USHL Power Rankings for Feb. 15: Which teams made the biggest push?
Force stay put, Stars back on track and top teams shuffle in this week’s rankings
USHL writer Jordan McAlpine is back with another edition of power rankings. Rankings will be provided on a bi-weekly basis throughout the rest of the season.
Without further ado, let’s get to it.
16.) Madison Capitols, 10-28-1-1
Last Ranking: 16
Madison defeated Muskegon last time out but the Capitols still sit at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. Madison is 3-7-0-0 in its last 10 and has the USHL’s worst record and fewest points (22).
The focus has shifted toward the future in Wisconsin’s capital city.
15.) Omaha Lancers, 12-21-4-2
Last Ranking: 15
It’s been an interesting last two weeks in Omaha and the Lancers are 2-7-1-0 in their last 10.
However, it hasn’t been the results that have fans scratching their heads. Omaha traded its leading scorer, Alex Bump, and captain, Nate Benoit, to Tri-City and Waterloo respectively last week.
Although the Lancers are just eight points back of a playoff spot, it’s hard to imagine Omaha being much of a factor in the Western Conference. It’ll be interesting to see how the Lancers navigate the next two weeks as the trade deadline approaches.
14.) Des Moines Buccaneers, 14-18-5-3
Last Ranking: 14
It’s been a season full of peaks and valleys and the Buccaneers are 2-5-2-1 in their last 10. At the same time, Des Moines got some positive momentum Tuesday night with a 4-3 overtime win in Lincoln.
Matt Curley’s squad is just two points out of a playoff spot and nine of their next 10 games are at home.
Jak Vaarwerk had a goal and an assist Tuesday and has points in seven of his last nine games. Defenseman Michael Bevilacqua also has points in back-to-back games and scored the overtime winner Tuesday. Vaarwerk leads Des Moines with 29 points.
13.) Muskegon Lumberjacks, 18-20-2-0
Last Ranking: 13
Muskegon is just four points back of a playoff spot but the Lumberjacks have dropped seven of their last 10. At the same time, the Lumberjacks have split their past three weekend series against Cedar Rapids, Youngstown and Madison.
Especially after trading Jake Richard, Owen Mehlenbacher and Tyler Dunbar, the question was if Muskegon could keep up offensively. On top of trading away three of their top-five point leaders, their current leading scorer, Ethan Whitcomb, was also suspended four games. But so far the Lumberjacks are still hanging around.
12.) Sioux Falls Stampede, 16-19-3-3
Last Ranking: 12
Four teams are separated by five points in the Western Conference — Sioux City, Tri-City, Sioux Falls and Des Moines. But if the playoffs were to start today, the Stampede would be in.
Sioux Falls has points in six of its last 10 (4-4-1-1) and although the Stampede have dropped three straight, they’ll have a chance to make up some ground Wednesday night in Fargo and this weekend against Des Moines and Tri-City.
11.) Tri-City Storm, 18-16-2-3
Last Ranking: 11
Another one of those four teams, Tri-City and Sioux City are currently tied for fourth in the Western Conference with 41 points. Tri-City fell to Waterloo in overtime Saturday night and the Storm are 4-3-2-1 in their last 10.
However, this weekend is the start of a golden opportunity with games in Sioux Falls and Sioux City. Tri-City’s next 10 games will be against Sioux City (4), Sioux Falls (4) and Des Moines (2), the three teams they’re battling with.
With Richard and Bump added to the lineup, along with Cameron Korpi between the pipes, Anthony Noreen’s squad wants to make some noise down the stretch.
10.) Sioux City Musketeers, 18-17-2-3
Last Ranking: 10
Speaking of the Musketeers, Sioux City stays put at No. 10. But the Musketeers need to get the train back on the tracks.
Sioux City has dropped four straight and as mentioned above, the Musketeers now find themselves tied with Tri-City. Sioux City is coming off a tough weekend in Fargo and was swept by Lincoln in a home-and-home the week before. They’ll face Tri-City and Lincoln this weekend and three of their next four games are against the Storm.
9.) Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, 18-15-4-2
Last Ranking: 8
Mark Carlson’s group split a home-and-home with Dubuque this past weekend and Cedar Rapids is currently sixth in the Eastern Conference with 42 points. The RoughRiders are 3-4-2-1 in their last 10 but one or two wins could quickly change the standings.
Ryan Walsh has five points (2-3-5) in his last three games and is second in the USHL with 50 points (16-34-50). Dylan Hryckowian has 11 points over his last six games and is sixth in the USHL with 44 points (15-29-44). Zaccharya Wisdom is also 11th in the league with 41 points (24-17-41). All three have skated in 38 games.
8.) Dubuque Fighting Saints, 20-15-3-1
Last Ranking: 9
The Fighting Saints got the final say in that home-and-home with a 3-2 win Saturday night at home. But Dubuque followed it up with a clunker Tuesday night in a 5-1 loss to Green Bay.
