Thursday, December 16, 2010

B³ USHL Power Rankings: December 16

BT has been really busy as of late, so I thought I'd fill in for him this week and give my take on the USHL power rankings.  Would love to hear your opinions!  I'll be posting a Stars weekend preview article later tonight, so stay tuned for that.


1.  Green Bay Gamblers (16-4-2, 34 points, first place in USHL Eastern Conference)
The Gamblers are 3-1-0 in December, and that lone loss came on the road against Dubuque.  They might not have the offensive firepower of some teams, but they play defense better than anyone in the USHL.  They've won eight in a row at home.


2.  Cedar Rapids Roughriders (15-4-2, 32 points, second place in USHL Eastern Conference)
The Roughriders are 2-2 in December, with an unexpected road loss to Team USA U-17, and then a very impressive road win against the U-18's.  Like every season, the 'Riders are least penalized team in the league, and rely on speedy, small forwards to score goals.  Very good goaltending this season.


3.  Dubuque Fighting Saints (15-4-2, 32 points, first place in USHL Western Conference)
The "Saints" are 4-0 in December, and they continue to lead the pack in the west.  Dubuque has won two in a row at home, and three in a row on the road.  Dubuque forward Vinny Saponari is the leading scorer (30 points) in the USHL.


4.  Omaha Lancers (12-6-3, 27 points, second place in USHL Western Conference)
The Lancers are 3-1 in December, with the only loss coming in overtime against the Lincoln Stars.  After struggling with inconsistent play during the first few months of the season, the Lancers seem to be finding their groove as of late.


5.  Indiana Ice (10-9-2, 22 points, fourth place in USHL Eastern Conference)
Other than maybe the Dubuque Fighting Saints, the Ice are arguably the hottest team in the USHL right now. The Ice are 4-0 in December, and are riding a six-game winning streak.  Included in that winning streak are wins over Dubuque, and Team USA U-18.


6.  Fargo Force (10-10-4, 24 points, fourth place in USHL Western Conference)
The Force are 2-2 in December so far, although they have won 5 of their last 8 games.  I probably have them ranked higher than they deserve right now, but I really believe this team will only get better as the season progresses.  


7.  Tri-City Storm  (9-7-4, 22 points, seventh place in USHL Western Conference)
The Storm are a very respectable 3-1 in December, with wins over Fargo, Des Moines, and Waterloo.  The only loss came to Dubuque, and that was only by one goal.  They've won 5 of their last 6 games, due most in part to a stretch of six straight games at home.


8.  Lincoln Stars  (11-9-1, 23 points, sixth place in USHL Western Conference)
Stars in December = Jekyll and Hyde.  World beaters on the road (2-0), yet they have struggled mightily at home (0-3).  Best PP in the league, and near the bottom in PK %.  They'll need to figure out how to use home ice to their advantage if they want to move up in the standings.


9.  Sioux City Musketeers  (11-9-2, 24 points, third place in USHL Western Conference)
The Muskies are 2-2 in December, with wins against Sioux Falls and Fargo.  Losses against Fargo and Omaha.  Like the Stars, the Musketeers have been very inconsistent.  They seem to still struggle with scoring goals at times.  Very hard team to gauge.  


10.  Muskegon Lumberjacks  (10-8-5, 25 points, third place in USHL Western Conference)
The 'Jacks are 3-2 in December, with wins against Cedar Rapids, Chicago, and Waterloo.  Somehow, despite having some of the worst special teams in the USHL, this team is winning games.  I don't believe they'd have a winning record if they played in the west.


11.  Sioux Falls Stampede  (11-8-1, 23 points, fifth place in USHL Western Conference)
The 'Pede are 1-2 in December, with the only win coming against the Des Moines Bucs by one goal.  The normally goal-challenged Sioux City Musketeers scored 8 goals against the Stampede in Sioux Falls on 12/8.  Another west team that struggles with consistency.


12.  Waterloo Blackhawks  (9-7-3, 21 points, fifth place in USHL Eastern Conference)
The 'Hawks are 1-2 in December, with the lone win coming against Team USA U-17.  Waterloo is very much like the Sioux City Musketeers in the Western Conference.  Both teams struggle at times with putting pucks in the net.  Consistent play is a problem.  Good special teams, though.


13.  Youngstown Phantoms  (9-12-1, 19 points, sixth place in USHL Eastern Conference)
The Phantoms are 1-2 in December, the only win coming against Team USA U-17.  Both losses were against Green Bay.  Youngstown has the worst PP unit in the league, at an abysmal 9.52%.  This is a team that has struggled all season at keeping the puck out of their own net.


14.  Des Moines Buccaneers  (9-7-2, 20 points, eighth place in USHL Western Conference)
Go back one month ago, and the Bucs were one of the hottest teams in the USHL.  However, in December, they are 0-4, and have sunk all the way to last place in the west.  They've lost 5 of their last 7 games.  In the wild, wild western conference, they'll need to turn it around fast.


15.  Team USA  (8-15-2, 18 points, seventh place in USHL Eastern Conference)
USA is 3-6 in December.  This is a very hard "team" to evaluate.  Because they are split into two squads, I considered leaving them off the rankings altogether.  


16.  Chicago Steel  (7-13-4, 18 points, eighth place in USHL Eastern Conference)
The Steel are 0-4 in December, and are riding a 7 game losing streak.  Not good.  Rookie head coach Jon Waibel certainly has his hands full in the Windy City.  In years past, the Steel have had no problems scoring goals...not so this season.  Only 51 in 24 games (2.13 per game).

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