USHL What To Watch: American Cup Showcases League In New York

USHL What To Watch: American Cup Showcases League In New York

As the calendar flips to December, USHL writer Jordan McAlpine highlights a number of key games on this week's schedule.

Nov 30, 2022 by Jordan McAlpine
USHL What To Watch: American Cup Showcases League In New York

With a busy Thanksgiving weekend in the rearview mirror, the calendar has flipped to December.

There are 17 games on the docket from Thursday to Sunday, giving USHL fans plenty to choose from. Here are a few of the games and series to watch closest.

Youngstown (6-7-3-1) vs. Green Bay (10-7-1-0). Dec. 1 & Dec. 2, 7:30 p.m. ET

Youngstown and Green Bay will play a pair of games this weekend at Bill Gray’s Regional IcePlex in Rochester, New York. The Phantoms and Gamblers will be representing the league in the USHL American Cup Powered by Wegmans, which is a neutral-site series that showcases the league outside of its regional footprint. In addition to the USHL games, a youth hockey tournament will also be held as part of the American Cup festivities.

Green Bay will be the home team on Friday while Youngstown will occupy the home bench in the series finale.

The Gamblers dropped their last game to conference-leading Chicago, 2-1, but they are 6-4-0-0 in its last 10. Green Bay won its previous five games before the loss to the Steel - including four straight over Madison during which the Gamblers exploded for 24 goals against the Capitols.

Youngstown has earned points in eight of its last 10 games (4-2-3-1) but the Phantoms still sit seventh in the Eastern Conference with 17 points. They picked up an impressive 6-1 win over the USNTDP last Friday, but fell on Saturday, 3-2.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Andrew Strathmann, D, Youngstown, 2023 draft-eligible

The North Dakota commit had a breakout rookie season with Tri-City last year with 23 points (5-18-23) in 61 games to go along with a plus-13 rating. That landed him a spot on the USHL’s All-Rookie First Team. He was traded to Youngstown in July and has picked up right where he left off last spring.

Strathmann is tied for the team lead in points (17) and he’s also tied for the most points by a USHL defenseman. Given a B rating in NHL Central Scouting’s Players to Watch List last month, Strathmann had four assists in three games last weekend. He will give the fans in Rochester a look at one of the league’s top draft-eligible defensemen.

Fargo (12-3-0-3) at Lincoln (12-6-0-0). Dec. 2 & Dec. 3, 7:05 & 6:05 p.m. CT

The top two teams in the Western Conference will clash Friday and Saturday night in Nebraska’s capital city. The Stars and Force have battled in the standings but Friday’s contest will be their first head-to-head action of the year. It’ll also be the first of eight between two teams that’ll likely contend for the top spot in the west.

Fargo currently sits atop the conference with 27 points – three ahead of Lincoln. The Force have points in eight straight (6-0-0-2) and nine of their last 10 (7-1-0-2). Nick Oliver’s squad won their first game against Omaha last weekend, 6-3, but fell in a shootout on Saturday, 4-3. The Force have gotten points in their first seven road games of the season (6-0-0-1) but this weekend will be their toughest challenge yet.

On the flip side, Lincoln owns the USHL’s best home winning percentage at .875. The Stars are 7-1-0-0 at the Ice Box this season and have won their last six on home ice. Lincoln has scored 26 goals in those six games and the Stars are 6-4-0-0 in their last 10 games overall.

This weekend will feature the USHL’s second- and third-highest scoring teams – Fargo 78 goals, Lincoln 67 goals – and also two of the league’s best penalty kills.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Tanner Ludtke, F, Lincoln, 2023 draft-eligible

The Nebraska-Omaha commit has been on a tear with goals in four straight games and five of the last six. A 6-foot, 185-pound center, Ludtke has 11 goals and 20 points on the season, both being a team-high. Ludtke’s 11 goals are also tied for the third-most in the USHL and he’s been more than a point-per-game player through 18 games. The Elko, Minnesota product was given a C in NHL Central Scouting’s Players to Watch List last month and will play for Team USA at the World Junior A Challenge starting next week.

Muskegon (10-7-0-0) at Dubuque (9-4-1-1). Dec. 4, 3:05 p.m. CT

The USHL’s only game on Sunday will be a good one. Dubuque comes into this weekend with points in five straight (4-0-0-1) and the Fighting Saints are 6-2-1-1 in their last 10. Dubuque has the USHL’s fourth-highest winning percentage (.667) as the Fighting Saints have played 15 games - which is tied with the USNTDP for the fewest in the league.

However, Muskegon has won back-to-back games and the Lumberjacks are 7-3-0-0 in their last 10. Muskegon swept Madison last weekend - winning by 8-3 and 3-2 finals - and split a pair of games at Dubuque the week before.

Muskegon leads the season series 2-1 as the Lumberjacks took the first game 6-2 and the second game in overtime, 3-2. The Fighting Saints answered with a 5-4 win and will look to even the series up this Sunday.

Sunday’s game will also mark the third game in three days for both clubs. Dubuque will play a home-and-home with Cedar Rapids on Friday and Saturday while Muskegon will host Chicago for a pair of games.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Max Burkholder, D, Dubuque

The Chaska, Minnesota native was named the USHL Defenseman of the Week Tuesday afternoon after scoring three goals and adding an assist last weekend. A Colorado College commit, Burkholder was also a plus-3 and registered six shots on goal. He had a hat trick in Dubuque’s 4-3 win over Des Moines last Saturday, including the overtime winner. That goal brought his season total to five goals and ran his point total to 15 in 15 games, which is tied for the fourth-most points by a USHL defenseman.

News and notes

  Waterloo will host Sioux Falls for a pair of games on Friday and Saturday. The Black Hawks are 8-2-0-0 in their last 10 games and up until last Saturday had won seven straight. Waterloo’s streak was snapped last Saturday in Cedar Rapids.

  Sioux City will play at Omaha on Friday and at Des Moines on Saturday. The Musketeers have points in five straight (4-0-0-1) and are 6-3-0-1 in their last 10.

 Tri-City’s Evan Werner and Chicago’s Jack Stark took home the USHL Forward and Goaltender of the Week honors, respectively. Werner had four goals, and two assists in three games last week while Stark turned aside 30 of the 31 shots he saw in a 2-1 win over Green Bay last Saturday. Stark is 5-1-0-0 on the season and owns the USHL’s second-best save percentage at .932.