Games of Jan. 1-9
Midwest West Division
By Jim Den Hollander
Four Midwest West Division teams finished even or better this weekend. Many of the teams faced a tough showcase schedule at the USPHL Tampa Showcase in Wesley Chapel, Jan. 6-9. Of the ones that stayed back, the division frontrunners – Hudson Havoc and Minnesota Moose both played once and won each contest, while the Steele County Blades and Dells Ducks engaged in a weekend pair and finished with a split. We’ll take a closer look at each of these teams and what all the teams are up to this weekend.
Hudson Havoc (1-0)
The Midwest West frontrunners joined the Minnesota Moose in each collecting a home win against the former division-leading Isanti Outlaws, as they stepped back into the post-Christmas stretch drive. On Jan. 7, the division-leading Havoc collected a 6-1 win against the Outlaws, scoring three times in both the second and final periods. The win helped the Havoc officially clinch a 2023 playoff spot.
Jackson Kerich (‘02/Anchorage, Alaska) sank the game winner and added an assist and Cooper Anderson fired a pair of goals for the Havoc. Isanti’s Robert Bymers made 48 saves a night after stopping 63 of 67 against the Moose.
The Havoc won for a third straight time going back to the USPHL Chicago Showcase, and they sit at 9-1 in their last 10. The only previous meeting between the two teams, also in Hudson, was won by the Outlaws, 4-2, in early December. The two Isanti meetings will take place Jan. 14 and Jan. 20.
- Hudson has the fewest penalty minutes for a non-East Coast team, posting just 10.30 minutes per game on average. When they do occasionally slip up, they go into the league’s best penalty kill. They’ve given up just eight goals on 102 opponent opportunities for a 92.2 percent rating.
- The Havoc’s defensive corps and goaltending group are No. 1 in the league. They give up the fewest goals against per game at 1.41 and the fewest shots on goal per game at 19.48, the only team in the league to average less than 20 against.
- Goaltender Paul Cassin is tied for fourth in goals against in the league, at 1.73.
- One of the all-time greats in the USPHL Premier, Harvey Dove is the leading scorer with 29 points in 27 games. He stands with 140 points in 112 career games to date.
The Road Ahead: The Havoc face the Moose on Friday night, followed by another game against the Outlaws in Isanti. On Monday, they travel for a third straight time to face the Minnesota Blue Ox in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day matinee at 11:30 a.m.
- The Moose and Havoc each have 12 wins in their all-time series. Overall, the Havoc have 27 points while the Moose have put up 25 in 24 all-time matchups.
- The Havoc also have a slim lead in their all-time series with the Blue Ox, at 15-13-0-1. They have won both games against the Blue Ox so far this year.
Minnesota Moose (1-0)
Both the Havoc and Moose are red hot currently – at 9-0-0-1 and 6-0-1-0 respectively – and as a result they have leapfrogged the Outlaws. Lastt Friday (Jan. 6) the Moose opened the weekend with a 4-2 doubling of the Outlaws at Fogerty Ice Arena, outscoring their guests 2-1 in both the first and final period with a scoreless second period in between. The Minnesota duo of Ryan Mulrenin (Plymouth) and John Becker (Dellwood) were the leader. Mulrenin notched the game winner early in the final period and Becker wrapped up the contest with a goal and three points.
The Moose were facing the Outlaws for the first time this season with the other three battles coming in the final two weeks of the regular season in February.
- At 16-1-0-0 when scoring the first goal of a game, the Moose have the fourth best winning percentage in that situation at .941.
- The Moose put on the fifth most shots on goal per game at 46.73.
- Veteran defenseman Logan Lake’s four shorthanded points are tied for second in the league.
- Becker is on a seven-game scoring streak, with six of those featuring multiple points for a 7-10-17 run since starting the streak with a four-assist night on Dec. 9.
- Tay Kurpius has a 3-8-11 line over each of his last seven games going back to the start of December.
The Road Ahead: Friday night, it’s up against the Havoc (see above for matchup history) and on Saturday at 7 p.m., it’s off to the Four Seasons Centre to face the Steele County Blades.
- The Moose have won 27 of their 28 all-time games against the Blades.
