For most of the season, the USPHL Premier Midwest West Division has seen most of its nine member teams grouped together in a division where anyone could win against anyone.
There was some separation beginning in the post-Thanksgiving part of the schedule but performances at the Midwest Crossover Showcase Dec. 20-23 saw four teams putting up perfect 4-0 marks to create some separation.
At the top, the Hudson Havoc improved its overall Showcase record to 10-1-1 with four wins, keeping pace with the Minnesota Moose, the division’s defending regular season champs who entered and exited the tournament even in points with the Havoc.
The Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings, who last season finished as division runners-up, also wrapped up a four-win weekend while the suddenly surging expansion Rum River Mallards were also perfect.
As a result, the Havoc (21-5-1-1) and Moose (22-9-0-0) are even at 44 points – the Havoc with three fewer games played, seven up on both the Riverkings (18-11-1-0) and Mallards (18-12-1-0).
Right behind are the Minnesota Mullets (16-13-2-0 – 34 points) and Minnesota Blue Ox (16-10-1-0 – 33 points) who both wrapped up 3-1 showings at the event.
Dells Ducks and Kasson Vipers both grabbed a single win while the Steele County Blades were unable to find a way to the win column.
Meanwhile, the Midwest-East served notice it is not going to take getting pushed around by the other divisions.
At the Chicago Showcase Tournament in October five of the six Midwest-East squads went winless on the weekend. This time out five of the six grabbed at least one win. The Midwest Blackbirds led the charge with a 2-2 weekend while the division leading Motor City Hockey Club; Chicago Cougars and Decatur Blaze each finished at 1-3. The Tri-City Icehawks finished with three points after a 1-2-1 weekend and the Detroit Fighting Irish were the only team from the division without a win.
Perfect at the top
While never able to gain much in the way of breathing room, the Havoc have been in the point position for the West Division for most of the season and the team has been at its best at Showcase events.
This time around Hudson started out on Thursday with an 8-1 whipping of the Chicago Cougars, adding a 4-1 decision against the Steele County Blades the following day. On Saturday the Havoc grabbed a 9-0 shutout against the Detroit Fighting Irish, wrapping up on Sunday with another shutout, 8-0 against the Tri-City Icehawks.
The Havoc had 17 players hit the score sheet, led by defenseman Chris Dusek (‘98/Dallas, Texas) with six goals and three assists over the weekend, Max Wigfield (‘99/Oak Park, Ill.) adding four goals and four helpers. Charlie Skinner (‘00/Chicago, Ill.) added three goals and three helps with five-point games for Dylan Marty (‘00/New Richmond, Wis, -- one goal, four assists) and Kaleb Kinskey (‘99/Waterloo, Iowa – two goals, three assists).
In goal, Cal Ambrose (‘99/Wayzata, MN) played the first two games, stopping 41 of 43 shots faced before Hunter Koch (‘99/Boonton, N.J.) and Manny Hertel-Bauman (‘98/St. Paul, Minn.) collected back to back shutouts. Koch stopped 21 shots against the Fighting Irish and Hertel Bauman 13 against the Icehawks.
For the Moose, an 8-2 win against the Vipers on Friday sent the team on its way followed by a pair on Saturday, defeating the Cougars 5-2 and Decatur Blaze 6-3 before wrapping up with an 8-0 shutout against the Fighting Irish Sunday.
Philip DeSaava (‘98/Ludvika, Sweden) enjoyed a huge weekend, racking up five goals and six assists for the Moose who saw 19 players record at least a point. James Frantz (‘99/New Carlisle, Ohio) chipped in four goals and two assists. Jonah Bergstrom (‘00/Pine City, Minn.) and Ryan Kropp (‘99/Northbrook, Ill.) both had three goals and two assists over the weekend, Tyler Jensen (‘98/Beloit, Wis.) collecting two goals and three assists.
Jaeger Reed (‘99/Crosslake, Minn.) backstopped two of the wins, handling 48 of 50 shots against including all 10 in the final contest.
The Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings played the rival Dells Ducks twice at the event, opening with a 4-1 in its opener at the Poppy Waterman Ice Arena in Wisconsin Dells Thursday and its finale, a 5-2 margin on Saturday night. In between the Riverkings grabbed a 3-0 shutout win against the Motor City Hockey Club and a 2-0 whitewash of the Decatur Blaze, both on Friday.
The Riverkings got some offensive leadership from Adam Peterson (‘98/Chicago, Ill.) with two goals and five assists while Thimo Ey (‘99/Metamora, Mich.) scored four and set up a pair, Raymond Fleming (‘98/Palo Alto, Calif.) adding a goal and five helpers.
In goal, Drake Bradshaw (‘99/Lapeer, Mich.) and Dom Paciocco (‘98/Whitby, Ont.) both picked up a pair of wins in goal with a shutout apiece.
