(Games of Dec. 1-12)
It’s a big week for the USPHL’s Midwest squads, as the vast majority of teams from three entire divisions (plus two more from the Mountain Division) will descend on two Chicagoland rinks for the final games of 2022 for most squads in the USPHL Chicago Showcase.
Below, we’ll take a look at the teams that have gone .500 or better since Dec. 1 in the Midwest West, Midwest East and Great Lakes Divisions, as well as which teams they’ll be facing this weekend and some history behind those matchups.
Midwest East Division
(Summaries By Miles Regan)
Fort Wayne Spacemen (5-0-0-0)
Fort Wayne is the Midwest East division’s hottest club. The Spacemen have won 11 straight games and haven’t shown any signs of slowing down. They’ve outscored their opponents 31-8 in their last five games, including a pair of decisive victories against Decatur this past weekend. The Spacemen currently hold a four point lead over Motor City for first place in the MWE.
- The Spacemen can extend their winning streak to 12 if they win their first showcase game, which would be a new team record for best-ever streak. Currently, this year’s Spacemen are tied with last year’s team at 11 straight wins. The 2021-22 team did so between Oct. 1 and Nov. 1, 2021.
- Fort Wayne has the division’s best power play unit, a group that scores 32.9 percent of the time through 85 opportunities, third best in the entire league.
- Fort Wayne Spacemen centerman Noah Maine, ‘02, currently leads the division in points with 46 (19-27–46), good for 13th in all of the Premier.
- Thomas Turgeon’s 10 points in their last two games were most by a Premier defenseman (and second most for any Premier players) for the period between Dec. 6-12.
- Three players have scored points in each of their December games and carry active scoring streaks into Chicago – Logan Robins has 2-4-6 in five games; Sam Tetreault is at 2-7-9 in four games; and Kyle Remo is at 5-2-7 in four games.
- Four goalies have at least one win (and Bryce Dunnigan leads with two) for the Spacemen in December. Only the New York Aviators, who are on a 16-0 run, show the same depth in goaltending with four separate undefeated goaltenders in December.
The Road Ahead: The Spacemen will spend the coming week competing in the USPHL Chicago Showcase. At the event, they’ll get the chance to face off against four interdivisional foes – three from the Midwest West, and one from the Mountain Division.
- The Chicago Showcase will be a nice measuring stick opportunity for FWS. The Spacemen are 6-1 against non-Midwest East teams this season, but upcoming opponents Minnesota Moose, Hudson Havoc, and Pueblo Bulls all sit in the top half of their division’s table.
- The Spacemen faced the Mullets only once, on Dec. 17, 2020, at the Chicago Showcase, a 6-4 loss. They are 1-1 in two prior games against the Havoc, also both at the Chicago Showcase.
- The Spacemen will have their first-ever meetings with the Pueblo Bulls and Minnesota Moose.
Motor City Gamblers (3-0-1-0)
Motor City split their most recent weekend series with Chicago one game apiece. The Gamblers led Friday’s game 3-0 in the second period, but ended up surrendering three straight Cougar goals before losing in overtime. MCG avenged the loss on Saturday however, winning 3-0 and defeating Chicago for the first time since 2019.
Earlier, the Gamblers had defeated the MJDP in a home-and-home, 3-1 and 3-0
- December was the second straight month that the Gamblers had two shutouts in the same month by two different goalies (Larkin Dolan and Robert Allport). The same two had also earned shutouts in November. The last time Motor City had two shutouts in one month was November 2018 when Brenden Gutekunst registered two of the four that 2018-19 season. Motor City had two total shutout wins between 2019-20 and 2021-22.
- Larkin Dolan, ‘02, recorded his second career #ShutoutShoutout on Saturday night. He made 26 saves during the win. Robert Allport shut out MJDP with 39 saves on Dec. 4, his second straight 39-save effort.
- Will Boyer, ‘03, continued his strong season this past weekend. Last week’s Midwest East Forward of the Week scored three goals against the Cougars this weekend, and has registered at least one point in nine of his last eleven games.
