USPHL Premier Through The Numbers: Midwest Region
Games of Jan. 20-Feb. 6
Great Lakes Division
(By Lexi Obrycki)
Toledo Cherokee (6-1)
The Cherokee were the hottest team in the Great Lakes Division. After defeating two against the Buffalo Stampede, they posted wins No. 6 in a row on Jan. 26 with a 2-1 victory over the Columbus Mavericks in overtime. Two more W’s were posted to bridge January and February against the rival Metro Jets (5-2 and 4-2).
In a home and home series against division rival, Metro Jets, the Cherokee were able to take Game 1, 4-2. Jacob Slater would open the game up with a goal on the power play in the first period. Tyler Husted didn’t let that stop him 23 seconds into the second period he evened up the scoring. Nicklas Millhorn and David Crandall would get two more for the Cherokee. Late in the third period Yarne Vaerewyck would get the second goal for Metro and Jason Crossland would finish off the game with the empty net goal for the Cherokee. Rocco Stolz was in net for the Jets making 28 saves and Frank Murphy for the Cherokee making 35.
• Over the span of the last seven games, five Cherokee players have posted double digits in scoring – Nicklas Millhorn (13), Jacob Slater (12 points), Jacob Ammar, Cameron Reel and Justin Lang (10 points apiece).
- Starting Jan. 13, Stanley has gone on a six-game point streak of 4-8-12. He is seventh in Premier defenseman scoring with 47 points, and his 84 points in 77 games make him the all-time leading scorer among Cherokee defensemen.
- The Cherokee are fourth in offense (5.82) and fifth in defense (2.18 goals against per game). The Cherokee defensive corps gave up just 24.90 shots per game.
- Toledo has the best record when leading after one period, at 23-0.
The Road Ahead: Toledo faces Cincinnati and Columbus over the final three weeks, starting with Cincinnati on Friday and Columbus on Saturday.
- The Jr. Cyclones are still seeking their first win against Toledo, as the Cherokee hold a 7-0 series lead over Cincinnati.
- The Cherokee hold a 15-0-1-0 all-time series lead against the Mavericks, who defeated them in overtime on Dec. 4, 2021.
Metro Jets (5-2)
Since their 3-1 trip to the USPHL Tampa Showcase (Jan. 6-9), the Jets put together four wins in a row against the Columbus Mavericks. Their Jan. 20 game was the closest game, pulling through with a 4-1 victory. Columbus’ Brenden Cobb performed very well with 55 saves on 59 shots. The next game, the Jets put up double digits, including an Andreas Fleutot hat trick.
The Jets then went up against the Cherokee for three in a row, falling in the first two, 5-2 and 4-2. Although the Jets lost in their Friday night game against the Cherokee, they bounced back and were able to pull off the 4-2-win Saturday. Neither team was able to find the back of the net until the third period where Ugo Lollier would open up the scoring for the Jets, not even 30 seconds later Tyler Husted would get another. Carson Finney and Robert Vanderdonck would also get two shorthanded goals.
Toledo didn’t let being down 4-0 late in the third stop them. On the powerplay Jacob Slater got Toledo on the board and teammate Jason Crossland would later get the final goal of the game. The goalies on both sides of the ice definitely kept their teams in the game, with both of them stopping a total of 31 shots and Frank Murphy denied Carson Finney on a penalty shot early on in the game.
The Jets also registered a decisive win over the Cincinnati Jr. Cyclones this week.
- The Jets have scored the first goal in 24 of their 26 wins. They’ve never lost – regulation, OT or shootout – when scoring the first goal.
- Metro’s 28.9 percent power play performance ranks No. 5 in the league.
- The Jets are top 10 in every offensive and defensive category. Their 5.11 goals for average is 10th, and they are eighth in shots on goal (45.51). Their defense is No. 2 league-wide at 1.69, and they give up 24.77 shots against per game, which is third.
- Just like the Cherokee, the Jets are completely undefeated when leading after one period at 21-0.
The Road Ahead: The Jets have a busy stretch between Feb. 8-13, facing Cincinnati, Columbus and then the Battle Creek Kernels all on the road.
- The Jets have won all nine of their games with the Cyclones, and all 24 of their contests with the Mavericks.
