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USHL What To Watch For: Fighting Saints, Phantoms Look To Gain Ground

It’s an action-packed weekend in the USHL as 16 games are crammed into three days. Friday’s and Saturday’s tables each feature seven games, while two games will round out Sunday’s action.

Four back-to-backs, a lot of rivalries and a few rematches litter the schedule. Along with several games that could move the rankings. Without further ado, here’s a look at the week ahead.

Dubuque (5-3-1-0) at Youngstown (4-5-1-0), Nov. 11 & 12, 7:05 p.m. ET

2022 Dubuque Fighting Saints vs. Youngstown Phantoms

Although Dubuque and Youngstown are currently in the bottom half of the Eastern Conference standings, this weekend’s games will feature two teams that have played well over the past few weeks. The Fighting Saints are consecutive game winners, while Youngstown has three straight games in points (2-0-1-0).

Dubuque exploded with 10 goals last Friday in a 10-2 win over Madison that set a franchise record. The Fighting Saints defeated Waterloo 5-2 the previous game and now have points in five of their last six. Dubuque has again played the fewest games in the USHL this season, and despite currently ranking sixth in the Eastern Conference, the Fighting Saints have the USHL’s fifth-highest win percentage at .611.

The Phantoms won two road games this past weekend — 4-2 at Muskegon on Saturday and a 4-3 shootout win over the USNTDP on Friday. Youngstown had lost to the USNTDP 2-3 in overtime last Friday, but it started what is now a three-game points streak.

Dubuque (30) and Youngstown (33) have conceded the fewest goals in the Eastern Conference this season.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Michael Burchill, F, Dubuque, 2023 Draft Eligible

The right-footed winger scored twice in the 10-2 win and has up to six goals this season. Burchill is tied for the team lead and also ranks second on Dubuque’s list with 10 points. After 53 games last season, Burchill has already matched more than half of his goals (11) and points (19) from a year ago. Last month he was rated C on NHL Central Scouting’s Players to Watch List.

Fargo (7-3-0-1) at Des Moines (5-6-1-0), Nov. 11, 7 p.m. CT

2022 Fargo Force vs. Des Moines Buccaneers

The Force has conceded the fewest goals in the league (24) and is going with a perfect 4-0-0 this season. Both will be put to the test in Des Moines on Friday night. The Buccaneers scored seven goals – their highest total of the season – in a 7-2 win over Omaha last Saturday and have won two of their last three on home ice.

Talon Sigurdson scored twice in the win over Omaha – his first two of the season – and goaltender Max Lundgren stopped 18 of the 20 shots fired at him.

As for the Force, Fargo fell 5-4 last Thursday to a struggling Tri-City team. However, the Force responded with a 4-0 win on Friday to get back into the winning column. Matej Marinov made his fourth start of the season and stopped all 21 shots for his fourth win and first shutout of the season.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Ethan Fredericks, F, Des Moines, 2023 draft-eligible

Fredericks scored his second goal of the season last time out and his first since October 1. The 6-foot-1 forward played in 48 games last season and he’s already a goal behind his total goal – three – in 12 games. Fredericks, who also leads Des Moines with 27 penalty minutes, put on some smashing numbers with the Nashville Jr. Predators AAA program before the USHL. He also received a C rating on NHL Central Scouting’s Players to Watch List last month.

Green Bay (6-5-1-0) at Muskegon (6-5-0-0), November 11 & 12, 7 p.m. ET

2022 Green Bay Gamblers vs. Muskegon Lumberjacks

Another matchup between the third- and fourth-place teams in the Eastern Conference and a rematch beginning in mid-October. The Gamblers won two games in Green Bay last month, winning both nights 6-3. Muskegon will try to even the result on home ice.

The Lumberjacks have since won three of their four games, with the only loss coming last Saturday to Youngstown. Jake Richard (Buffalo Sabres) and Ethan Whitcomb gave Muskegon a 2-0 lead, but the Phantoms responded with four unanswered goals. Richard and Whitcomb are tied with six goals leading the team and have scored 12 of Muskegon’s 44 between them.

As for their opponent, Green Bay lost 6-3 in Chicago on Friday but responded with a season-high seven goals in Saturday’s win over Cedar Rapids. Two of those seven goals came from defender Artyom Levshunov, who has been one of the league’s best rookies all season. Green Bay has points in four of their six away games this season (3-2-1-0) and goes into that away series at Muskegon.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Gavin McCarthy, D, Muskegon, 2023 draft-eligible

The Boston University commit has points in seven straight games and is third on the Muskegon list with 10 points. McCarthy is also a plus-5 through 11 games. The defenseman, who is eligible for the 2023 draft, also received a C on NHL Central Scouting’s Players to Watch List. He’s off to a strong start to his second USHL season.

Messages and Notes

Omaha will host Lincoln in a rematch of sorts Friday night. The Stars beat the Lancers 1-0 in Lincoln last Friday to secure their second win of the season over their state rivals. Keaton Peters scored the only goal of the game while Cameron Whitehead (Vegas Golden Knights) converted a 30 save shutout. The Lancers have now lost three straight games and have fallen to sixth place in the Western Conference. Lincoln took the conference lead last weekend with two wins – 1-0 against Omaha and 5-3 in Sioux City.

Waterloo, another team to have two straight wins, will host Tri-City for two games this weekend. The Black Hawks defeated Sioux Falls 4-1 last Saturday and moved up to third place in the Western Conference. Tri-City split two games in Fargo last Thursday and Friday.

Sioux City and Sioux Falls will play a home-and-home game this weekend, marking the fourth and fifth games of the season between these two rivals. The Musketeers exploded for five goals in a 5-1 home win last Wednesday. The Stampede responded with a 4-2 home win on Friday. Sioux City leads the season series 2-1.

Four teams will be in action on Sunday when Des Moines travels to Sioux City and hosts Omaha Fargo.

Chicago’s Jack Harvey became the USHL’s top scorer with four goals and one assist last weekend. Harvey has 19 points in the league and is tied with his teammate – Nicholas Moldenhauer – on 10 points in the league lead. Harvey is also the best plus-11 in the league.

CAmeron Whitehead has the league’s top goaltender among qualified goaltenders with 2.14 goals conceded. Whitehead is 6-3-0 on the season and has two shutouts.

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