The Mallards boosted its record to 8-2 in its past 10 with an offensive juggernaut that saw the team rack up 37 goals over the four-game weekend.
Leading the charge was the tandem of Caleb Griffin (‘98/Regina, Sask. – six goals, nine assists) and Peter Meyer (‘00/Waseca, Minn. – 10 goals, five assists) with 15 points apiece. Zach Earl (‘00/Paw Paw, Mich.) added four goals and seven assists, Derek Becklin (‘00/Cambridge, Minn.) picking up four goals and three helpers. With six points each for Braden Laporte (‘99/Superior, Wis. – goal, five assists) and C.J. Hoyt (‘00/Forest Lake, Minn. – three goals, three assists).
Parker Swanson (‘98/Hopkins, Minn.) picked up three wins for the Mallards in goal handling 63 of 69 shots against.
For the East, matching 1-3 records kept the Motor City Hockey Club (19-11-0-0) eight points up on second place Chicago Cougars (14-10-2-0) with the Cougars owning four games in hand.
After dropping a 3-0 decision to the Riverkings in its opener on Friday, the Motor City crew grabbed a 3-0 shutout of its own against the Steele County Blades Saturday thanks in part to a two-goal game for Noah McNutt (‘00/Port Huron, Mich.) and a 23-save shutout for Nathan Norkevicus (‘98/Pittsburgh, Penn.).
In that win, the Detroit squad scored two shorthanded goals including its second goal of the season while two skaters short.
Later on the same day, the Motor City crew owned a 3-2 lead in the second half, but Rum River stormed back with three goals in 4:31 to snatch a 5-3 win. In its finale, Motor City fell to the Minnesota Mullets 6-4 on Sunday.
The Cougars dropped its opener to the Havoc Thursday before rallying back for a 3-2 edge against the Kasson Vipers Friday.
Tristan Hillebert (‘98/Topeka, Kan.) fired the game winner in the win with a little under 10 minutes to play, but the momentum didn’t carry as the Cougars fell 5-2 against the Minnesota Moose Saturday and 5-1 against the Minnesota Blue Ox Sunday.
The Midwest Blackbirds (14-15-0-0) gained a bit of ground with a .500 weekend. The Blackbirds opened the tournament Thursday with a 4-2 win against the Steele County Blades and wrapped it up with a 3-2 edge against the Dells Ducks. In between though, was an 8-4 doubling by the Mallards and a 4-0 shutout win for the Mullets.
Alec Curry (‘99/Bloomington, Ind.) scored a goal in the win against the Blades and two more in the win against the Ducks.
Great Lakes Division
The battle for second in the Great Lakes Division heated up a bit in the final game weekend of 2018 as the Lansing Wolves split a pair on home ice with the Pittsburgh Vengeance.
After taking a 6-4 win at the Summit Sports and Ice Complex Friday, the Wolves missed a chance to move away from the Vengeance who grabbed a 2-1 win on Saturday.
Other division play saw the division leading Metro Jets take a sweep against Wooster with a 5-0 win Friday on the road at the at the Alice Noble Ice Arena and a 3-2 win in overtime back home at Fraser Hockeyland the following day.
The Toledo Cherokee grabbed a pair of wins against MJDP at Team Toledo Ice House to close in on the battle for fourth spot.
At Lansing, the Vengeance carried a 2-0 lead out of the opening period but teams were even at 3-3 heading to the third Friday night. The Wolves fired two in the opening 8:15 of the final period to grab control, both teams adding one more in the middle part of the period.
Nathan Albrecht (‘00/Pinconning, Mich.) paced the Wolves with two goals and a couple assists in the win, Brandon Ashley (‘99/Saginaw, Mich) adding a goal and three assists and Brendan Smith (‘98/Birch Run, Mich.) adding a goal and two set ups.
Kenny White (‘98/Trafford, Penn.) collected three assists for the Vengeance in the Friday contest and had set ups of the team’s two first goal markers the following night which was enough for a 2-1 win.
Nick Ventura (‘00/Point Pleasant, N.J.) and August Bouveng (‘99/Sweden) fired the Vengeance goals in the win while Landon Anderson (‘98/Murray, Utah) picked up the win in goal.
For the Jets, a two-goal game for Jeremy Schwartz (‘98/Warren, Mich.) and a 24-save shutout for Fredrik Meurling (‘98/Huddinge, Sweden) led the team to the 5-0 shutout win at Wooster.
The following day the Oilers scored in the first and final periods, the Jets countering with two in the middle frame and Cory Schwartz (‘99/Warren, Mich.) sinking the game winner just past the halfway mark of the five-minute overtime period.
At Toledo, teams were even at 1-1 entering the third before a four-goal explosion led the Cherokee to a win.
The following day saw the Cherokee in front 2-0 after a period and 3-1 heading to the final frame.