- This is the first year for Battle Creek, and the Jets have defeated them in each of their three games.
In Other Action
The Cincinnati Jr. Cyclones played just twice since Jan. 13, falling 3-1 to the Mavericks and then Toledo put an 8-1 win over them. They have a tough draw of the Jets on Wednesday, and then the Cherokee on Friday.
Most recently, the Columbus Mavericks had a home and home series with the Cincinnati Cyclones over the weekend. It was a dominating two games for the Mavericks as they took the W in both of the games. In Friday night’s 5-1-win Columbus forward Colin Crowley had three goals adding to his team leading of 20. Crowley also found himself on the scoresheet on Sundays 8-1 win. He had posted another three goals and also had two assists. Brenden Cobb was in net both games for the Mavericks stopping 48 shots.
Midwest East Division
Summaries by Miles Regan
Motor City Gamblers (6-0-0-0)
Motor City has played just one February game thus far, defeating Fort Wayne 5-4 this past Sunday. An Owen Wilson (‘04/Clio, Mich.) power play marker won that one for the Gamblers, helping them extend their win streak to six consecutive games.
Coming off a 2023-opening loss to the Columbus Mavericks of the Great Lakes Division, they put it right back together for a big offensive weekend against Decatur Jan. 20-21. After a 7-2 defeat of the MJDP on a Wednesday afternoon, they went to Chicago that weekend and took two against the Chicago Crush, 7-5 and 8-2 to close out January. The Gamblers’ six-game winning streak matches their best from their Nationals campaign in 2018-19 (as the Motor City Hockey Club).
- How about this? Motor City has played 38 games and they’ve racked up 46 points – exactly equal to the amount of points they put up after 38 games in that previous best season of 2018-19.
- Goaltender Larkin Dolan (‘02/Boulder, Colo.) was the hero for MCG against Fort Wayne. Dolan came in on relief midway through the second period and allowed just one goal in the final 33 minutes of the game, stopping 24 of 25 Spacemen shots faced. Dolan’s backstopping helped Motor City hold their one-goal lead through the frantic last moments of the third.
- Gambler defensemen Aidan Canady (‘03/Schaumburg, Ill.) and Jake Mullins (‘03/Clawson, Mich.) are the highest scoring defensive pairing in all of Premier. Through 70 games played they’ve combined for 111 points, three of which came against Fort Wayne on Sunday.
- Defenseman Aidan Canady (‘03/Schaumburg, Ill.) leads the Gamblers in scoring with 57 (14-43-57) points. Canady is third among all Premier blueliners in points and his offensive prowess helped him land a Tier II skate recently.
- The 2022-23 Gamblers have scored more than twice as many goals as they did last season and are firmly in the mix for a decent playoff position come March. They put up 174 goals this season – so far – versus 79 all year in 2021-22. It’s been quite the turnaround in Motown for head coach Sam Shaheen and general manager Jason McCrimmon.
The Road Ahead: The Gamblers have a huge weekend ahead of them. They’ll close out their season series with crosstown rival MJDP on Friday evening before heading home to host Fort Wayne on Sunday afternoon. Two wins and an MJDP loss to Fort Wayne will pull Motor City within two points of second place in the standings.
- Motor City’s 7-2 defeat of MJDP on Jan. 25 gave the Gamblers a 3-2 season series lead against the Jets. A victory this Friday would win Motor City the series for the first time ever.
- For more about their historic series with MJDP and Fort Wayne, see below.
Chicago Cougars (7-1-0-0)
The Cougars have played a trio of February games. A Johan Karjalainen (‘03/Helsinki, Fin.) overtime goal gave Chicago a 2-1 victory against crosstown rival the Chicago Crush on Feb. 2 before the Cougs went 1-1 on a two-game road trip at MJDP this past weekend. Chicago bested the Jets 3-2 on Friday but dropped Saturday’s rematch by a score of 5-1.
Prior to February, they ended January on a five-game winning streak following a Jan. 15 loss to Fort Wayne, which itself had broken a six-game winning streak going back to 2022. The Jan. 20-21 weekend saw them sweep a trip at Battle Creek, 4-2, 5-2, and then they won a Jan. 23 game 6-1 against Decatur. Battle Creek returned the travel favor with a trip to Chicago Jan. 28-29, but the Cougars were again victorious, 5-0, 5-1.
