2000-2001 USHL Top Prospects List – The Men in the cage

By Jason Shaner

In the USHL as in any hockey league, goaltending is the key to winning games. If you get a good, solid goaltender then you can ride them all the way through the playoffs on to glory. Here is the 2000-2001 USHL Top Prospects list, this season it will come in 3 sections consisting of goaltending, offense and defense. The USHL has had a history of having some fantastic goaltenders in the past and this year is no exception. Here is a list of the top 5 goaltenders in the USHL in my eyes.

1.Jure Penko Green Bay Gamblers –
When it comes to talent, hands down Jure Penko takes the prize as the top goaltender in the league this season. Jure is a tall, slender goaltender that is very agile and just continues to get better with each game. Penko loves a challenge and has been a top performer all season long. The Gamblers have played 54 games to date and Penko has shown he is a trooper as he has played in 44 of them. During those 44 games Penko has posted a 26-8-10 record. Penko has compiled a sparkling 2.39 GAA to go along with a .914 saves percentage on over 1,000 shots this year. Jure is a player who has nerves of steel and does not back down to the pressure as the Gamblers have played in some close games this season. He has been the horse of their team and will be a key for them in the post season.

2.Bobby Goepfert Cedar Rapids RoughRiders –
Good things come in small packages, that is a perfect description of the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders superstar goaltender. Bobby is small if you look at his size but if you watch him play, he is as big as any netminder in the league. Glove saves are Bobby’s specialty and his glove is as quick as lightning and he doesn’t mind telling you about it as he drops the puck into the referee’s hand when play stops. Goepfert has been the RoughRiders MVP this season and is a candidate for rookie of the year in the USHL. On the season Bobby’s stats read as follows: 24-12-3, 2.92 GAA and .917 saves percentage. Not bad for a 17 year old in his first season in the USHL. Look for Goepfert to be a star in the future.

3.Mike Mantua Des Moines Buccaneers –
If you want guts, you want Mike Mantua in net for your team. Mantua may be one of the most exciting goaltenders in recent years in the league. Mantua loves to stifle a breakaway by stepping out and poke checking the puck away. Reliability is a good definition of Mantua’s play as he can stop ‘em with the glove or the stick or he can use whatever resources available to keep the puck out of the net. Mike, as the others listed above him is the MVP of his team. Without Mantua and the Buccaneers may not be where they are at in the standings. On the year Mantua is 21-15-1 with a 3.42 GAA and .898 saves percentage. Not numbers that put him at the top of the statistics list but when it comes to overall talent Mantua can do it all.

4.Jake Brandt Sioux City Musketeers –
Jake Brandt has been one of the more pleasant surprises on the year in the league. Jake started the season off with the Lincoln Stars and was traded early on to bolster the Musketeers questions about who was going to be in between the pipes for the year. Since then, the Musketeers have been one of the league’s hottest teams and a lot of it has to do with Brandt’s play. Brandt has veins filled with ice water and doesn’t get shaken up easily as his 2.79 GAA will show. For the season Brandt is 14-5-5, add to that a .903 saves percentage and you got yourself a top-notch goaltender. Brandt’s the kind of goaltender who can win a ton of games in a row and only get hotter and hotter with each passing game. If that hot streak hits the playoffs, look for a possible first round upset in the playoffs.

5.Marty Magers Omaha Lancers –
During the preseason many Lancer faithful wondered who would fill the amazing Dan Ellis’s shoes in 2000-2001. Well, hello Marty Magers! Marty has come in and played about as good as anyone this season while compiling some impressive stats. Marty is currently the top rated goalie in the USHL and it definitely is deserved. On the year Marty is 16-5-3 with a 2.32 GAA and .910 saves percentage. Magers has a big frame and he makes it tough for cheap goals to get by him as he takes up a lot of space in front of the net. Lancer fans have forgotten about last year’s goalie and have begun to follow Magers with hopes of a Clark Cup Playoff Title this season. Magers has the tools to do it and he just might.

This concludes the goaltending side of the top prospects. 2 honorable mentions for the list: Brend Buckler Tri-City Storm 14-7-3, 2.43GAA .920 save % and the duo for the Lincoln Stars of Beau Fritz 18-3-2, 2.42 GAA, .915 saves % and Justin Johnson 17-3-2, 2.32 and .912 saves %. As always there are plenty of top-notch goaltenders in the league and that won’t change in the coming years either. One group moves on to the next level and the next group of stars takes over the spotlight. The next list will be out soon as mentioned this is only part 1 of a 3 part series of Top Prospects in the USHL. The offensive and defensive sides will be looked at coming up soon.