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USHL Notebook: Playoff picture takes shape, suspensions aplenty and trio of players make college commitments

USHL issues nine suspensions while several teams will try to join Fargo and Waterloo as playoff locks this weekend

Lincoln vs. Omaha fight.jpeg
Lincoln's Wyatt Olson and Omaha's Tanner Rowe pictured during a fight Saturday night at the Ice Box. Olson and Rowe were both suspended two games for fighting in the final five minutes of a game. Lincoln won 5-1 and the Lancers and Stars combined for 176 penalty minutes.
Contributed / Brandon Anderson / Lincoln Stars

As this weekend’s games quickly approach on the horizon, USHL writer Jordan McAlpine gets you caught up on what’s happening around the United States Hockey League.

USHL issues nine suspensions

The league’s transaction page got a workout as nine players were suspended for their actions last weekend. Three Lincoln Stars and a pair of Omaha Lancers and Madison Capitols were suspended, along with Youngstown goaltender Jacob Fowler and Des Moines forward Henry Bartle.

The following one-game suspensions — several of which have already been served — were issued:

Tanner Rowe (Omaha) and Wyatt Olson (Lincoln) each received two games for fighting under the five-minute mark. The Lancers and Stars combined for 176 penalty minutes Saturday night.

Omaha (969) and Lincoln (946) are the USHL’s most and third-most penalized teams.


Playoff picture takes shape

The Clark Cup playoffs begin on April 24. The top six teams in each conference qualify for the playoffs and two teams have already clinched their spots — Fargo and Waterloo.

As the end of the regular season nears, the playoff picture will become more clear. Several teams could join the Force and Black Hawks as soon as this weekend. Here's a look at some the scenarios.

Magic Numbers (in points): Chicago (2), Lincoln (3), Youngstown (7), USNTDP (7), Tri-City (8).

  • Green Bay, Dubuque and Cedar Rapids are tied for fourth in the Eastern Conference with 58 points through 51 games. All three are currently in a playoff spot.
  • Seventh-place Muskegon has played one fewer game but the Lumberjacks sit 11 points back. With 12 games left, the Lumberjacks could theoretically reach 71 points if they were to win out.
  • Fargo (78 points) currently holds an 11-point edge on Waterloo. The Force need 90 to clinch the Western Conference title.
  • Tri-City has played the fewest games (49) in the USHL. The Storm are five points back of Lincoln with two games in hand. Tri-City plays Fargo three times this weekend.
    Black Hawks snaps Fargo's 17-game point streak and clinch a playoff spot while the Musketeers put an end to Tri-City's eight-game win streak
  • Tri-City’s magic number is eight points, which can be a combination of Storm wins and Sioux Falls losses. 
  • Sioux Falls is currently seventh in the Western Conference with 45 points, one behind Des Moines and six behind Sioux City.
  • However, Sioux Falls has played more games (52) than both Des Moines (50) and Sioux City (51). Sioux Falls also has to play Tri-City three times and Fargo twice down the stretch.
  • Omaha is last in the west but the Lancers are still alive. Omaha is eight points behind Sioux Falls and nine behind Des Moines. Omaha has also played 50 games.
  • Madison is the only team mathematically eliminated.
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Fowler was named Dave Peterson Goaltender of the Year by USA Hockey while Knuble picked up the Dave Tyler Junior Player of the Year award.
Sioux City promotes its director of scouting to GM just one day after Troy G. Ward left for Minnesota State
Capitols and Lumberjacks receive their future considerations, Klavs Veinbergs and Griffin Jurecki flip commitments, USHL All-Academic Team announced and much more
Nick Oliver led the Force to a franchise-record 40 wins and 88 points during the regular season and was named the USHL Coach of the Year. Now he's returning to the college level at Wisconsin
Andrew Strathmann has been one of the USHL's top offensive defensemen the last two seasons and played a key role as the Youngstown Phantoms captured their first Clark Cup
Wisconsin commit and 2023 NHL Draft prospect William Whitelaw was one of the USHL's top rookie forwards this season and helped the Youngstown Phantoms capture their first Clark Cup
Shane Lachance becomes the first captain in franchise history to hoist the Clark Cup and "couldn't have imagined a better way to go out" in Youngstown
Andon Cerbone delivers third-period goal and Jacob Fowler pitches a 22-save shutout as Youngstown wins the Clark Cup in a sweep against Fargo
The Phantoms will try to win their first Clark Cup on home ice Friday night while Fargo attempts what very few teams have done before and rally from a 2-0 deficit

Black Hawks continue to be a thorn in Fargo’s side

Waterloo and Fargo will meet one more time this season — April 8 in Waterloo. The Black Hawks and Force both seem destined for a deep playoff run and a collision later this spring.

Fargo has just 15 losses this season (nine regulation) and four are courtesy of the Black Hawks. Waterloo ended Fargo’s 17-game point streak last Saturday night and the two teams will look to finish the season strong atop the Western Conference.

“We have a lot of respect for Fargo and that group,” Waterloo head coach Matt Smaby told The Rink Live earlier this week. “It’s no surprise they’re having the season they are and they’ve done a great job throughout the course of the season.

"We know any time we face them we’re going to be tested but they’re exciting games and I’m happy with how our group has competed in them."


Harvey and Croteau highlight Players of the Week

Chicago forward Jack Harvey and Waterloo goaltender Emmett Croteau both rode monster weekends to USHL honors. Harvey scored four goals and added an assist in a pair of wins while Croteau made 79 saves in a pair of wins in Fargo.

Harvey became Chicago’s franchise leading goal scorer (68 career goals) in the process.

“Jack is such a competitive kid and he’s always been a really talented and really smart hockey player,” Chicago head coach Mike Garman told The Rink Live. “But he’s just added a lot and really rounded out his overall game.”

Green Bay’s defenseman Artyom Levshunov also took home his second weekly honor of the 2022-23 campaign. For more on each player and their recent play, click here.

Ice Chips

  • Tri-City’s Trevor Connelly and NTDP forward Ryan Leonard both extended their point streaks to 11 games. Leonard scored in both games last weekend and has found the back of the net in five straight while Connelly recorded a four-point (2-2-4) weekend.
  • Connelly has 21 points (10-11-21) over his current 11-game stretch. Tri-City is 8-1-1-0 in its last 10.
  • Four teams carry win streaks into this weekend; Lincoln (4), Sioux City (3), Chicago (2) and the NTDP (2).
  • The Youngstown Phantoms have won three straight at the Covelli Centre and are 9-1-0-0 in their last 10 on home ice. Youngstown will play three road games this weekend, including a Sunday matinee in Green Bay, before playing six of their final eight at home.
  • Sioux Falls goaltender Jackson Irving announced his commitment to UMass Tuesday on his Instagram. The Massachusetts native won two of his first three USHL starts in the fall. However, Irving’s last win came on Dec. 28. Irving is 3-10-1-3 this season with a 3.92 GAA and .888 save percentage.
  • Dubuque forward Cole Helm announced his commitment to Arizona State on Wednesday. Helm scored twice last Friday night and has four goals and eight points in 28 games with the Fighting Saints this season.
  • Fargo forward Jake Fisher also announced his commitment to Denver this week. The Cretin-Derham Hall product posted 63 points (34-29-63) in 29 games and was a Mr. Hockey finalist. Fisher was previously a Northern Michigan commit.
  • The NCAA tournament gets underway Thursday. Fargo’s Scheels Arena is one of the four host sites this year and 280 former USHL players will be a part of the 16-team field.

Jordan McAlpine is a junior and prospects reporter for The Rink Live.
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