- Aidan Canady’s scoring streak has stretched to 15 games going back to Oct. 29, over which he’s had 7-18-25 totals, including 1-3-4 in December. His streak is the fourth longest active streak in the league and the longest overall by any Premier defenseman this year.
- William Boyer is on a four-game goal-scoring streak with five, all in December.
The Road Ahead: Motor City will play four games at the USPHL Chicago Showcase this coming week, all against teams from the Midwest West division.
- MCG is 1-0-0-1 against the Midwest West so far this season, having defeated the Dells Ducks before falling in a shootout to the Minnesota Moose at the Detroit Showcase last month.
The Gamblers will play the Minnesota Squatch, Minnesota Mullets, Hudson Havoc and Steele County Blades in Chicago.
- The Mullets have won against Motor City twice in their history, at the 2017 and 2018 Chicago Showcases. They have not met since Dec. 23, 2018, a 6-4 Minnesota victory. It’s the same case with Hudson – Havoc wins in each of 2017 and 2018, and no meetings since until this coming weekend.
- Motor City and Steele County have clashed four times in current USPHL Premier history (dating back to 2017). The Blades are 3-1-0-0 in the all-time series.
- The Gamblers are facing the first-year Squatch for the first time.
Chicago Cougars (1-1-0-0)
The Cougars spent the weekend in Fraser, Mich., splitting their weekend series with Motor City at one game apiece. The Cougars fell behind 3-0 in Friday night’s game before storming back to tie it in the third. A T.J. Haas goal won it for the green and yellow in overtime, but the momentum did not carry over to the next day. Chicago lost Saturday’s rematch 3-0, their first defeat to Motor City since 2019.
- Former Chicago Crush player Johan Karjalainen, ‘03, is fitting in nicely with his new team. The Finnish rookie recorded an assist in his first game as a Cougar, and was on the ice for linemate T.J. Haas’ overtime winner on Friday.
- The Cougars have the second-best penalty kill unit in all of Premier. Their 91.3% penalty kill percentage trails only the Richmond Generals, and their seven power play goals against is second to just the New York Aviators for fewest.
- Kevin Maisells continues to lead the Cougars in scoring with 23 points in 19 games. He has long since doubled his 10 points scored in 2021-22, and he now has 33 points in 46 games.
The Road Ahead: The defending Midwest East champions will spend the coming week preparing to host the 2022 USPHL Chicago Showcase. The event will run from Thursday, Dec. 15, to Sunday, Dec. 18. Games will be played at both the Canlan Ice Arena in Romeoville and the Leafs Ice Center in West Dundee.
- Chicago’s Showcase opponents include the Dells Ducks, Columbus Mavericks, and Cincinnati Jr. Cyclones, as well as the showcase-only MHC team fielded by the Metro Jets organization. The Cougars will have an opportunity to get their first cross-divisional win against three teams they have not yet faced this year,
- Chicago is 12-3-1-0 all-time against the Dells Ducks and 2-0-1 against the Mavericks. The Jr. Cyclones won their first-ever game with the Cougars, 2-1, on Oct. 22 at that year’s USPHL Detroit Showcase.
Chicago Crush (2-1-1-0)
The Crush started December with three straight overtime games, two coming in wins over Decatur (5-4 and 3-2 on Dec. 2-3) and another being a 4-3 loss to the Battle Creek Kernels. The Kernels also dealt the Crush a 4-1 loss on Dec. 11.
- The Crush became the first team in the division to play in three straight overtime games. They are tied for most times beyond regulation with the Boston Junior Bruins and Ogden Mustangs, and the Crush are 2-2 in OT’s and 1-1 in shootouts.
- The Crush are one of just five teams in the Premier Conference to have not given up a shorthanded goal this season.
- Nick Zehelein has risen up to become the new leading scorer for the Crush with 21 points in 20 games.
The Road Ahead: The first-year Crush will face the Columbus Mavericks, Steele County Blades, Minnesota Squatch and Hudson Havoc all for the first time.
In Other Action
The MJDP haven’t played since losing a pair to Motor City earlier this month. MJDP will wrap up their 2022 slate with the USPHL Chicago Showcase.
