World-Herald Correspondent Steve Beideck ranks the USHL as published in The World-Herald on Jan. 28.
* * *
1. Dubuque (29-6-3, 61 points, 1st in East): The Fighting Saints are 4-0-1 the past two weeks and continue to play like a team that wants to get back to the Clark Cup championship game. With Mike Szmatula (51 points), Peter Quenneville (45) and Shane Sooth (37), Dubuque has three of the league's top 15 scorers.
2. Sioux Falls (28-9-1, 57 points, 1st in West): Dennis Kravchenko, the Stampede's leading scorer, has 35 points, meaning the defense is stingy. Sioux Falls has surrendered 111 goals in 38 games, fourth lowest in the league.
3. Waterloo (25-13-1, 51 points, 3rd in West): No one is doing the power play better than the Black Hawks, who have converted 48 of their 186 chances, a 25.8 percent success rate. It also doesn't hurt having five of the league's top seven point scorers — No. 1 Taylor Cammarata (57 points), No. 2 Vince Minostroza (53), tied for No. 3 Justin Kloos (50), No. 6 J.T. Stenglen (47) and No. 7 Zach Stepan (46).
4. Green Bay (23-12-3, 49 points, 3rd in East): Forward Kyle Novak is tied for third in the league in scoring with 50 points and has a plus-26 rating. Green Bay continues its spectacular special-teams play. The Gamblers are No. 2 on the power play (30 of 120, .250) and No. 4 in penalty killing (.838).
5. Fargo (24-11-5, 53 points, 2nd in West): Solid play in goal by Brendan Jensen and Cameron Jackson has helped the Force keep themselves a few steps ahead of Waterloo, Lincoln and Omaha. If they can get out of the middle of the pack in special teams — 12th on the power play and 10th in penalty killing — it will be tough to keep Fargo out of the playoffs.
6. Muskegon (22-13-7, 51 points, 2nd in East): Kevin Lindskoug has logged the USHL's most minutes in goal (1,847:56) in 31 games and is ranked fourth in the league, allowing 2.37 goals per game. His stellar play is a big reason the Lumberjacks lead the league in penalty killing with a success rate of .866.
7. Omaha (22-17-0, 44 points, 5th in West): The Lancers went 4-1 the past two weeks and could use a similar stretch of success to stay in the playoff hunt with a schedule that includes Wednesday's home game against Sioux Falls, a weekend doubleheader at Fargo and another road tilt against Des Moines before the Feb. 9 outdoor game against Lincoln.
8. Youngstown (19-17-0, 38 points, 4th in East): The Phantoms are second in the USHL in penalty killing (.861), giving up 22 goals in 158 shots in 36 games. Austin Cangelosi leads Youngstown in scoring with 36 points (11 goals, 25 assists), and goalie Sean Romeo is giving up 2.85 goals per game.
9. Lincoln (22-13-3, 47 points, 4th in West): Michael Bitzer has emerged as one of the league's top goalies in his 20 games. Bitzer is giving up 2.19 goals per game — second behind Dubuque's Arthur Brey (2.11). The Stars continue to be the league's most penalized team. They have 1,108 minutes — the exact same as Des Moines, which has played three more games.
10. Des Moines (19-20-2, 40 points, 6th in West): The Buccaneers aren't going away quietly, winning enough games to keep themselves in contention for one of the four Western Conference playoff berths. Des Moines still is struggling on special teams, ranking 11th in power-play situations and 13th in penalty killing.
11. Tri-City (16-19-4, 36 points, 7th in West): Trevor Moore leads the Storm with 40 points, 12th best in the league. Tri-City has the longest current road losing streak, having dropped its last four since Jan. 4. The Storm have lost three of their last four, but the lone win was a 6-5 overtime victory against Waterloo.
12. Indiana (16-23-3, 35 points, 5th in East): Outside of forward Austin Ortega's 42 points, no other Ice player has scored more than 27 points. Saturday's 4-3 win over Youngstown snapped a three-game skid, and Indiana also has lost seven of its past 11 games.
13. Cedar Rapids (15-19-5, 35 points, 5th in East): After winning three consecutive games, the RoughRiders have dropped their past six. Earlier this season, they had a seven-game road losing streak. One bright spot is that Cedar Rapids is fifth in penalty killing (.832).
14. Chicago (14-20-3, 31 points, 7th in East): After a good start, the Steel have continued to fade. They are 14th in power-play success (.145) and penalty killing (.791). Their top scorer has 27 points, and they're giving up an average of 3.69 goals per game.
15. Sioux City (7-21-10, 24 points, 8th in West): The Musketeers' struggles have continued to the point where some of the top players on their roster are being dealt for the future. Two of their top scorers, J.T. Stenglein and Riley Bourbonnais, have been traded to Waterloo and Lincoln, respectively.
16. Team USA (9-23-4, 22 points, 8th in East): Being last in power-play success (.112) is offset a bit by a respectable penalty-killing rating of eighth (.819), showing some progress is being made.