The Fighting Saints have points in seven of their last 10 (5-3-2-0) and are 6-4-0-0 in their last 10 at home. Dubuque is fifth in the Eastern Conference and the Fighting Saints will look to continue climbing the standings this weekend in Youngstown.
7.) Youngstown Phantoms, 21-13-4-1
Last Ranking: 5
The Phantoms have points in three straight and eight of their last 10 (7-2-1-0). They’ve done it against some of the league’s top teams as well, including Chicago and Green Bay, and the Phantoms are tied for third in the Eastern Conference.
Youngstown continues its dominance on home ice where the Phantoms are 9-1-0-0 in their last 10. Although they’ll be without their goaltender, Jacob Fowler (two-game suspension for roughing), against Dubuque, Youngstown continues to impress in the offensive zone.
6.) Green Bay Gamblers, 24-14-1-1
Last Ranking: 4
Green Bay dropped three of four after the last round of power rankings were released. However, the Gamblers responded with an overtime win over Youngstown last Saturday and an impressive 5-1 win in Dubuque Tuesday night.
Forward Jimmy Clark had two goals and an assist in the win over the Fighting Saints and after being blanked by Dubuque in back-to-back games earlier this month, the five-goal outburst is a promising sign for a club that has struggled to score at times.
Gamblers Win ‼️ Green Bay gets a Valentines Day dub, dominating the @fightingsaints 5-1 with @Jimmyclark714 putting up 3 points #GoGamblers pic.twitter.com/SgSNM2IPhw— Green Bay Gamblers (@GamblersHockey) February 15, 2023
Green Bay’s 133 goals rank sixth in the Eastern Conference but the Gamblers are second in the standings and trail Chicago by just five points. They've also have played one fewer game.
5.) USNTDP, 22-11-1-2
Last Ranking: 6
Although both USNTDP teams were away at the Four and Five Nations Tournaments last weekend, they currently own the USHL’s longest win streak (seven games) and are 8-2-0-0 in their last 10 USHL games.
The USNTDP is averaging the league’s most goals per game (4.22) and forward Gabe Perrault is averaging two points per game (13-15-28 in 14 games). Perrault has played just four USHL games since the calendar flipped to 2023, including just one in February.
However, the scoring has followed him to international play as Perrault racked up a career-high six assists in a 9-1 win over Czechia.
4.) Lincoln Stars, 25-13-2-0
Last Ranking: 7
Lincoln saw its five-game win streak come to an end Tuesday in a 4-3 overtime loss to Des Moines. However, the Stars still have points in six straight and have been one of the USHL’s hottest teams over the past two weeks.
Lincoln sits just two points back of Waterloo and has built an 11-point lead on Sioux City and Tri-City in the standings.
The Stars have gotten solid goaltending from both Cameron Whitehead and Lucas Massie during this recent stretch while Lincoln’s blue line has also been very active offensively. Antonio Fernandez and Boston Buckberger currently own five and six-game point streaks respectively.
3.) Chicago Steel, 26-12-2-1
Last Ranking: 2
The Steel drop one spot in this week’s ranking, mostly due to red-hot Waterloo. Chicago won a pair of games in Omaha and Des Moines last weekend and the Steel still lead the Eastern Conference. The Steel are 5-4-1-0 in their last 10 but have responded to their brief funk with points in five straight (4-0-1-0).
Macklin Celebrini continues his masterful season and the rookie forward is coming off a seven-point weekend, including his second five-point night of the season (3-2-5) last Saturday in Des Moines.
Celebrini was named the USHL Forward of the Week for his performance and now leads the USHL in both goals (28) and points (54).
2.) Waterloo Black Hawks, 27-13-0-0
Last Ranking: 3
Speaking of Waterloo, the Black Hawks are surging as of late. Waterloo is 8-2-0-0 in its last 10 and Matt Smaby’s squad continues to produce offensively.
The Black Hawks swept Tri-City in Kearney last weekend, highlighted by an overtime win on Saturday. It’s the second straight weekend Waterloo has defeated a conference rival in overtime as Waterloo defeated Fargo at home the previous Saturday.
63 minutes and 48 seconds was enough hockey for tonight. Waterloo is now 8-0 and overtime with a 3-2 road win against Tri-City.https://t.co/S15HxeOSy1— Waterloo Black Hawks (@BlckHawksHockey) February 12, 2023
Waterloo’s is a perfect 8-0-0-0 in overtime this season and the Black Hawks own the USHL’s second-best win percentage at .675.
1.) Fargo Force, 27-8-1-3
Last Ranking: 1
The Force have points in six straight (5-0-1-0) and nine of their last 10 (8-1-1-0). Although Waterloo has closed the gap to four points, the Force still lead the Western Conference. Fargo owns the USHL’s best win percentage (.744), most points (58) and the best road record at 14-4-1-1.
The Force swept Sioux City last weekend and took three out of a possible four points in Waterloo the week before. Joe Palodichuk and Matej Marinov are the reigning USHL Defenseman and Goaltender of the Week and Marinov (16-0-0-2) is still undefeated in regulation this season.