Dells Ducks (1-1-0-0)
The Ducks drew first blood on home ice and wrapped up their first series win against a Midwest
West Division rival in several seasons Saturday with a 4-1 win in the first end of a home-and-home against the Steele County Blades. The Blades battled back Sunday afternoon with a 4-2 edge.
In the first game, ‘05 Russian Ashot Davtyan made a big impression in his first game with the Ducks, sinking the game winner and breaking a 1-1 deadlock near the halfway mark of the final
Frame. The other two goals were both empty netters and the story of this one was standout goaltending from both Chris Mazurek who stopped 35 of 36 on his way to his fourth win in his last five starts, and Buffalo, Minn.’s, Levi Preugschas, who was beaten just twice on 31 attempts.
- Mazurek’s .962 save percentage is fifth best among all USPHL Premier goaltenders since Dec. 1, over which time he’s gone 4-1-0-0.
- The Ducks are road warriors – seven of their nine total wins have come as the away team.
- They’ve scored the first goal in six of their nine wins for a 6-2-0-1 record when striking first.
- Sunday’s Steele County win evened the season series for the Blades, both teams winning and losing on home ice. However, the Ducks can claim a small win as they dropped the first meeting in Owatonna in overtime, for an overall season record of 2-1-1 and five points compared to 2-2 and four points for the Blades.
The Road Ahead: The Ducks face the Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings for a pair of games this Friday and Saturday.
- The Riverkings are 24-2-0-0 all-time against the Ducks, who last won almost exactly three years ago, a 4-3 victory on Jan. 12, 2020.
Steele County Blades (1-1)
The following night, two different goaltenders shone in the blue paint and despite a late Dells goal to make it interesting, the Blades collected a 4-2 win.
The teams traded first period goals and the Blades added one more in the middle frame before Noah LaFleur fired his second of the game and the game winner early in the final frame. Elliot Wrigley checked in with a 38-save win in goal for the Blades while Anthony Falzone stopped 26 shots for the Ducks.
- In 11 of the Blades’ 15 victories, they’ve struck first for an 11-2-1-0 record with the first goal. Noah LaFleur (40 points in 31 games) has registered five first goals this year.
- The Blades have stopped all comeback attempts when they’re up after two periods, going 13-0-0-0 in that situation.
- Preugschas has been strong since the start of the USPHL Chicago Showcase, posting a .927 save percentage while going 2-2 and stopping 139 of 150 shots.
The Road Ahead: The Blades only have the one game this weekend against the Moose on Saturday.
In Other Action
The Isanti Outlaws will try to get back on track with games Friday against the Minnesota Blue Ox, Saturday against the Havoc, and Monday against the Minnesota Squatch.
Also with three games over the holiday weekend are the Minnesota Squatch, who face the Minnesota Mullets Friday and the Blue Ox on Saturday, both at home, and then the Outlaws on Monday on the road in a 1:05 p.m. MLK Day matinee.
The Minnesota Blue Ox are heading up against the Outlaws Friday, the Squatch on Saturday and are back at Coon Rapids Ice Center for Monday’s 11:30 a.m. showdown with the Havoc.
Midwest East Division
(By Miles Regan)
Metro Jets Development Program (2-1-1-0)
The MJDP spent last weekend down south at the USPHL Tampa Showcase. The Jets performed well in the Sunshine State, going 2-1-1 over four games at the event. MJDP opened the weekend with a 4-0 victory over the Cincinnati Jr. Cyclones on Saturday, before falling 1-0 to the Jersey Hitmen in the first of their two Sunday games. The second half of the Sunday double-header yielded a 2-1 win over the Florida Jr. Blades as forward Lucas Millmine (‘03/ Waterford, Mich.) tallied the game winner in the third period. The Jets ended the weekend with a tight 2-1 shootout loss to the Palm Beach Typhoon.
- MJDP has the third best defense in the league at 1.63, one of just four teams to average under 2.00 goals per game.
- The MJDP are top 10 for fewest penalty minutes, and lead their division by nearly four minutes per game at 10.89 minutes per game.
- MJDP has the best record in the division when scoring first, at 16-2-0-1.