At the Showcase, they’ll take on the Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings, Steele County Blades, Columbus Mavericks, and Minnesota Blue Ox, and are looking to improve on a 1-3 record against non-divisional teams so far in 2022-23.
- They have yet to play any of their Showcase opponents this season, but faced two of them a season ago. In 2021-22 They beat Columbus 6-4, and lost 4-0 to WRR.
- The MJDP has played Columbus five times, and lead 4-1-0-0 all-time. They have faced the Minnesota Blue Ox twice (in 2020-21 and 2019-20) and won both.
- They have never played the Steele County Blades,
The Battle Creek Kernels are coming off their second weekend sweep of a common opponent after beating the Chicago Crush, 4-3 in overtime and 4-1. That put the Kernels at 2-3-0-0 for the month of December.
- The first-year Kernels will face, all for the first time, the Cincinnati Jr. Cyclones, Minnesota Mullets, Minnesota Moose and Minnesota Blue Ox.
The Decatur Blaze will face the Steele County Blades, Minnesota Squatch, Minnesota Moose and MHC.
Great Lakes Division
(Summaries By Lexi Obrycki)
Toledo Cherokee (4-0-0-0)
The Toledo Cherokee had a great 2-0 weekend. On Friday night they played the Metro Jets and finished off their weekend Saturday night against the Columbus Mavericks.
Friday night’s game against Metro was a hard fought one until the end for both teams. The game was tied 4-4 going into the third period, but Cameron Reel was able to capitalize on the powerplay to give Toledo the lead and Nicklas Millhorn got another to help solidify the 6-4 win.
The Cherokee then traveled to Ohio to take on the Mavericks where they would defeat them, 6-3. This gives them an 8-0 winning streak, and they have only lost to Fort Wayne on Nov. 12 and the Jets on Oct. 1.
- Out of Toledo’s 20 wins, 19 are wrapped up in two long streaks – an 11-0 winning streak from Oct. 2-Nov. 11, and the current 8-0 streak from Nov. 18-Dec. 10.
- The Cherokee are 12-0 as the home team, the best record in terms of most wins without a loss with the last change. This includes two wins at the Jets’ Mount Clemens Ice Arena as the home team at the USPHL Detroit Showcase.
- The Cherokee have a long and distinguished list of players on active four-plus game scoring streaks: Jason Crossland has a 10-9-19 line in eight games; Nicklas Millhorn has 8-9-17 in eight games; Ryan Stanley has 1-15-16 in eight games; Cameron Reel is at 4-8-12 in seven games; Jacob Slater has 2-10-12 in five games; Brett LoGelfo has 1-8-9 in four games; and Justin Lang has 0-5-5 in four games. Good luck, Chicago Showcase opponents!
- Speaking of streaks, goalie Frank Murphy is undefeated in his last 10 games, including two shutouts. That is the best record in the USPHL Premier since his winning streak started on Oct. 15.
The Road Ahead: The Cherokee have never faced the Minnesota Blue Ox or the Squatch in the regular season, though Toledo defeated the Blue Ox 2-1 in a 2022 Nationals round robin game.
- The Cherokee have lost one game apiece to the Pueblo Bulls (2021 Chicago Showcase) and the Northern Colorado Eagles (2020 Chicago Showcase).
Metro Jets (2-1-0-0)
After a tough 6-4 loss on Friday, the Jets wrapped up their weekend at home on Sunday where they defeated Battle Creek by a decisive shutout score. Metro dominated most of the game, making sure to capitalize on the opportunities that they had, and ended up scoring four of the nine goals on the power play. Bryce O’Rourke had two goals and two assists, Alex Schaumburger had two goals and an assist, and goalie Dylan Eliason had 21 saves on 21 shots.
- Schaumburger scored his 63rd career goal to become the all-time leading goal-scorer in the Jets’ 30-year-plus history. He currently has 64. His 140 points rank first among Jets in the USPHL and fifth in the club’s history.
- Schaumburger’s current 16-game point streak (featuring an 11-20-31 line) is the third-longest active streak in the USPHL Premier.
