AROUND THE LEAGUE
Record Setters: The Sioux Falls Stampede set a new single-game attendance record on Saturday with 4,788 fans in attendance, breaking the previous record of 4,764. The huge crowd witnessed the 19th home win of the season, second most in the USHL, as they knocked off the Lincoln 6-1. Sioux Falls scored the first five goals of the game, including a pair by Thomas Forgione. So far the season, 92,797 fans have come through the turnstiles for an average of 3,866 per game, which is just behind the League-leading Lincoln Stars who average 3,889 fans a game.
Double Time: The Chicago Steel earned a pair of home victories during the weekend, the first time they won consecutive home games since the opening weekend of the season (September 28-29). They scored three unanswered goals in the second period of Friday's 4-1 win over Cedar Rapids, including the first in a Steel uniform for Drew Smolcynski and the game-winner by Tyler Hill. It snapped a four-game winless streak on home ice. Chicago followed up with a big 7-3 victory over League-leading Dubuque on Saturday, equaling their goal output in the previous three games combined. They scored four goals in the first period, including the first in a Steel uniform for Tyler Heinonen. Forward Patrick Polino scored two goals in the victory, the first multi-goal game of his USHL career.
Playing Tough While Down: The Indiana Ice penalty kill has been stellar as of late, successfully killing 17 of their last 18 opponent power plays. The last time an opponent scored on the power play was in the second period of Indiana's 4-3 road win against the Youngstown Phantoms on January 26. The Ice are killing penalties at an 82.2% clip, which is good for seventh in the USHL.
Top of the Charts: Lincoln Stars defenseman Paul LaDue earned himself a spot on top of the all-time lists for the Lincoln Stars. With an assist on Valentine's Day, he pushed his career point total to 70 (19g, 51a) and moved into first in all-time scoring for a Lincoln Stars defenseman. He also converted in the shootout to help the Stars to a 6-5 shootout win over Tri-City. The next evening, LaDue played his 100th USHL career regular season game. He is four goals shy of first in goals for a defenseman (Eli Vlaisavljevich, 2004-06) and seven assists shy of first (Chad Langlais, 2005-07). LaDue, a 2012 NHL Draft pick of the Los Angeles, leads all USHL defensemen in scoring this season with 36 points (10g, 26a) in 44 games.
Perfect 10: Green Bay Gamblers forward Kyle Novak and Dubuque Fighting Saints forward Mike Szmatula are each riding impressive 10-game point streaks. Novak 16 points (9g, 7a) over his last 10 games, leading the Gamblers to wins in seven of them. He is the team leader in points with 57 (23g, 34a) and ranks fourth in the USHL in points, tied for fourth in goals, and is third in assists. Szmatula had recorded 14 points (9g, 5a) over his last 10, with Dubuque coming out on top in eight of those contests. In 22 games since December 14th, Szmatula has points in 20 of them and is currently third in the USHL with 61 points (33g, 28a) He leads the League in goals and is second with a plus-39 on-ice rating.
No Place Like Home: Green Bay's 4-3 win over the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders on Saturday was the 14th straight home win for the Gamblers, which is one shy of the USHL season high (Dubuque- 15). Over their last 14 home games, the Gamblers have outscored their opponents by a margin of 76-40 and are averaging close to six goals per-game (5.84). Saturday was also the team's annual "Teddy Bear Toss" game as the Gamblers collected 6,755 teddy bears and stuffed toys that were thrown on to the ice following their first goal. A season high crowd of 7,507 fans attended the game, 2,000 more than their previous high.
Climbing Towards the Top: The Muskegon Lumberjacks have won four straight contests and five of their last seven. They have moved in to second place in the Eastern Conference with 60 points, and are just 11 behind League-leading Dubuque. Goaltender Kevin Lindskoug picked up his eighth shutout of the season on Saturday with a 3-0 win over Team USA. He is 5-1-2 over his last eight games, which has included three shutouts. Also putting us some solid numbers is forward Brian Morgan, who was recently acquired from the Indiana Ice. In four games since joining the Jacks, he has registered three goals, one assist, and has a plus-four on-ice rating. Forward Chad McDonald is also performing well, putting up eight points (4g, 4a) over his last six games.
Not Far to Go: The Fargo Force have been hot during recent action, winning four straight, including three against the Waterloo Black Hawks. They have outscored their opponents 15-8 on their current four-game streak and now sit just three points behind Western Conference leading Sioux Falls. A key piece to their success has been forward Austin Ortega, who was acquired from Indiana at the trade deadline. He has five points (1g, 4a) in five games since joining the Force and sits tied for 11th in League scoring with 47 points (25g, 22a). Dominic Toninato has also been on a tear and is riding a five-game point streak, tallying three goals and three assists over that span. He sits second on the team in scoring with 49 points (20g, 29a) and has found his way onto the score sheet in 20 of his last 24 games. Gage Torrel recorded his first USHL career two-goal game in Saturday's win.
Homeward Bound: The Youngstown Phantoms wrapped up a stretch of playing six of their last seven games on the road. They posted a 3-3-0 record in those road contests, including a 6-2 win at Indiana on Valentine's Day where they netted four goals in the second period. Zach Evancho netted the game-winner, his first game since January 11th in which he also scored the winning tally. Sam Anas scored his 40th USHL career goal on Thursday and John Padulo also found the back of the net, his fourth goal in a span of four games. The Phantoms now play their next five games on home ice where they have won five of their last six.
Close Calls: Five of the last six games for the Omaha Lancers have been decided by a single goal, with the Lancers garnering wins in three of them. Overall, they are 16-8 in one-goal contests this season. The Lancers are no stranger to close games as of late, as 13 of their last 16 overall have been decided by two or fewer goals. The Lancers have a record of 10-3-0 in those contests.
Notes: The Indiana Ice overcame a 3-0 deficit to Team USA on Sunday to force overtime and eventually win in the shootout. Tyler Pham scored in regulation and converted in the shootout during the 4-3 win which snapped a five-game winless stretch for the Ice (0-4-1)...Gerald Mayhew has scored three goals over his last four games for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, including during Saturday's 4-3 loss to Green Bay which was the 100th regular season game of this USHL career...The Sioux City Musketeers have won five of their last eight games after being winless in the previous 10 games (0-6-4)...Tim Bonner scored a goal on Friday and netted the game-winner for the Tri-City Storm in Saturday's 2-1 victory against Omaha. His next goal will be the 40th of his USHL career...Lincoln Stars forward Jake Wood score a pair of goals, dished out an assist, and had a game high plus-four rating in a 4-2 win over the Des Moines on Friday.