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USHL Power Rankings for March 15: Conference races tighten up heading into stretch run

Storm on the rise, RoughRiders on a roll and top teams set to square off in Fargo

Tri-City Goal Celebration.JPG
The Tri-City Storm celebrate a Graham Gamache goal earlier this season in Omaha. Tri-City has won eight straight games and the Storm have points in nine straight. Tri-City made the biggest jump in this week's rankings.
Jordan McAlpine / The Rink Live

OMAHA, Neb. - 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, 11-34-2-1
Last Ranking: 16

Madison has dropped six straight and the Captiols are 20 points back of seventh-place Muskegon at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. The Captiols sit near the bottom of the USHL in nearly every statistical category and still own the league’s worst record.

Madison relieved head coach Corey Leivermann and assistants Gaven Bickford and Ross Kovacs of their coaching duties on Monday.


Capitols relieve head coach Corey Leivermann and his staff of their duties. Tom Gilbert, Dominic Zombo and Ryan Galt take over behind Madison bench

15.) Omaha Lancers, 13-26-5-3
Last Ranking: 15

The Lancers have dropped seven straight (0-5-1-1), including a pair of games to in-state rival Lincoln. Omaha still has scored the league’s fewest goals (105) and the Lancers have dropped eight of their last 10 games on home ice.

14.) Muskegon Lumberjacks, 21-24-3-0
Last Ranking: 14

Muskegon fell to Dubuque in overtime on Friday and skated to a 4-3 overtime win of its own on Saturday. Despite the strong showing against the Fighting Saints, the Lumberjacks are 4-5-1-0 in their last 10 and 10 points back of Cedar Rapids for the final playoff spot.

Ethan Whitcomb and rookie Sacha Boisvert continue to lead Muskegon offensively. But if the Lumberjacks want to make a push, they’ll need more consistency.

13.) Sioux City Musketeers, 20-23-2-3
Last Ranking: 13

The Musketeers continue to slide in the standings. Although Sioux City is currently tied for fifth in the Western Conference, the Musketeers are 2-8-0-0 in their last 10 and continue to see points slip away against conference foes.

The Musketeers dropped a pair of home games against Fargo on Friday and Sioux Falls on Sunday. They've dropped five of their last six overall.


12.) Sioux Falls Stampede, 19-25-4-3
Last Ranking: 12

Speaking of Sioux Falls, the Stampede are coming off that 4-2 win Sunday afternoon. However, the Stampede are still 3-6-1-0 over their last 10. Sioux City and Sioux Falls are currently tied for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference with 45 points.

Jaksen Panzer is coming off a six-point weekend (4-2-6) and Sam Harris ranks 10th in the USHL with 24 goals. However, Sioux Falls has allowed 182 goals this season, which is the most in the Western Conference.

11.) Des Moines Buccaneers, 18-22-5-3
Last Ranking: 11

Des Moines has dropped three straight but they’ve been in every game with a 4-1 loss at Dubuque and a pair of one-goal losses against red-hot Tri-City.

The Buccaneers are 5-5-0-0 in their last 10 and have especially been good at home, where they’ll be for another pair of games this weekend.

If the playoffs were to begin today, the Buccaneers would fall one point short. At the same time, there’s a lot of season left to play and the Buccaneers are firmly in the Western Conference race.

10.) Dubuque Fighting Saints, 25-17-5-1
Last Ranking: 8


The Fighting Saints have been on a roll lately with points in seven straight (5-0-2-0). Five of their last six games have required overtime but the Fighting Saints have won three of them.

Dubuque has a minus-13 goal differential this season yet they’ve been able to overcome it. Dubuque has points in seven of its last 10 and the Fighting Saints are tied with Green Bay for fourth in the Eastern Conference. They’ll get a big test this weekend with a pair of games against Youngstown and a Saturday showdown at Chicago.

9.) Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, 24-17-4-3
Last Ranking: 10

Speaking of teams on a roll in the Eastern Conference, the RoughRiders have won five straight, earned points in six straight (5-0-0-1), and also have points in seven of their last 10.

They’ve done it against some steep competition too with wins over Waterloo and Chicago. Mark Carlson’s squad held two of the USHL’s most-potent offenses to a combined one goal, including a shutout against Waterloo.

The RoughRiders are one point behind Dubuque and Green Bay and will have a golden opportunity to bank four points this weekend with a home-and-home with Madison. More importantly, Carlson’s lineup is finally getting back healthy.

8.) Lincoln Stars, 28-18-3-0
Last Ranking: 7

Lincoln took a step in the right direction with a weekend sweep of Omaha. However, the Stars are still just 3-5-2-0 in their last 10 and are barely clinging to the third spot in the Western Conference standings. With Tri-City right behind.


On the bright side, Lincoln’s next four games are against Des Moines, Omaha and Sioux City (twice) before a pivotal weekend against Waterloo and Tri-City. Mason Marcellus is heating up with points in seven of his last eight games and the Quinnipiac commit leads Lincoln with 53 points.

