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USHL Notebook: Omaha forwards Ryan Kusler and Jamison Sluys are Western Michigan bound

Friday rundown; Pair of Lancers commit to Western Michigan while two Fighting Saints also announce their commitment

Ryan Kusler takes a faceoff Friday night during Omaha's 3-1 win over Sioux Falls. Kusler was the first of two Lancers to commit to Western Michigan this week.
Jordan McAlpine / The Rink Live

OMAHA, Neb. – A pair of Omaha Lancers announced their commitment to Western Michigan this week in forwards Ryan Kusler and Jamison Sluys.

Kusler, a Battle Creek, Michigan, native, grew up about 30 miles from Kalamazoo and grew up a Western Michigan fan. He received some interest from other schools but the chance to call Lawson Ice Arena home was “too hard to turn down.”

“It’s honestly a dream come true,” Kusler told The Rink Live Friday night. “Me and my dad used to go to games all the time and our neighbors were season-ticket holders for the Broncos. So it’s always been somewhere I wanted to go.

“It was an easy decision and it’s a dream come true to commit there.”

Ryan Kusler pictured during Omaha's 3-1 home win over Sioux Falls Friday night. “I like to play physical and get under people’s skin," Kusler said. "But I just like to play hard and be a responsible, two-way forward.”
Jordan McAlpine / The Rink Live

The 5-foot-11, 180-pound center, has nine points (2-7-9) in 33 games for the Lancers this season.


Kusler, 19, put up 20 points (6-14-20) in 60 games with Odessa (NAHL) last winter. However, his first USHL season has been an “eye-opener.” He’s planning on returning for one more year before making the jump to college.

When asked what his focus is for the rest of this season and beyond, Kusler’s answer was simple.

“I just want to be more consistent and continue to be responsible at both ends,” he said. “The USHL is a good league and I want to put some points up and more than anything just be trusted by my coaches and my teammates.”

As for Sluys, this season has also been an adjustment. The Washington native has only played in five games for the Lancers and just one since the calendar flipped to 2023. He found himself as a healthy scratch once again Friday night.

Sluys has also spent time playing for the Omaha Mastery 18U AAA program this season and said he’s working to be more consistent so he can be a regular in Omaha’s lineup.

Still just 17, the 5-foot-8, left-shot forward is likely a couple years away from arriving on a college campus. At the same time, the decision to commit now was “easy.”

“I had been talking to them for a few months and when I got my offer I went and visited. And once I visited I had a good idea that was where I wanted to be,” Sluys said. “It’s a program that’s having success and it’s easy to see that and want to be a part of it.”

The Broncos are currently 17-9-1 under second-year coach Pat Ferschweiler. Western Michigan fell one win shy of the Frozen Four last season and many expect the Broncos to reach the NCAA Tournament again this spring.


Kusler and Sluys will both be watching the rest of this season and hope to continue that success into the future.

“There’s not a whole lot not to like about the program right now honestly,” Kusler said. “They’ve got the building, the atmosphere, the fans and what the coaches are doing is special. I’m definitely excited to be a part of that.”

Ryan Kusler pictured during Omaha's 3-1 home win over Sioux Falls Friday night. Kusler has nine points (2-7-9) in 33 games for the Lancers this season.
Jordan McAlpine / The Rink Live

Pair of Fighting Saints announce college commitments

Dubuque also had a pair of players announce their college commitments this week in forwards Max Montes and Oliver Moberg .

Montes, a one-time St. Cloud State commit, announced he’ll be heading to Ohio State while Moberg will head to the ECAC and play at Clarkson.

"Max Montes gathered a lot of interest since things fell through with St. Cloud. He took his time with the process and spoke with a lot of schools before deciding on Ohio State,” Dubuque general manager Kalle Larsson told The Rink Live.

“Max has a great motor and is a key player for us. He has been a key player for us for a long time, and we look forward to following his development in college.”

Montes (12-9-21) and Moberg (6-15-21) are tied for fourth on Dubuque's roster with 21 points each.


“Oliver is a very strong two-way center,” Larsson said. “He can play anywhere in a lineup. He came to the United States to explore college options and found great fit in Clarkson. We are excited for him and his family.”

Dubuque affiliate Charlie Arend also announced his commitment to Ohio State earlier this week.

Charlie Arend won a national championship with the Chicago Mission last season. Before choosing the Buckeyes, the forward thought he'd end up at an Ivy League program.

Ice Chips

  • Dubuque saw its win streak come to an end at five Friday night in Plymouth. The Fighting Saints fell to the U-17’s in overtime, 5-4. However, Dubuque trailed 4-2 heading into the third period and the Fighting Saints rallied to earn a point.
  • USNTDP forward James Hagens scored a pair of goals in that game, including the overtime winner. Hagens has 12 goals and 22 points in the USHL this season.
  • Sioux City goaltender Axel Mangbo posted a 25-save shutout in a 1-0 shootout win over Des Moines. Mangbo also stopped eight of the nine shooters he faced in the shootout.
  • Waterloo defenseman Sam Rinzel scored a goal and added an assist in Waterloo’s 6-3 win over Lincoln.
  • Fargo completed a Frosty Cup sweep Friday night with a 6-3 win over Tri-City in Frisco, Texas. Fargo jumped ahead 4-1 and although the Storm trimmed the deficit to 4-3, the Force prevailed for their USHL-leading 24th win.
  • Omaha’s 3-1 win over Sioux Falls snapped a six-game losing streak and a four-game skid on home ice. Omaha’s last win at Liberty First Credit Union Arena came on Dec. 16. Forward Libor Nemec scored his first USHL goal in the win.
  • Youngstown’s Jacob Fowler stopped 24 of the 25 shots fired his way in a 4-1 win over Chicago. The reigning USHL Goaltender of the Week has now won nine of his last 10 starts and five straight.
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Jordan McAlpine is a junior and prospects reporter for The Rink Live.
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