- Cougar netminder Sebastian Wigfield (‘03/Newcastle, Eng.) has been one of the division’s hottest goaltenders as of late. He’s won four-straight starts and saved 30 of 32 MJDP shots in Friday’s big win.
- Chicago’s shorthanded unit continues to be the division’s best. They’ve successfully killed 88.4% of opponent power plays and have even scored four shorthanded goals. Their 17 power play goals surrendered is sixth-fewest in all of the Premier.
- Chicago trails Motor City by just three standings points for third place in the Midwest East. The Cougars should be feeling good about their odds moving forward. They have a game in hand on Motor City and will play just one matchup against a team ahead of them in the standings to close out the regular season.
- TJ Haas (‘03/Hartland, Wisc.) hit his 100th career point against MJDP. Going into their Jan. 23 game five points back of the century mark, Haas put together a (still active) four-game point streak, posting five points over that duration to get to exactly 100 in 109 games. He became just the third Cougar ever to hit triple digits in points, behind the all-time leader Jozef Martancik (216) and Breydon Hemminger (165 points). Hemminger plays pro hockey in Sweden, and Martancik played last season at Roosevelt University, an ACHA team.
The Road Ahead: The Cougars next three games all come at home against the Chicago Crush – and they’re at the Crush for No. 4 in a row. The Cougars have won three-straight against the Crush since dropping their first ever meeting 4-2 on October 2.
Metro Jets Development Program (5-2-0-0)
The MJDP is working on catching up to the Fort Wayne Spacemen, behind whom they are six points in the race for the top spot. They put up four straight wins through mid-January that preceded a tough 7-2 loss to Motor City on Jan. 25.
MJDP rebounded with a pair of victories against Battle Creek and Fort Wayne to close out January, all setting up a showdown with the longtime Midwest East powerhouse the Chicago Cougars.
The MJDP hosted the Chicago Cougars in Mount Clemens for a two-game series this past weekend. Chicago won Friday’s matchup 3-2, but MJDP avenged the loss in a big way on Saturday, besting the Cougs 5-1. Winger Jacob Lawrence (‘04/Washington Township, Mich.) paced MJDP with a goal and an assist in each game against Chicago.
- The MJDP has given up the second-fewest power play goals of any Midwest East team with 20. They successfully killed all four shorthanded situations last weekend against Chicago.
- MJDP goaltender Taylor White (‘03/Bay City, Mich.) stopped 27 of 28 Chicago shots in Saturday’s win. White currently leads the Premier division in save percentage (.945) and shutouts (5) and his 1.63 GAA trails only fellow Metro Jets organization netminder Rocco Stolz’s 1.33 figure.
- Although Jack Rivera’s performance against the Chicago Crush will likely be remembered for his overtime heroics, it should also be noted that he also scored his first career USPHL goal to tie the game in regulation. Big game from the rookie blueliner for MJDP.
- The MJDP goalies have the second best shootout percentage this year, stopping two of 12 attempts for only 16.7 percent against them, second only to Northern Colorado’s 1-for-11 performance among teams with at least three shootouts.
- MJDP joins Palm Beach and Bakersfield as the only teams to give up just one shorthanded goal (no team has given up zero).
- MJDP has the league’s third best overall team defense (1.72) and its D corps gives up the eighth-fewest shots on goal at 29.58.
The Road Ahead: Up next for the DP is a pair of big divisional games. They’ll host third-place Motor City on Friday before looking to complete their season sweep of top dog Fort Wayne on the road Saturday.
- MJDP trail Motor City 3-2 in their season series. Friday’s matchup will be the last of the season between the Northern Suburb neighbors, barring a potential playoff meeting. MJDP has an all-time lead of 18-4-0-0, with Motor City earning their first series wins this year since the 2018-19 season, which ended with Motor City going to Nationals.
- For their series history against Fort Wayne, see below.