- The Jets have the league’s best defense, giving up just 1.55 goals against per game. The Jets are sixth in goals for at 6.25. They fire 47.5 shots on goal per game (fourth in the league) and they allow only 23.90 shots against per game (third).
- The majority of the Jets’ wins have come in games decided by six or more goals, in which they are 9-0. They’ve only played in two one-goal games all season and two two-goal games.
- Along with Schaumburger, Andreas Fleutot is on a five-game scoring streak of 7-5-12, and Dakota Kott has a 2-6-8 run over five games.
- Rocco Stolz remains undefeated in his five starts this season, and both he and Dylan Eliason have shutouts so far in December.
The Road Ahead: The Jets face the Northern Colorado Eagles, Minnesota Blue Ox, Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings and the Pueblo Bulls in Chicago.
- The Jets have won both of their meetings with the Eagles, Riverkings and Blue Ox (whom they haven’t faced since 2019-20). The Bulls won their only game against the Jets at the 2020 USPHL Chicago Showcase, 3-0 on Dec. 19, 2020.
In Other Action
Columbus Mavericks (1-2-0-2 in December) started last weekend on the wrong foot with the loss to the Cherokee, but picked it back up on Sunday with their win over Cincinnati. Although going into the third period, the Mavericks were up 5-1 the Cyclones made sure to not give up. They scored three in a row at the end of the third period to shorted the Mavericks lead 6-4, which was the final for the game. It was a big night for Mavericks player Colin Crowley, who had 4 goals. It was the most for a Mavericks player since Deric Richison hit the four-goal mark twice during the 2020-21 season.
- Columbus will get a double dose of Chicago right off the bat, facing the Crush then the Cougars, followed by Wisconsin Rapids and MJDP.
- They’ve never faced the first-year Crush or the Riverkings. The Cougars hold a 2-0-1-0 record against Columbus. MJDP is 4-1-0-0 against Columbus all-time.
Cincinnati comes in off December losses to Columbus (two) and the Jets. They’re hoping for a turnaround to their season when they face Battle Creek, the Dells Ducks, the Cougars and the Minnesota Mullets
- The Jr. Cyclones have earned points against all three of their 2022 showcase opponents. They defeated the Chicago Cougars 2-1 at the 2021 USPHL Detroit Showcase and they had a decisive victory against the Ducks at the 2021 Islanders Hockey Club Showcase. They fell to the Mullets 4-3 in overtime at the 2021 USPHL Chicago Showcase. They will face Battle Creek for the first time.
Midwest West Division
(Submitted by Jim Den Hollander)
The final head-to-head weekend for the Midwest-West Division this calendar year saw the division leader retain control, but virtually every position in the nine-team division is still up for grabs. There could still be some changes though with all nine teams heading into four-game Showcase weekends to wrap up the pre-Christmas portion of their respective schedules.
Minnesota Blue Ox (3-1-0-0)
The Blue Ox have lagged behind in standings for much of the first half, primarily due to a light schedule. But a three-win weekend gave them a nice push and possibly some momentum heading into the break.
After capturing a big win against the division-leading Isanti Outlaws Friday, in Isanti, the Ox edged the Minnesota Mullets in their lone home game of the weekend, 5-3, and wrapped it up with a 5-2 win in Owatonna against the Steele County Blades to pull within a point of the same team in sixth spot.
The three wins match the team’s longest streak so far this season and more impressive, 18 different players and three different goaltenders hit the game sheet on a 17-goal weekend.
Leading the charge was Mike Abrego, an ‘04 out of Alaska, with four goals and two assists while Gavin Gordon collected three goals and a helper. Brendan Shaner and Minnesotans Zach LaMotte (‘02/Burnsville) and Tommy Babb (‘04/Andover) each had 1-3-4 totals.
Eli Marchese, Elias Johannson and Justin Garstecki each recorded wins in goal in order and combined to stop 75 of 82 opponent chances.
- The Blue Ox boosted its record to 2-0 against the Outlaws, one at home and one away and both comfortable wins. Against the Mullets, the Blue Ox is 3-0 with one more to come Jan. 28. The win against the Blades avenged a season opening 5-2 defeat in September with two more to come.
