The top half of the USPHL Great Lakes Division separated itself from the bottom half with weekend sweeps by the Metro Jets, Lansing Wolves and Pittsburgh Vengeance.
The division leading Jets, played a home-and-home set with the Toledo Cherokee, taking the opener Friday night 4-1 at Team Toledo IceHouse before grabbing a 6-0 shutout at Fraser Hockeyland on Saturday, continuing its current winning streak to 13-games dating back to mid-October.
The goaltenders played a big part, Fredrik Meurling (‘98/Huddinge, Sweden) handling 18 of 19 in the Friday win and Brian Tallieu (‘98/Davison, Mich.) earning the 13-save shutout on Saturday.
The Jets carried a 2-1 lead out of the first period Friday before adding two more in the second. On Saturday, a single first period goal was scored by three in the second and two more down the stretch.
The Jets got goals from 10 different players including: Joey Demarte (‘99/Ira Twp., Mich.); Jhuwon Davis (‘98/South Gate, Mich.); Anthony Cinato (‘00/Warren, Mich.); Joey Bruce (‘98/Wixom, Mich.); Christian Rawling (‘99/Chesterfield, Mich.); Brandon Graham (‘98/Clawson, Mich.); Tyler German (‘00/Canton, Mich.); Conner Graham (‘00/Lake Orion, Mich.); Cory Schwartz (‘99/Warren, Mich.) and Defenseman Of The Week Justin Song (’00/Farmington Hills, Mich.).
Spencer Sandberg (‘00/Fort Wayne, Ind.) had the lone Cherokee goal on the weekend.
Wolves vs. Oilers
The Lansing Wolves have slipped out of top spot in the past few weeks and collected just one win at the Islanders Showcase before Thanksgiving. But the visiting Wolves were in charge at the Alice Noble Ice Arena in Wooster on the weekend, taking the first game 5-3 and setting up a key game at home against Metro Jets next weekend with a 7-0 win in the getaway game Sunday.
The host Oilers were on the board first Saturday but the teams were even at 1-1 after a period. Even again at 2-2 halfway through the second, the Wolves scored three in the final eight minutes of the period. Wooster got one back in the final frame but it wasn’t enough.
The following day it was all Wolves with three unanswered goals in the first and second periods and one more in the third.
Brendan Andis (‘99/Grand Blanc, Mich.) enjoyed a huge game Saturday, scoring four times for the Wolves, the other goal scored by Brendan Smith (‘98/Birch Run, Mich.). On Sunday, Noah Pipper (‘98/Okemos, Mich.) fired a pair with other goals added by Conner Hilliker (‘01/Muskegon, Mich.); Nathan Albrecht (‘00/Pinconning, Mich.); Zachary Rais (‘99/Livonia, Mich.); Cameron Smith (‘99/Grand Blanc, Mich.) and Michael Klintworth (‘98/Jackson, Mich.).
Midwest Goaltender Of The Week Jeremy Skaife (‘98/Rockville, Md.) helped the Wolves with the shutout win despite being outshot 44-29.
Donald Dickens (‘99/Northfield, Ohio) scored twice for the Oilers, the other goal added by Zach Zwierecki (‘98/Avon, Ohio.)
MJDP vs. Vengeance
The other division series saw MJDP hitting the road for a pair in Pittsburgh against the Vengeance, another team looking to improve on some so/so play of late.
Teams last met on Oct. 20-21 and split a pair and the first game Saturday night was back and forth as well.
The junior Jets were on the board first and carried a 2-1 lead out of the opening period but three goals in the first 8:48 of the second had the host Vengeance in control 4-2. MJDP cut into the margin just 16 seconds after the third Pittsburgh goal and it was still 4-3 heading to the third.
Teams traded goals through the first half of the period but Nick Erker (‘98/Avon Lake, Ohio) scored with just over five minutes to go clinching the win for the Vengeance. Anthony Bates (‘98/Mantua, Ohio) and Santeri Rajakallio (‘98/Kankaanpaa, Finland) both scored twice for the home team and Lucas Kirk (‘00/Pittsburgh, Penn.) notched the other.
For MJDP, goals came from Nick McDougall (‘01/Clinton Twp. Mich.); Brock Taylor (‘98/Cadillac, Mich.); Brayden Tayles (‘00/Waterford, Mich.) and Zach Kippe (‘98/Goderich, Mich.).
The following day was also close, but a 13-save effort by Jacob Zab (‘98/Mentor, Ohio) led the Vengeance to the win. The game winner came from Nick Ventura (‘00/Point Pleasant, N.J.) in the first period with a pair of insurance tallies from Chris Sturny (‘98/Tafers, Switzerland) and Tyler Duderstadt (‘00/Sewickley, Penn.) in the final period.
