USPHL Premier 2023-24 Midwest Region Players Of The Week

Week of Jan. 19, 2024

Games of Jan. 10-17, 2024 


Summaries by Joshua Boyd /


Midwest West Division 

Forward: Tommy Babb, Minnesota Blue Ox

Babb (‘04/Andover, Minn.) came to the Blue Ox in 2022 after helping Andover High School win the Class AA state championship. The Blue Ox captain has been particularly generous lately, dishing out eight assists in the space of three games and adding a couple goals himself for a stretch of 10 points in three games (good for a 3.1 points per game average). He hit the ice for an average of 20:49 in the three games to lead all Blue Ox forwards, and he also blocked four shots, another high among Blue Ox forwards. 


Defense: Jackson Schaefer, Hudson Havoc 

Schaefer (‘04/Sussex, Wis.) played more than half of the Havoc’s two recent games, averaging 30:12 per game and making the best of every minute. He registered five assists in the two games, as well. The second-year Premier defenseman has 22 points in 32 games (after posting five points in 28 games last year). 


Goaltender: Joey Gag, Minnesota Moose

Gag (‘03/New Ulm, Minn.) registered a 40-save shutout against the Isanti Outlaws on Jan. 13, a career best performance which is saying a lot for a third-year Premier and Moose goaltender. He also stopped 25 of 28 shots in a close loss to the Minnesota Blue Ox, but even with that, his save percentage was still .956 for the weekend. He is 9-3-0-0 currently for the season with a .923 save percentage, and he is 21-6-1-1 with a .915 save percentage since 2021. 


Midwest East Division

Forward: Gerdas Paulauskas, Chicago Cougars 

Paulauskas (‘04/Lisle, Ill.) posted a hat trick and an assist – his second career hat trick and first this season – to help the Cougars to a big win against the Decatur Blaze last weekend. The four-point game saw him jump over a point-per-game average for his three-year career with 107 points in 105 games. 


Defense: Nicholas DeStefanis, Metro Jets Development Program 

DeStefanis (‘03/Rochester, Mich.) is in his second season with MJDP after coming out of nearby Romeo High School in 2022, and recently registered a two-assist game against Motor City Hockey Club to set a career high of 16 points, besting the 15 points he put up over the full 2022-23 season. His +28 for the season is second among MJDP blueliners.  


Goaltender: Sam Burcal, Chicago Cougars 

Burcal (‘06/Countryside, Ill.) stopped all 27 shots he faced against Decatur for his first career junior shutout, and he improved his record to 5-4-0-0. The former Indy Jr. Fuel goaltender was selected for the Phase II USHL Combine in 2023. 


Great Lakes

Forward: Luke Gaffney, Metro Jets 

Gaffney (‘03/Clarendon Hills, Ill.) is in his third year in the USPHL Premier and first as a Jet, and he’s already improved upon his first two years’ offensive output combined. A recent run of 3-3-6, including 2-3-5 line against Cincinnati, helped him to 45 points on the season in 31 games. He was also tied for the lead in plus-minus among Jets forwards last weekend with a +4. In Gaffney, the Jets were able to add to a roster already rich in Nationals experience, as he’s been there the past two seasons with his previous team. 


Defense: Carson Redd, Metro Jets

A staple of the Jets’ top defensive pairing (with Brock Hart), Redd had another fantastic weekend in putting up a pair of goals and four assists for six points against Nashville and Cincinnati, while also leading the team in shots on goal (11) from the blue line. The first-year junior player, an ‘04 from Macomb, Mich., has improved to 47 points in 31 games this season. 


Goaltender: Daniel Duzek, Nashville Spartans 

Duzek stopped all 43 shots he faced against the Toledo Cherokee in a battle of two of the top three Great Lakes Division teams. The ‘06 from Skalka nad Vahom, Slovakia, has been huge all season in keeping the Spartans at or near the top of the GLD. For the weekend, he went 1-1 and stopped 80 of 86 shots for a .930 save percentage. For the season, he’s at 13-5-1-0 with a .917 save percentage. His shutout victory was his 25th career Premier win, as well.