7.) Green Bay Gamblers, 26-19-2-2
Last Ranking: 6

It’s been a tough five-game stretch (0-4-0-1) for Green Bay. At the same time, if you look deeper than the numbers, the Gamblers have four straight one-goal losses to arguably the best goaltender in the league (Youngstown’s Jacob Fowler) and arguably the most skilled team in the league (USNTDP U18).

Make no mistake, Mike Leone’s club isn’t satisfied with moral victories and Green Bay has slipped a bit in the standings. At the same time, they’ve been in every game and Green Bay is still tied for fourth in the east.

They’re about to enter another tough five-game stretch with two more against the NTDP, two against Chicago and another contest with Youngstown.

Take a year-by-year and team-by-team look at the USHL's tender history and what goes into the tendering process
Storm impress with three-game sweep of Fargo and prepare for pivotal mid-week game in Lincoln, while the Steel and Phantoms battle for the top spot in the Eastern Conference
Daimon Gardner and Shaun McEwen lead Tri-City to a three-game sweep over Fargo while Hrabal pitches a 35-save shutout against Waterloo
Rochester native Maddox Fleming will head to Notre Dame in the fall to play Division I college hockey. He's spent the past year preparing himself mentally and physically for the next level.
Steel are playoff bound for a seventh consecutive season while the Stars look to make a deep run
Owen Mehlenbacher and Zam Plante are two of the Force's latest acquisitions from the in-season trade market.
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Chicago's Harvey becomes franchise goal leader, Waterloo's Croteau continues stellar play with back-to-back wins in Fargo and Green Bay's Artyom Levshunov named USHL DOTW for second time this season
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
Despite preseason unknown, Gamblers turn culture and four core values into success

6.) Tri-City Storm, 26-16-2-3
Last Ranking: 9

The USHL’s hottest team resides in Kearney, Neb. Tri-City has won eight straight, has points in nine straight and the Storm have emerged as a true contender in the Western Conference, especially since the USHL trade deadline.

Anthony Noreen’s club has been on fire and so have forwards Jake Richard, Trevor Connelly and Dane Dowiak. Tri-City’s next five games are all at home, including three against conference-leading Fargo. The Storm will look to make a statement and continue their climb in the west.


5.) Youngstown Phantoms, 29-15-4-1
Last Ranking: 5

The Phantoms have trimmed Chicago’s lead atop the Eastern Conference to three points thanks to an 8-2-0-0 run. Youngstown has won three straight, all against Green Bay, and four of its last five.

Jacob Fowler leads the USHL in save percentage (.921) and wins (21) while forward Andon Cerbone has points in four of his last five games and has reached the 50-point mark. Youngstown owns the USHL’s most home wins (19) and second-best home win percentage (.780).

4.) USNTDP, 29-14-1-2
Last Ranking: 4

It's been a good stretch of hockey in Plymouth as both the U17 and U18 squads have found success in USHL play. The USNTDP is currently enjoying a four-game win streak and is 7-3-0-0 in its last 10. Both clubs will be action this weekend too for a pair of games.

Ryan Leonard is currently riding a nine-game point streak while Cole Eiserman has hit the ground running with the U18 team. The Minnesota commit had a three-point night (1-2-3) last Friday and found the back of the net twice last Saturday in a pair of wins at Madison.

3.) Chicago Steel, 31-15-3-1
Last Ranking: 3

Chicago fell to Cedar Rapids last time out, 3-1. At the same time, Chicago’s continued to impress in the offensive zone and its big guns have continued to produce over the past month. Specifically rookie phenom Macklin Celebrini.


The Steel lead the Eastern Conference with 66 points and Chicago’s 31 wins are tied with Waterloo for second in the USHL. Chicago’s 214 goals scored also lead the USHL.

Chicago is 6-3-1-0 in its last 10 and Mike Garman’s club will look to add four more wins before the calendar flips to April.

2.) Waterloo Black Hawks, 31-16-1-0
Last Ranking: 2

Waterloo is 6-3-0-1 in its last 10 with a golden opportunity awaiting this weekend. The Black Hawks head to Fargo for three games against a Fargo team that is 13-0-2-0 in its last 15. However, the two blemishes have been courtesy of Waterloo.

The Black Hawks have won two of the previous three matchups against Fargo this season and Matt Smaby’s defensive corps is one of the USHL’s top blue lines. Waterloo is second in the USHL in wins (31), third in points (63) and third in goal differential (plus-38).

1.) Fargo Force, 35-8-2-3
Last Ranking: 1

Fargo’s point streak has reached 15 (13-0-2-0) and the Force have won five straight. Fargo is the lone USHL team to clinch a playoff spot and the Force continue to lead the league in wins (35), win percentage (.781) and goal differential (plus-77).

Fargo also owns the league’s best home win percentage at .792. They’ll get a tough test this weekend with that trio of games against Waterloo. At the same time, the Force continues to impress and every button Nick Oliver presses seems to be working.

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