The Metro Jets boosted their record to 20-2-1-0 with its weekend wins and it remains four points up on the 18-8-1-0 Wolves with four games in hand as well. The two teams face each other Saturday night in Lansing.
The Vengeance sit third at 14-7-2-0), seven behind the Wolves and eight up on the fourth place 7-13-2-1 MJDP squad.
Leaders moving away in Midwest-East
The Chicago Cougars took advantage of an idle weekend for the third place Midwest Blackbirds, vaulting past them with a three-game sweep on home ice at the Leafs Center in West Dundee, Ill., against the Decatur Blaze.
The Blaze managed to trim the lead each game but couldn’t get close enough with just a single goal in each game. After dropping the opener 7-1 on Friday, the Blaze fell 4-1 in the middle game Saturday and 3-1 on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the division leading Motor City Hockey Club beat up on a pair of opponents, defeating the Detroit Fighting Irish 12-1 Friday night before moving on to the Bay County Civic Center in Bay City, Mich., and two more decisive wins (9-1 and 6-2) against the host Tri-City Icehawks.
Blaze vs. Cougars
The Cougars opened and closed strong Friday night, opening a 4-0 first period lead before a scoreless middle period and a 3-1 margin down the stretch.
Alexander Arnold (’99/Lafayette, Ind.) scored three in the opening night win with others for John Vandervalk III (‘98/Round Lake, Ill.); Ricky Jones (‘0a/Oak Park, Ill.); Tristan Hillebert (‘98/Topeka, Kan.) and Mike Schuten (‘99/Darien, Ill.).
In the second game, the Cougars, got a pair from Breydon Hemminger (‘99/St. Charles, Ill.) and others for Dalton Saling (‘01/Marengo, Ill.) and Hillebert.
Ian Clifford (‘00/Cary, N.C.) handled the work goal in both of the first two games, handing 43 of 45 shots against for the Cougars.
In the finale, Hemminger added another with Cody Markotay (‘00/Fenton, Mo.) and Ian McCollum (‘99/Hendersonville, Tenn.) adding the others. Ethan St. Pierre (‘00/Ann Arbor, Mich.) picking up the win in goal with 25 saves.
Alec Kowalczyk (‘98/Tinley Park, Ill.); Alek Lorsung (’02/Coralville, IA) and Anthony Beltrame (‘Melrose Park, Ill.) scored the Decatur goals.
Motor City mops up
The Motor City Hockey Club is 17-3 in games against its own division this season and showed this past weekend how dominant it can be, outscoring the Fighting Irish and Icehawks by a combined 27-4.
Friday’s game was all but over after 40 minutes with two unanswered first period goals and four more in the second against the Fighting Irish.
Matthew Macumber (‘99/Port Huron, Mich.) scored three in the win, Alec Porzondek (‘98/Macomb, Mich.), Hunter Wahl (‘01/Port Huron, Mich.) and Co-Forward Of The Week Noah McNutt (‘00/Fort Gratiot, Mich) adding two apiece and singles for Jacob Keary (‘00/Utica, Mich.); Kyle Banks (‘98/Detroit, Mich.) and Jason Wyrembelski (‘98/Port Huron, Mich.). Brendan Gutekunst (‘00/Brownstown, Mich.) stopped 22 of 23 to pick up the win in goal.
Christopher Hays (‘00/Monroe, Mich.) scored the lone Fighting Irish goal.
In the other two games, the Motor City crew dominated again, led by McNutt with five goals and Macumber with four, Brian McClure (‘98/New Baltimore, Mich) scored twice and others came from Brandon Plummer (‘00/White Lake, Mich); Evan Tarnopol (‘98/Huntington Woods, Mich.); Porzondek and Keary.
Tyler Newsom (‘00/Kalamazoo, Mich.); Christopher Cornford (‘99/Saginaw, Mich.) and Daniel Vandemark (‘00/Owosso, Mich.) scored the Icehawks goals.
With the six-point weekend, the Cougars vaulted past the idle Midwest Blackbirds into second spot in the division with a record of 10-7-1-0 for 21 points, 13 behind the first place Motor City crew and now three up on the Blackbirds (9-13-0-0). Three points back of the Blackbirds is Decatur at 7-13-1, but currently looking to snap a seven-game losing streak.
Midwest West Update
The United States Premier Hockey League (USPHL) Premier Midwest-West Division has seen parity in a big way through the first half of the season, but in the early days of the second half there are early signs of separation.
It’s important to not there have been ‘signs’ like this throughout the season, but things change from weekend to weekend.
However, if post-Thanksgiving trends continue there could be some trends forming. The next few weeks – wrapping up with the Midwest Showcase that will carry the division into the Christmas Break will tell the tale.