- Mike Abrego is averaging a goal per game for December so far with a 4-2-6 line in four games.
The Road Ahead: The Blue Ox will barely cross the midway mark of the regular season with four games at the Chicago Showcase against the Toledo Cherokee, Metro Jets, Battle Creek Kernels and MJDP.
- They’ll have their first meetings with the Cherokee and the Kernels. They have two losses against each of the Jets and MJDP in their history, in addition to one Nationals loss to each.
Minnesota Moose (3-1-0-0)
The Moose were also perfect on the weekend, welcoming the Dells Ducks to Fogerty Ice Arena with a Friday/Saturday sweep. Fogerty is a tough room for the Ducks who have struggled in the past there, whether it be against the Moose or at the annual USPHL Midwest Showcase in Blaine.
The opener was never in doubt as the Moose scored early and often, but Saturday the Moose broke Duck hearts, rallying back from a 2-1 deficit with four goals in the game’s final minutes.
Pacing the offense were a pair of set-up men, Norway’s Teodor Benno-Vaage with six assists and a pair of goals while John Becker (‘03/Dellwood, Minn.) helped out on six as well.
Plymouth’s Ryan Mulrenin scored five and assisted on two others while Tay Kurpius scored one and assisted on four.
Those players deserve the praise for their heroics, but the story of this one was Ducks goaltender Chris Mazurek, who stopped 71 of 74 to get the Ducks to within a couple minutes of a win. He also collected a 4-2 win against the Mullets Thursday and wrapped up the weekend with 97 saves on 102 shots.
- The Moose are happy to fire shots on net, as they have hit the top 10 in shots on goal per game at 46.44 per contest.
- Jared Topil is the only Moose with points in each December game so far, with a 3-3-6 line in four games.
- Vaage leads the Moose with 39 points in 23 games, and also leads the team for December with nine points in four games.
The Road Ahead: The Moose, who have vaulted themselves to fourth in the division, will be hoping to put a little pressure on the top three as they head to Chicago for games against the Battle Creek Kernels, Decatur Blaze, Fort Wayne Spacemen and MHC (the Metro Jets’ showcase team). Their games against the Spacemen and Kernels will be their first.
- The Moose have two all-time wins against Decatur from the 2017 and 2018 Chicago showcases.
Hudson Havoc (4-1-0-0)
A two-win weekend pushed the Havoc to second spot in the division and just a point behind the Outlaws, with four games in hand.
While some of the division’s top teams win with explosive offense, the Havoc have done it with defense all season long and Saturday night wrapped up a 3-1 edge in Wisconsin Rapids against the Riverkings, the division’s other defensive stalwart. The Havoc are second in goals against for the whole game at 1.57, just two hundredths behind the leading Metro Jets (1.55).
On Sunday, it was a battle of the division’s best defensive and offensive squads as the Minnesota Squatch paid a visit, Brock Hart giving the team its fourth and final lead of the game and lifting them to a 5-4 overtime celebration.
Hart also set up three weekend goals while ‘02 hometowner Harvey Dove was in on all three goals Saturday, wrapping up the weekend with a goal and four assists. Paul Cassin and Nicholas Pineo collected the wins in goal.
Prior to their weekend against Wisconsin and the Squatch, the Havoc had also gone 2-1 the prior weekend with wins against the Blue Ox (4-1) and Steele County (8-1) and a loss to Isanti (4-2).
- Along with their second-best goals against average, the Havoc are first in the league in fewest shots against at 20.67 per game, while also putting the sixth most on their opponents (47.19).
- Dove stands fourth all-time in the Havoc’s history, with 135 points in 106 games. He has the third-most points among active players since his first season of 2020-21 behind only the Jets’ Alex Schaumburger (140) and Ogden’s Jake Meure (182).
The Road Ahead: Like the Blue Ox, the Havoc will hit the halfway mark on the season this weekend at the USPHL Chicago Showcase, when they take on the Northern Colorado Eagles, Motor City Gamblers, Spacemen and Chicago Crush, a first-year team they are facing for the first time.
