United States Hockey League (USHL)

USHL Clark Cup Playoffs First Round Preview, Predictions, And How To Watch

USHL Clark Cup Playoffs First Round Preview, Predictions, And How To Watch

The USHL's Clark Cup Playoffs begin Monday with 10 teams vying for one of the most coveted trophies in all of junior hockey.

Apr 14, 2024 by Ryan Sikes

The 2024 Clark Cup Playoffs are scheduled to commence on Monday, with 12 teams competing for the one of the most highly-coveted trophies in all of junior hockey, the USHL's Clark Cup.

In the Eastern Conference, the reigning Clark Cup-champion Youngstown Phantoms will be hosting the Madison Capitols. The winner of this series will advance and face the top seed in the East, the Dubuque Fighting Saints. Meanwhile, the Chicago Steel will be traveling to Green Bay to play against the Gamblers for an opportunity to challenge the Muskegon Lumberjacks in the conference semifinals.

In the West, the Tri-City Storm will be hosting the Sioux Falls Stampede. The winner of this series will advance to meet the Anderson Cup champion, Fargo Force. In the final series of the first round, the Lincoln Stars will be traveling to Waterloo to compete with the Black Hawks in the postseason for the third consecutive year. The winner of this series will be up against the Sioux City Musketeers in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Fargo and Sioux City, the top two seeds in the Western Conference, earned a first-round bye. Likewise, Dubuque and Muskegon earned a first-round bye in the Eastern Conference.

Where To Watch The 2024 USHL Clark Cup Playoffs

All games during the 2024 Clark Cup Playoffs will stream exclusively on FloHockey. Sign up today to get access to every game live and on demand. Sign up here.

What Teams Made The 2024 USHL Clark Cup Playoffs?

  • Fargo Force (First-Round Bye)
  • Sioux City Musketeers (First-Round Bye)
  • Dubuque Fighting Saints (First-Round Bye)
  • Muskegon Lumberjacks (First-Round Bye)
  • Green Bay Gamblers
  • Youngstown Phantoms
  • Waterloo Black Hawks
  • Madison Capitols
  • Tri-City Storm
  • Sioux Falls Stampede
  • Chicago Steel
  • Lincoln Stars

Eastern Conference First-Round Matchup Previews

No. 6 Chicago Steel (27-28-3-4) Vs. No. 3 Green Bay Gamblers (34-18-7-3)

Madison’s shootout win over the Gamblers on Saturday night knocked Green Bay down to the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference. 

The Gamblers have lost their last four games going into the playoffs; Chicago has lost its last three. Something has to give. 

However, the Steel played Green Bay very well this season, going 6-2-0-1 in nine contests.

Players To Watch

Chicago: Michael Hage (2024)

Hage has been a man on a mission on the second half of the 2023-24 season en route to cementing his draft status as a first-round pick in the 2024 NHL Draft. The University of Michigan commit tallied 23 goals and 51 points in 30 games following the holiday break.

Green Bay: Julian Lutz (ARI)

The Arizona Coyotes draft pick was a mid-season addition for the Gamblers, and orchestrated about as good of a year as anyone could have drawn up. Lutz finished with a team-high 24 goals and 68 points in 50 games.

Chicago Steel vs. Green Bay Gamblers Playoffs Schedule

Game 1: Monday, April 15 at 7:05 p.m. CST

Game 2: Tuesday, April 16 at 7:05 p.m. CST

Game 3 (if necessary): Wednesday, April 17 at 7:05 p.m. CST

Chicago Vs. Green Bay Series Predictions

Chicago in 3.

No. 5 Madison Capitols (33-23-4-2) Vs. No. 4 Youngstown Phantoms (33-19-6-4)

In what is shaping up to be one of the best first-round matchups, Madison and Youngstown head into the playoffs red-hot. 

The Caps have won three straight and seven of their last ten. Meanwhile, the Phantoms have points in their last seven.

Players To Watch

Madison: Austin Burnevik

Burnevik enjoyed a breakout year after finishing up his two-year residency at the NTDP. The St. Cloud commit is one of the more intriguing re-entry candidates in thr 2024 NHL Draft after finishing the year with 40 goals and 71 points.

Youngstown: Ryan Botterill

The University of Wisconsin commit ended the year with goals in six of his last eight games, including two goals against Madison and one game-winner.

Madison Capitols vs. Youngstown Phantoms Playoffs Schedule

Game 1: Monday, April 15 at 7:05 p.m. EST

Game 2: Tuesday, April 16 at 7:05 p.m. EST

Game 3 (if necessary): Wednesday, April 17 at 7:05 p.m. EST

Madison Vs. Youngstown Series Predictions

Youngstown in 3.