Here’s a look at the nine-teams in order of standings (as of Dec. 3), followed up by a quick look at the Showcase event.
Hudson Havoc (15-5-1-1 – 31 pts.) While positions have changed behind them every weekend, the Havoc as held the point spot for much of the season, thanks in part to an 11-1-0-0 start to the season. Since the start of November though, the Havoc have come back to the pack a bit with a 5-5-0-0 run through its past 10. After a weekend off, the Havoc finds itself clinging to a slim one-point lead on the top spot.
Minnesota Moose – (15-8-0-0 – 30 pts.) The defending division champions are in a much more familiar position as of late, putting together an 8-2-0-0 record through its past 10 games and carrying a three-game winning streak out of a sweep on home ice against the Dells Ducks this past weekend.
Minnesota Blue Ox – (13-6-1-0 – 27 pts.) Equally as impressive as the Moose, the Blue Ox have shrugged off a slow start to the season with an 8-1-1-0 run that included a three-point weekend on home ice against the Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings. The team is 2-1-1-0 in its past four but won eight in a row before that.
Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings – (12-9-1-0 – 25 pts.) The Riverkings represented the division at nationals last spring and like the Moose, who made the trip east with them, they many new faces in the lineup. But this team has also found its footing in recent weeks, racking up a 7-3-0-0 record in its last 10. Saturday’s 7-6 loss on the road against the Blue Ox snapped a five-game winning streak against its own division.
Minnesota Mullets (11-10-2-0 – 24 points) The Mullets are just over .500 and have been that way since day one. There is not streak longer than three-games at any point this season. They are young but have some good leaders. There is still time for the team to make a run and be among the front runners or go the other way. So far though, the Mullets have been a win one/lose one team. The team is 4-6-0-0 in its past 10 but carries a two game winning streak into weekend after a sweep at home against the Kasson Vipers.
Rum River Mallards (11-10-1-1 – 24 pts.) One of two expansion teams in the division this season, the Mallards have brought junior hockey back to the town of Isanti, Minn. After dropping four of its first five games, the Mallards have been much more competitive although they have slipped a bit of late. 4-6-0-0 in its past 10. The Mallards slipped by the Ducks in the standings but due to a postponed game Saturday, they sit tied with the Mullets in fifth place.
Dells Ducks (11-14-0-1 – 23 pts.) – There have been some big wins for the Ducks this season, both against division opponents and at Showcase events. They have been met by disappointing losses as well and the team is entering a weekend off which it hopes is the tonic to snap a six-game losing streak. Ducks are 4-5-0-1 in its past 10. The season is far from over, but this team needs some wins quick to stay with the top half of the division.
Kasson Vipers (7-17-0-1 – 15 points) – The other expansion team is a nice geographical rival for the Steele County Blades. They are enduring the normal growing pains of a first-year team but have a good shot of hitting the post season in its first season. The Vipers took both ends of a two-game weekend at Owatonna against the Steele County Blades over the Thanksgiving Weekend, to strengthen its grip on that final playoff spot, but those wins are the team’s only W’s in its past 10 games as the Vipers dropped a pair to the Mullets this past weekend.
Steele County Blades (4-14-0-0 – 8 pts.) – The Blades won its first two games of the season and three of its first four. Things haven’t gone so well since then though. The team is 1-9-0 in its past 10 and currently mired in a seven-game losing streak. Making it tougher was the sweep at the hands of the Vipers on home ice over Thanksgiving which could have eliminated a shot at reaching the post season – The Blades trail the Vipers by seven. The good news though is there still could be some time. The Blades have played just 18 games so far which is fewer than any other time. In fact, the gap is as many as eight games so the Blades will be busy through the second half.
Midwest Showcase – Dec. 20-23
All but one of the nine Midwest-West teams will wrap up its Showcase games in the Windy City leading into the Christmas Break.
The Blades are the lone exception. They did not participate in the Islanders Showcase out east with the rest of the division and instead will return from the break with a trip to the USPHL Winter Showcase, Jan. 4-6, also on the east coast.
The Midwest Showcase will bring together all nine teams from the Midwest-West and the six Midwest-East teams. All but one of the 29 games will be played at the Leafs Center in West Dundee, Ill. Teams are familiar with the arena from an earlier Showcase event in October and it is home ice arena for the Chicago Cougars. A great facility with three sheets will be home to the two divisions for four days.
Division teams will officially each play a dozen Showcase games this season as well as the exhibition games played in Blaine at the end of October. Each of the Showcase events offer an opportunity for scouts to see several teams at the same venue over a weekend.
While early Showcase events offer a chance to ‘meet and greet’ this event in Chicago will likely see scouts and players a little more focused on commitments. It won’t be surprising if teams start making announcements about college commitments during or shortly after this event.