- The Development Program is just one of three teams to have not given up a shorthanded goal this year.
- Goaltender Taylor White (‘03/Bay City, Mich.) pitched a 15-save #ShutoutShoutout against Cincinnati on Saturday. The clean sheet was White’s fourth of the season. He is the league leader in save percentage at .946 and is second in goals against average at 1.68.
- MJDP leading scorer Robert Grasso (‘04/ Broomfield, Colo.) brought his points total to 19 (8-11–19) by tallying a pair of assists in Florida.
The Road Ahead: Up next for MJDP is a weekend trip to Decatur. They’ll face the Blaze at 7:30 p.m. CST on Saturday, and again at noon on Sunday.
- Jets goaltenders have given up just two goals to Decatur this season. MJDP are 2- 0 against the Blaze halfway through their season series.
- The MJDP hold a 12-5-0-0 all-time series record against the Blaze.
Battle Creek Kernels (2-0-0-0)
Battle Creek opened up their 2023 with two road wins against Midwest East rivals the Chicago Crush – both are first-year organizations. BCK downed the Crush 5-4 in OT thanks to a Jacob Felmeden (‘04/Kalamazoo, Mich.) golden goal. The Kernels’ second victory of the weekend was a little more decisive, coming on Saturday by a score of 5-1.
- Battle Creek’s offense has been heating up as of late. They’ve averaged 4.5 goals per game over their past four divisional contests.
- Goaltender Galvin Reagan (‘05/Grand Haven, Mich.) played his best game of the year on Saturday. Reagan stopped 40 of 41 shots faced for a season-high .976 save percentage.
- With the two wins over Chicago, Battle Creek officially swept the Crush 4-0 in the first-ever season series between the teams. Both expansion clubs have performed admirably in their first go-around on the Midwest East circuit. The Kernels’ next mission, though, is to catch up to and potentially pass the Crush, who are five points ahead in the playoff positioning race. All seven Midwest East teams qualify for the playoffs, so it’s always about seeding.
- The Kernels have done well in extra time this year, going 3-1 in OT and they are 1-0 in shootouts for nine of their 19 points.
The Road Ahead: Battle Creek’s next action will come in the form of a home-and-home with the Great Lakes division-leading Toledo Cherokee. Battle Creek will travel on Friday before hosting the Cherokee on Saturday.
Fort Wayne Spacemen (1-1-1-1)
The Spacemen saw all of the standings results at the USPHL Tampa Showcase. They won in regulation (3-2 against the Florida Division-leading Florida Eels); they lost in regulation (5-2 to the host Tampa Bay Juniors); they lost in overtime (4-3 to the Nashville Spartans) and they lost in a shootout (3-2 to the Jersey Hitmen). Earning four points wasn’t what they were shooting for, but the last two showcases have given the Spacemen a great read on where they are against all different kinds of competition from around the USPHL landscape. Now, they’re hoping to come back and seal up the bye for the first round of the Midwest East playoffs, which comes with the regular season division championship. Nothing is sealed, but they do have a healthy nine-point lead in the standings on second-place MJDP.
- The Spacemen lead the league in points earned beyond regulation with 14, coming off of a 2-1 OT record and a 4-1 shootout record. Four of their five shootouts have come since Dec. 1, with only the Hitmen getting the best of them in the 1v1 round so far.
- No surprise, they have the most shootout goals with 10, and they are fifth in percentage among teams with at least two shootouts by going 10-for-23 for a 43.5 success rate.
The Road Ahead: The Spacemen take on the Chicago Crush at home for games on Friday and Saturday. They face the Cougars on Sunday.
- The Spacemen won by a decisive score in their first and only meeting so far against the Crush on Oct. 1.
- The Spacemen and Cougars have a great history, and the Cougars hold an 8-5-1-0 all-time lead. Fort Wayne has won both of their meetings this year.
In Other Action
Motor City’s only action last week was a trip to Columbus to face the Mavericks of the Great Lakes Division, which ended as a 4-1 victory for Columbus. The Gamblers are off this weekend before hosting the Blaze on Jan. 20-21.
