their deficit to fifth by half - from four to two points away from the Steele County Blades.
They defeated the Decatur Blaze, 6-1, in their kickoff, got overtime wins against the Columbus Mavericks (3-2) and Cincinnati Jr. Cyclones (4-3), but lost to another 3-1 team, the Pittsburgh Vengeance.
Northern Colorado Eagles (3-1)
The only team at the event not from the Midwest West, Midwest East or Great Lakes divisions, the Eagles enjoyed a couple massive wins up front in their schedule. They defeated the fifth-leading (in the whole league) Toledo Cherokee, 3-2, and then No. 11 Wisconsin rapids, 3-1. They also dealt the MJDP a 3-1 loss before falling to the red-hot Minnesota Blue Ox, 5-2, to end the run. They did move from being down by one point to the Pueblo Bulls to leading their Colorado rivals by three, and switched places to stand in third at the break.
Pittsburgh Vengeance (3-1)
The Vengeance started out with a 2-1 loss to the Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings, but never looked back after that. They defeated the Decatur Blaze (8-2) and Motor City Hockey Club (6-0), but eventually fell to the Minnesota Mullets, 4-3. While they didn’t move out of fifth place, they did close the gap to fourth from seven to just two away from the Cincinnati Jr. Cyclones.
Toledo Cherokee (3-1)
A 3-2 loss to the Northern Colorado Eagles right off the bat put the Cherokee on their toes and they went after the rest of their competition with a chip on their collective shoulder. They defeated the MJDP, 6-1, the Minnesota Moose 7-0 and the Hudson Havoc, 2-1. The Toledo Cherokee remain fifth in the USPHL Premier in points, right where they began Tuesday.
Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings (3-1)
For Marty Quarters’ squad, it was a somewhat good trip - they grabbed six points - but, because their Midwest West foes the Blue Ox did the whole 4-0 thing, they go into the break down one instead of up in first place (by one) where they started this whole Chicago business. A loss to the upstart Northern Colorado Eagles was their only blemish, coming in their second game.
They won 3-2 over the Midwest Blackbirds to start, and finished with a 2-1 win over the Pittsburgh Vengeance and 4-0 against the MJDP.
Columbus Mavericks (2-0-1-1)
The Mavs, still in third place in the Great Lakes Division (because Metro and Toledo), had the best points haul of any team that only won two games. They came out with six points because they dropped one in OT and one in a shootout in addition to their decisive win to start the showcase against the Dells Ducks and close shootout win to end it against the Midwest Blackbirds (4-3).
In between, they fell in overtime to the Mullets (3-2) and in the shootout to the Cougars (2-1).
Minnesota Moose (2-1-0-1)
The Moose moved into a tie for third, as they picked up five points and the third place team going into Chicago, Hudson, only earned two points (over three games, one being canceled due to a bus breakdown). The Moose beat MJDP, 3-0, then beat none other than the league-leading Metro Jets, 4-3, in overtime. After their only regulation loss to Toledo (7-0), they additionally fell 3-2 in a shootout to the Detroit Fighting Irish.
Rum River Mallards (2-2)
The Mallards won a pair of games to help them at the very least increase their lead on the Midwest West ninth-place Dells Ducks by one point to 11 total. They started out with a loss to the Fighting Irish, but came back with a 4-2 win over an improving Midwest Blackbirds team. After a decisive W against the Motor City Hockey Club, they ended with a tough 7-3 defeat at the hands of the Fort Wayne Spacemen.
Steele County Blades (2-2)
The Blades didn’t change their position - they remain in sixth place in the Midwest West - but they did pick up some nice wins and very nearly had a chance to take down one of the two 4-0 teams, just falling short in the end. After a decisive, one-sided win over the Wooster Oilers, they had a much closer track meet against the Cincinnati Jr. Cyclones, 8-6. They took as humbling a loss to the Metro Jets as they had dealt to Wooster, and then finished with a close showdown that ended in a 3-2 Cougars victory.