The USHL is known for being the premier amateur development junior hockey league in all of the United States. The amount of professionalism, skill, and work ethic involved in the league can only be comparable to the Major Junior leagues of Canada. It takes a lot of dedication and sacrifices to make it to this level. The effort put forth during every game is driven by the players and coaches in order to get them to the next level which is the NCAA or professional ranks.
Juniorhockey.com will now have a USHL ranking for readers. This ranking will not be based on purely statistics. Many other factors will be incorporated so that the hockey world can see what separates a good team from a great team.
The Most exciting aspect of the USHL is the fact that any team can win on any given night. Most of the time it comes down to which team happens to be hungrier for the win.
# 1 Dubuque Fighting Saints -
Off to an impressive 5-0 start, it seems as if Dubuque knows how to run a great hockey club. Both goaltenders are looking solid, and it helps that they have a lot of big bodies. They say "a great defense wins championships", and if Dubuque can stay injury free while continuing to score goals, they should have yet another successful season.
It is also safe to say that the Dubuque area is a great hockey town. The fans and public relations are about as good as it gets. The Dubuque organization is run well, and it helps that the economics of Iowa overall are pretty solid.
#2 Lincoln Stars -
With 4 wins under their belt, the stars are off to a great start. Losing undisputed league scoring champion Kevin Roy to the college ranks has not seemed to slow them down one bit. Look for Lincoln to be a huge threat this year in the West.
Lincoln also may have the best playing atmosphere in all of the USHL. They do a great job putting on a show for their fans, and they tend to draw huge crowds to most of their home games. Their barn is located in Nebraska, but hockey in Nebraska is no joke.
#3 Waterloo Blackhawks -
There is a lot of history involved with the Waterloo program, and it sure does help when trying to recruit players. Waterloo's trip oversees to compete against other countries most likely helped them mesh as a squad before most USHL teams had a chance to introduce themselves.
Look for Waterloo to stay atop the standings this year, and contend for a championship. The larger ice surface in Waterloo tends to give them a home ice advantage. Look out because it may be the year for the Blackhawks in the USHL.
#4 Muskegon Lumberjacks -
Next to the Fighting Saints, Lumberjacks may be the most intimidating name in the USHL. With a solid scoring punch and mix of many good players,
Muskegon has what it takes to have a successful year.
Being one of the few teams located in the great hockey state of Michigan, they may begin to get a lot of attention from some NHL fans who are awaiting the league to resume play. If Muskegon can generate a larger fan base, it may be the push they need to rise up.
#5 Chicago Steel -
With a veteran goaltender, the steel have what it takes to make an impact throughout the season. Alex Sakellaropoulous may be the hottest in the league right now, and if he can keep that up, the rest of the Eastern Conference is in trouble.
Located geographically in the middle of USHL footprint can help the steel avoid those lengthy bus trips that some teams have to endure. If the steel can continue to score, look for them to dominant their opponents.
#6 Cedar Rapids RoughRiders -
The economics of the Cedar Rapids/Iowa city area are incredible. The fan base in Cedar Rapids really loves their players, and this may be the best kept secret in the USHL. You would never expect it if you didn't know much about Iowa.
When the cowbells are ringing in The Stable, and The Hampton Inn Sin Bin gets the visitors, Cedar Rapids is a great place to watch some hockey. As long as the team can come together, there is no reason why Cedar Rapids can't rise to the top of the rankings and continue to put hockey on the map in Iowa.
#7 Sioux Falls Stampede -
Sioux Falls, South Dakota probably can't be pointed out by most people in the U.S. on a map, but don't let that fool you. The public should never try telling the team in Sioux Falls that they are soft, because they will come back with a punch.
Undefeated at home thus far, Sioux Falls has a great fan base and is currently atop the USHL standing in attendance. The question is can they bring down their goals against average before it is too late. A strong push from a defensive standpoint is what this team needs.