Great Lakes Division
By Lexi Obrycki
Three teams from the Great Lakes Division traveled to Florida to compete in the USPHL Tampa Showcase. With each team playing mostly new opponents, it made for an extremely competitive weekend. The Columbus Mavericks were the only team not going down to Florida in the division, but they did have a home game against the Motor City Gamblers and captured a win.
Metro Jets (2-2)
The Jets finished off the showcase 2-2. They started the weekend off strong with a 4-1 win over the Carolina Jr. Hurricanes. Rocco Stolz was in net for the Jets and saved 29 of the 30 shots he faced. Yarne Vaerewyck opened up the scoring for Metro and would later get an assist on Ugo Lolliers goal.
Sunday’s games were hard fought by the Jets but they would end up falling to the Charlotte Rush (second in the USPHL Premier) by a 4-1 score and the Tampa Bay Juniors, 5-1. Metro would then fiinish the weekend off strong with a 5-2 win against the Florida Eels. Frederick Soderberg was in net for the Jets and had a .939 save percentage on the day stopping 31 of the 33 shots. Chad Noetzel had two goals and an assist and Andreas Fleutot also had a goal and an assist. Metro currently has a record of 21 wins and 6 losses and is second in the division with 43 points, trailing the Cherokee by seven for the division lead and the top seed in the playoffs.
- The Jets are the only 1.000 undefeated team when scoring the first goal, as they’ve done it 20 times out of their 21 wins.
- Metro is No. 5 in power play percentage at 29.2 percent.
- The Jets have the second best defense and goaltending in the league, posting a goals against average of 1.54 and a shots against average of 24.00. Their MJDP development team is third in goals against at 1.63.
The Road Ahead: The Jets will play a single home game at Columbus this weekend, their first of four in a row against the Mavericks through Jan. 27, all in home-and-home fashion. The Jets have won all 20 meetings they’ve had with the Mavericks, though one game last season went to OT for the Mavs’ first point in the all-time series.
Toledo Cherokee (2-2)
The Cherokee also went 2-2 during their time in Tampa. They started off their weekend with a 4-0 win against the Florida Junior Blades. Frank Murphy was in net and got his fifth shutout of the season. It was a great game for forwards Collin Preston and Jacob Slater. Preston had two goals and Slater had three assists. The Cherokee also came to win their next game against the Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings 5-3, another great game for Preston and Slater as they each had a goal and an assist as well as for forward Jason Crossland who had three assists. After a great start to the showcase the Cherokee would unfortunately fall to the Atlanta MadHatters 3-2 and the Florida Eels 6-3.
- Toledo is fourth in offense (5.77 goals per game) and fifth in defense (2.13 per game). They also allow the third fewest shots per game at 24.20.
- At 19-0-0-0, the Cherokee have the league’s best record when leading after one period.
- Collin Preston is heating up in a major way, putting up a 9-7-16 scoring streak over his last nine games back to Dec. 10.
- Goalie Frank Murphy is in a four-way tie for most wins in the Premier with 16.
The Road Ahead: Toledo is up against Battle Creek in a Friday-Saturday home-and-home series, their first two meetings in history.
Columbus Mavericks (1-0)
With the Mavericks not going down to Florida for the showcase, they had a home game against the Motor City Gamblers. This was the second matchup between the teams with them playing
earlier in the season where the Gamblers defeated the Mavericks, 6-2. Columbus made sure to
go out and show what kind of team they are and beat Motor City 4-1. It was a great night for
forward Carson Johnston, who had a hat trick. Johnston is currently in second on the team in
Points as he has 11 goals and 12 assists so far this season.
- The Mavericks have a positive record when tied after one period (5-4-0-1) or after two periods (1-0-1-0). They also do very well when they can outshoot an opponent, standing 12-2-0-0 in that situation.
The Road Ahead: As seen above, the Mavericks are trying to reverse the historical tide against the Metro Jets, beginning at 8 p.m. Friday night.
In Other Action
Cincinnati joined their division mates in Tampa, but were unable to eke out a victory down south. Back home now, they’ll face Columbus on Saturday in their only action this weekend. After a single game on Jan. 20 at Toledo, they’ll be off from games until Feb. 3.
Drop The Pucks!