Fort Wayne (1-1-0-1)
Fort Wayne has broken even so far in February, going 1-1 through two games. They kicked off the month with a big home victory over the Cincinnati Cyclones in which 13 Spacemen recorded a point on Feb. 4. Fort Wayne then shipped up to Motor City, where they dropped a hotly-contested 5-4 affair to the Gamblers this past Sunday. The Spacemen power play unit found the back of the net twice in the loss.
Prior to the start of February, the Spacemen met up with the Metro Jets Development Program and the teams went through 65 minutes without a result. The MJDP ended up winning the game, 4-3, after a six-round shootout.
- Fort Wayne’s 37 points picked up as the home team this year (off an 18-1-0-1 record) are the third most in the Premier Division.
- No Premier team has more points beyond regulation than the Spacemen, who have a 2-1 record in OT’s and a 4-2 mark in a league-high six shootouts for 15 points.
- They lead the league in shootout goals with 11 over 29 attempts.
- Fort Wayne is No. 4 in power play with a 28.9 percent success rate (with 39 in 135 attempts).
- Veteran Noah Maine (‘02/Knoxville, Tenn.) continues to lead the Midwest East division in scoring. He’s amassed 27 goals and 40 assists for a grand total of 67 points through 36 games. He has a 7-11-18 line over an active nine-game point streak.
- Blueliner Sam Tetreault has put together a six-game point streak of 3-10-13, with multiple points in all six games. Also on hot streaks are Kyle Remo (8-5-13 in eight games) and Andrew Cianflone (2-6-8 in five games).
The Road Ahead: Next up for the Spacemen is their final regular season matchup with MJDP. The Jets trail Fort Wayne by just six points in the Midwest East standings, so Saturday’s 5:30 p.m. tilt comes with big seeding implications. They’ll finish the weekend with another visit to Motor City on Sunday.
- Fort Wayne has yet to defeat MJDP this season. A 4-3 shootout loss to the Jets on Jan. 29 could provide the motivation needed to get the Spacemen a victory in their only home game of the series. The MJDP hold an all-time lead of 11-5-1-0 against Fort Wayne.
- The Spacemen trail their season series to Motor City 3-2 with two games to go. Five of their seven regulation losses this season have come to either MJDP or MCG. The Spacemen are 14-3-0-0 all-time, with all three of the Gamblers’ wins coming this year.
In Other Action
The fifth-place Chicago Crush as seen above are headed for four last showdowns with their new cross-town rivals the Cougars. The Crush have gone 2-3-2-0 since mid-January, and most recently have earned points in each of their February games so far. They lost 2-1 in overtime to the Cougars outdoors at Parkway Bank Park, and then took two straight 7-1 and 4-0 against the Decatur Blaze in a home-and home.
The Decatur Blaze and Battle Creek Kernels have struggled of late. The Blaze are still looking for their first win before the close of the 2022-23 season, and the Kernels last won in a two-game set against the Chicago Crush on Jan. 7-8.
Midwest West Division
Summaries by Joshua Boyd
Hudson Havoc (7-1-0-0)
This season, the Havoc trailed the pack early only because of a delayed start, but once the team got its nose in front, it found it to its liking and has remained there. In fact, the team appears to be gaining strength coming out of the final turn and is leaving the pack behind down the homestretch of the regular season. The Havoc are enjoying a 4-0 run currently, and have lost in regulation just once since Dec. 2, that coming on Jan. 25 (5-3 to the Minnesota Squatch).
Since Jan. 20, the Havoc have registered shutouts in consecutive games twice, and have recently outscored opponents 20-1.
Hudson have had some big wins against the Steele County Blades (4-2) and Minnesota Moose (7-1) before registering their back-to-back shutouts against the Dells Ducks (7-0, 6-0).
- The Havoc remain No. 1 in defense, at 1.34 goals against per game, with that credit shared by both the goaltenders and the blue line corps (who give up a league low 19.87 shots per game, nearly five better then any other team).
- Hudson is third in the nation in fewest penalty minutes at 8.84 per game, certainly a huge ingredient in their recipe for success.
- When they do get called, they are No. 1 in penalty killing, giving up just nine power play goals on 125 times shorthanded for 92.8 percent.
- The Havoc have recently been excited to announce that both Adam Brzezicki (Lawrence University) and Harvey Dove (Hamline University) have made their NCAA college commitments.