#8 Fargo Force -
With a near .500 record so far, Fargo is looking pretty average. It seems as if they are working out the kinks. With a diverse roster, maybe they have not meshed yet. Once the teams bonds, they may have what it takes to eat up the competition.
Fandom in Fargo is always strong, and it seems as if the community really supports hockey in Fargo, North Dakota. The location of Fargo may affect them when it comes to road trips, but it can also be an advantage having an opponent travel all the way up there.
#9 Youngstown Phantoms -
Starting off at 4-2 Youngstown is looking strong. However, attendance in Youngstown is below average. Ever since the move up from the NAHL they have never been at the top.
It is going to take some serious leadership from a player and coaching standpoint in order to change the stigma associated with Youngstown. Maybe some new marketing and community involvement could help this team out. It is important to note that Austin Cangelosi is currently the league's leading scorer.
#10 Des Moines Buccaneers -
Hockey tradition in the state's capitol has never really grown old. Buccaneer Arena is a fun place to play, and the barn type atmosphere similar to Lincoln really creates a rowdy and loud game. Even the visitors' locker rooms are located under the bleachers, giving you that old time hockey feel.
Don't expect to see Des Moines in the bottom half of the rankings for too long. If the organization can make some smart moves from a business standpoint, they will not be a team to mess with.
#11 Indiana Ice -
Switching home venues seems to have hurt the Ice from an economical standpoint. Moving downtown to Bankers Life may have taken away some of their fan base. If the Ice wants to jump to the top of the standings they need to go back to old traditions. The Ice organization originated in the city of Danville, Illinois, where the team was the city's only real professionally run sports organization. Moving to the great hockey city of Indianapolis was an intelligent move.
The Ice shouldn't be near the bottom for too long so long as they stick to the basics, and continue to run a great organization. Veteran leadership will help them as they get into the heart of their schedule.
#12 Sioux City Musketeers -
A lot of close scores at the beginning of the year is a good sign that Sioux City has what it takes to make a playoff run. With decent attendance numbers and a solid group of players, Sioux City won't stay towards the bottom for long.
It's a long season, and as long as Sioux City can put up a fight every night they lace up the skates, they shouldn't have any major problems. It may hurt to lose close games, but it is important to note that "a great team wins those close games."
#13 Green Bay Gamblers -
Putting the puck in the net doesn't seem to be the problem for Green Bay, but keeping it out is what they need to work on. 26 goals against does not look good, and this cannot continue to happen. 203 PIMs shouldn't go well with the coaches either.
Green Bay usually pulls through and finds their pace at some point during the season. When they are a winning team, they tend to draw lots of fans. Having a great NFL franchise in town sure does help. Don't count them out to make a run for another Championship.
#14 USNTDP (Team USA) -
The young group of players in Ann Arbor always get top of the line competition throughout the season. Having an exhibition schedule with D1 schools seems to speed up their game. Once this team gets to know each other they won't have problems winning games.
After all they call it Team USA for a reason. This is the best of the best at their age category in all of the United States. Being on the road a lot can really help a team bond, and this may be why Team USA tends to finish their seasons strong.
#15 Tri-City Storm -
Poor offensive numbers attributes to why Tri-City is near the bottom of the rankings. With only 51 PIMs they seem to be a disciplined team, but a little bit of grit and aggression may be what they need to add.
Establishing an enforcer or making a few trades could help in the long run.Kearney,
Nebraska is located in the middle of nowhere, but sometimes teams like this are successful because of the fact that they garner a lot of attention by the community. The arena they play in is one of the nicest in the USHL.
#16 Omaha Lancers -
With a disappointing 1-5 start, Omaha should be on their heels right now. With all of the great competition surrounding them, they must make adjustments quickly before things get worse. Just like Tri-City they have poor offensive numbers; however it is important to note that all 6 of their games have been on the road.
Look for Omaha to get just the push they need when they make their home debut. Being one of the older organizations in the league, you can never count the Lancers out.
Maybe an adjustment to the roster will help them attain a better record.
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