Western Conference First-Round Matchup Previews

No. 6 Lincoln Stars (27-30-3-2) Vs. No. 3 Waterloo Black Hawks (35-25-0-2)

We meet again. The Stars and Black Hawks are meeting for the third consecutive postseason, with the No. 3-seed Lincoln knocking off the No. 2-seed Waterloo in the Western Conference Semifinals last year. 

Both teams won five of their final 10 games to close out the regular season. However, Waterloo took three of four from the Stars during the regular season.

Players To Watch

Lincoln: Yan Shostak

In his first USHL season, Shostak emerged as one of the best and most reliable goaltenders in the league. The 19-year-old collected 20 wins to go along with a 3.05 goals-against average and a 0.902 save percentage.

Waterloo: John Mustard (2024)

Mustard will likely take home USHL Rookie of the Year honors after putting up 29 goals and 56 points. The Providence commit heads into the postseason having scored six goals in his final nine games of the season.

Lincoln Stars vs. Waterloo Black Hawks Playoffs Schedule

Game 1: Monday, April 15 at 7:05 p.m. CST

Game 2: Tuesday, April 16 at 7:05 p.m. CST

Game 3 (if necessary): Wednesday, April 17 at 7:05 p.m. CST

Lincoln Vs. Waterloo Series Predictions

Waterloo in 2.

No. 5 Sioux Falls Stampede (28-28-5-1) Vs. No. 4 Tri-City Storm (28-23-4-7)

Sioux Falls is back in the postseason for the first time since 2019, and the Stampede will go up against Trevor Connelly (2024) and the high-powered Tri-City Storm. 

The series has the potential to be a close one, with five of the seven meetings between the two teams during the regular season being decided by one goal.

Players To Watch 

Sioux Falls: Chris Pelosi (BOS)

Pelosi has not had the same scoring touch since the Herd traded his linemate and fellow Boston Bruins draft pick Beckett Hendrickson. However, Pelosi has shown a knack for showing up in big moments.

Tri-City: Trevor Connelly (2024)

Connelly likes playing under the bright lights, and I would expect him to ball out in this series. The Providence commit willed his team to wins down the stretch, recording points in 11 of his final 12 games, including three multi-goal efforts.

Sioux Falls Stampede vs. Tri-City Storm Playoffs Schedule

Game 1: Monday, April 15 at 7:05 p.m. CST

Game 2: Tuesday, April 16 at 7:05 p.m. CST

Game 3 (if necessary): Wednesday, April 17 at 7:05 p.m. CST

Sioux Falls Vs. Tri-City Series Predictions

Tri-City in 2.

What Is The Format Of The USHL Clark Cup Playoffs?

The first round of the Clark Cup Playoffs will be played in a best-of-three series, all on the higher seeds home ice and in consecutive days.

The Conference Semifinals, Conference Finals, and Clark Cup Final will consist of best-of-five series, with the higher seed hosting Games 1, 2, and 5.

What NHL Draft Prospects Will Be Playing In The Clark Cup Playoffs?

Based on NHL Central Scouting's most recent 2024 NHL Draft rankings, these are some of the top players expected to be participating in the 2024 Clark Cup Playoffs.

  • Trevor Connelly, Tri-City Storm
  • Sacha Boisvert, Muskegon Lumberjacks
  • Michael Hage, Chicago Steel
  • Matvei Gridin, Muskegon Lumberjacks
  • John Mustard, Waterloo Black Hawks
  • Adam Kleber, Lincoln Stars
  • Hagen Burrows, Sioux City Musketeers
  • Xavier Veilleux, Muskegon Lumberjacks
  • Tory Pitner, Youngstown Phantoms
  • Austin Burnevik, Madison Capitols

What NHL Prospects Will be Playing In The USHL Clark Cup Playoffs?

Many players already drafted by NHL teams will be participating in the USHL's Clark Cup Playoffs this season. Here's a brief list of some of the more notable prospects set to appear in the postseason.

  • Julian Lutz, Green Bay Gamblers (Arizona Coyotes)
  • Jayson Shaugabay, Green Bay Gamblers (Tampa Bay Lightning)
  • Juraj Pekarcik, Dubuque Fighting Saints (St. Louis Blues)
  • Andrew Strathmann, Youngstown Phantoms (Columbus Blue Jackets)
  • Chris Pelosi, Sioux Falls Stampede (Boston Bruins)
  • Zam Plante, Fargo Force (Pittsburgh Penguins)
  • Vlaidislav Lukashevich, Tri-City Storm (Florida Panthers)
  • Beckett Hendrickson, Dubuque Fighting Saints (Boston Bruins)
  • Hamton Slukynsky, Fargo Force (Los Angeles Kings)
  • Carsen Musser, Madison Capitols (Arizona Coyotes)
  • Kevin Reidler, Dubuque Fighting Saints (Ottawa Senators)
  • Adam Gajan, Green Bay Gamblers (Chicago Blackhawks)

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