- Nicholas Pineo is undefeated in nine games with a 1.54 goals against average and .929 save percentage, along with three shutouts.
The Road Ahead: It’s a No. 1 vs. No. 4 matchup based on current standings as the Battle of Wisconsin (two-thirds of it at least) hits the South Wood County Recreation Center Saturday at 7 p.m., when the division-leading Havoc visit the Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings.
- Hudson leads the season series 3-1 for this campaign, though Wisconsin Rapids leads the all-time series with a 17-5-1-1 record.
Minnesota Moose (5-1-0-0)
In January, there was only one team that could defeat the Moose, and it was the team they would see at the top of the standings, the Havoc. They won four in a row between Jan. 14-27, but then ran into the Havoc on Jan. 28 and fell by a 7-1 score – 15 days after a 1-0 defeat to the Havoc. The Moose went back to business and defeated the Minnesota Mullets, 5-2, and then on Feb. 4, they defeated the Steele County Blades 4-3 in a shootout. A 5-4 win over the Blades on Jan. 14 had started their first 2023 winning streak.
The Moose face their final six games currently sitting in third place – they are only seven points behind the second-place Minnesota Squatch, with a game in hand. They’re also seven points ahead of the fourth-place Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings.
- The Moose are 17-0 when leading after one period and 19-1-0-0 when up after two.
- Defenseman Logan Lake’s two goals against the Mullets on Feb. 2 were points numbers 99 and the big 100 for the fourth-year blueliner in 144 games.
- Joey Gag is undefeated in his last four starts going back to Dec. 9, with a .933 save percentage.
The Road Ahead: The Moose hit the home Fogerty Ice Arena on Friday night at 7:05 p.m. against the Mullets, and then it’s off to Isanti to face the Outlaws Saturday night.
- The Moose have dominated their all-time series with the Mullets at 23-2-1-1, and the Moose are up on the Outlaws with an 18-1-1-0 record.
Minnesota Squatch (4-1-0-1)
Back to Jan. 20, the Squatch and the Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings split a weekend, with the Squatch winning 5-4 one night before a 5-2 loss, all at their Elk River home. In a marquee midweek match on Jan. 25, the Squatch defeated the division-leading Hudson Havoc by a 5-3 score. However, three days later, the Steele County Blades limited the Squatch to a point by defeating them 4-3 in a shootout. This past weekend (Feb. 4-5), the Squatch defeated the Dells Ducks twice, 7-4, and 6-3.
The Havoc are almost at the point where they can steal any chance at the top seed away from the Squatch. The Elk River crew are nine points away with five games remaining.
- Be very careful not to poke the bigfoot. If they get angry, they may commit a penalty and then strike shorthanded, as they have a league-leading 15 times this year. They’re also top 10 in penalty killing at 87.4 percent.
- Minnesota is top five in goals per game (5.62) and shots on goal per game (47.31).
- The Squatch have gone undefeated in 65 minutes of hockey 23 times this season when leading after two periods (21-0-0-2).
- Daniel Ellingson is fourth in league scoring (37-58-95) and Jake Pojar is three spots back at seventh (41-40-81). While certainly not the only team with two scorers in the top 10, no other squad had two in the top seven.
- Ellingson’s 58 assists are second best in the league. His active 14-game scoring streak of 9-18-27 is good for second longest in the league.
- Goaltender Nate Gulsvig, a huge pickup from Hudson, is tied for first in Premier shutouts with five, along with MJDP’s Taylor White and Toledo’s Frank Murphy.
- Also on hot streaks are Joey Woldt, who has all of his 1-8-9 line in the last seven games after joining in December; Nolan Peterson (2-3-5 in four games); Jack Pojar (4-2-6 in four games) and Tanner Weis (5-3-8 in four games).
The Road Ahead: On Friday night, the Squatch face the host Isanti Outlaws. If Isanti defeats the Squatch in regulation, Hudson will clinch the top seed. The Squatch also take on the Blue Ox on Saturday back in Elk River.
- The Squatch are 2-1 against the Outlaws this season, and 2-0-0-1 against the Blue Ox.
Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings (4-2-1-0)
The Riverkings started the last few weeks of action with a split against the Minnesota Squatch which helped the Riverkings begin the work of building some defensive walls around their current fourth place position. They defeated the Squatch 5-2 one night after a 5-4 loss. They finished the same weekend with a 5-2 victory against Isanti.
It was an Isanti visit the next weekend that grew Wisco’s confidence even more, as they beat the Outlaws 7-2 and 6-2. They made it five games in a row earning points when the Blue Ox just nipped them in overtime in a 7-6 track meet. The Blue Ox also won 8-5 against the Riverkings the next night. The Riverkings are in fourth with 42 points, five ahead of the fifth-place Outlaws, with still a mathematical chance at taking third away from the Minnesota Moose.
- Recent Players of the Month honorees William Tricarico and Kyle Cupolo have both averaged two points per game or better since Jan. 20, with Tricarico posting a 10-5-15 line and the blueliner Cupolo putting up a 2-12-14 scoring line. Tricarico’s active point streak is at nine games with 12-6-18 totals, and Cupolo has 4-15-19 totals also over his last nine games straight.
- Since joining just prior to Jan. 13, Ian Bowman has only missed the scoresheet in his first game. He is on a scoring streak of 5-8-13 in eight games.
- Also on hot streaks are Sebastian Potter (4-7-11 in six games) and Ewan Hill (2-8-10 in five contests).
The Road Ahead: It’s a Wisconsin one-hit wonder when the Riverkings host the Hudson Havoc on Saturday night, for their only action before Feb. 17.
- The Riverkings lead the all-time series 17-5-1-1, though it’s the Havoc that are up 3-1 on the season series so far. Tomorrow is the series finale.
Minnesota Blue Ox (4-3-0-0)
Make it three in a row for the Blue Ox, who are working their way up and trying to rise higher in the Midwest West standings than seventh. They are only two points out of fifth currently and a home ice seed is not impossible but would require a sizeable streak and a lot of help from other teams. On Jan. 20, the Blue Ox fell to the Minnesota Moose, but quickly rebounded to defeat the Steele County Blades the next night, before yielding on Jan. 22 to the Hudson Havoc.
One weekend later, it was a split as the Minnesota Moose defeated the Blue Ox, 6-3, and the Blue Ox beat the Minnesota Mullets, 5-2. The latter started their current mini-streak of three wins. That includes their victories against the Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings (7-6 in OT; 8-5) that have them thinking big.
- Tommy Babb and Mike Abrego led the team in scoring over the last seven games, with nine points apiece. Abrego is on a four-game point streak of 5-4-9.
The Road Ahead: The Blue Ox face the Steele County Blades in Owatonna on Friday night, followed by a visit to the Squatch on Saturday.
- The Blue Ox hold a slim 2-1 lead on the season series against the Blades.
Steele County Blades (2-2-0-1)
The Blades remain in the hunt for a home ice berth, but will really need to keep doing what they’re doing (not losing in regulation) their last three games. They have gotten big victories against teams higher up in the standings lately, beating the Squatch (4-3 in a shootout) and the Isanti Outlaws (5-2) and theytook a 4-3 shootout loss against the Minnesota Moose. They remain five points outside of fourth place with four games remaining, so there is basically no room for error starting Friday night.
Prior to their win over the Squatch, the Blades had fallen to the Blue Ox (6-2) and the Havoc (4-2).
- Their two shootouts since Jan. 28 are also their first two of the season. They were about even – their shooters made 3 for 9, and their goalies stopped all but three of eight attempts.
- Brady Rossbach has been huge lately for the Blades, putting up 3-6-9 over five games. His three goals pushed him past two former Blades to put him fifth in team history in goal scoring with 36. He is also second in the Blades’ USPHL Premier history since 2017-18, and fourth in point scoring over that same stretch.
- Goaltender Levi Preugschas was in net every minute the last five games, and posted a .919 save percentage, close to his franchise-leading .915 career average.
The Road Ahead: There are just three weekends and four games left for the Blades to make their move. They start this Friday night in their last regular season home game against the Blue Ox, then take on Hudson on Feb. 18, and hit the road for their last two against the Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings Feb. 24-25.
Drop The Pucks!