- Hudson earned a pair of wins in 2017 and 2018 against Motor City, and they are 1-1 all-time against the Spacemen. They fell 1-0 to the Eagles at the 2021 IHC Showcase.
The Havoc have a ton of big games yet to play including three more against the Squatch after Sunday’s thriller, a battle for second place in the division, whets the appetite was what is still to come.
Minnesota Squatch (1-1-1-0)
The Squatch have stumbled a bit in the last six weeks but a three-point weekend gives them some momentum heading to the Windy City as well.
On Friday, the Squatch entertained the Mullets and collected a 6-2 win. The big guns were firing on the weekend including league leading scorer Daniel Ellingson (‘03/Osseo, Minn.) who took over the top spot with three goals and three assists. Matching him all the way was Jack Pojar (‘02/Osseo, Minn.) with two goals and four assists and rounding out the line was Blake Bakey. The Squatch have defeated the Mullets four times this season but have one to go in January as they also tangled at the Minnesota Showcase. The Squatch also started the month with a 5-3 win over Steele County.
- The Squatch sit two points behind the Havoc and three back of the Outlaws, but both have played four fewer contests than the division leaders.
- The Squatch’s former leading scorer Jake McAlpine has handled himself very well in his return to the NCDC level, where he has a 2-2-4 line in six games with the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs.
- The Squatch are fourth at 6.43 goals per game, and second in shots at 48.76 per game.
- With that much offense, it’s no surprise there are a number of Squatch nursing long point streaks. Of course, chief among them is Jack Pojar. His 16-game scoring streak is the third longest in the league and the 46 points (off a 23-23-46 line) is second most productive among active streaks.
- Daniel Ellingson is on a seven-game 7-12-19 run; Blake Bakey has a 3-11-14 run in five games, all multi-point games; and Nolan Peterson has a 2-4-6 run in four games.
The Road Ahead: For the first time, they will face the Motor City Gamblers, Decatur Blaze, Chicago Crush and Toledo Cherokee.
Isanti Outlaws (2-2-0-0)
After trailing 3-1 and 5-3, the Outlaws clinched a come-from-behind overtime win against the Blades Saturday when ‘05 sensation Keanu McClanahanwrapped up a hat trick with the game-winner.
That goal evened the team at 1-1 on the weekend and snapped a two-game losing streak for the division leaders, including their 7-2 loss to the Blue Ox on Friday. They had also fallen earlier in the month to the Minnesota Mullets (5-3) and defeated the Hudson Havoc (4-2).
After being held off the board in the earlier game, Tyler Schmitt (‘03/Big Lake, Minn.), one of the hottest players in the division currently, was in on all six goals Saturday, collecting a goal and five assists boosting him to 61 points on the season so far — just two behind the league leader Ellingson with 63.
McClanahan wrapped up the weekend with four goals and Cambridge, Minn.’s Easton Parnell picked up five assists.
- The Outlaws may be dominant but the win on home ice against the Blades was their first in three tries with one more to come in February.
- Isanti is tied with the Junior Bruins for best record when tied after two. Five of their 17 wins have come from taking the last necessary lead in the third period.
- The Outlaws have been outshot in 15 games, but have come out victorious in two-thirds of that at 10-5-0-0.
- Schmitt leads the way in December for the Outlaws with a 4-8-12 line in four games.
- Easton Parnell has put up a 2-7-9 line in his last five games straight, and defenseman Andrew Aljets is on a 2-3-5 four-game streak.
The Road Ahead: While the rest of the division heads east to the Chicago showcase, the Outlaws will head into the Christmas break with a tournament after the league’s Florida Showcase at Hertz Arena in Estero, Fla.
- The Outlaws will face off against the host Florida Jr. Blades, the Atlanta MadHatters, Palm Beach Typhoon and Columbia Infantry, all from the Florida Division. Out of all these teams, the Isanti franchise has only played one before – they defeated the Florida Jr. Blades, 5-4, in a shootout at the 2020 USPHL Winter Showcase, as the Rum River Mallards.
Drop The Pucks!